this morning with Simon Jacobs, the energetic executive director of the Morrin
Centre in Quebec City, where the second annual imagiNation festival will
take place this week. I’m participating in the Opening night event, Wednesday,
April 13th (7 p.m., 44, Chaussée des Écossais) with guest of honour
will be the host, so we were talking about the format and the questions he will
be asking Roch and me, exploring points we might have in common. Not easy, that
last bit, given Roch’s eminence.
is the author of a string of classics, starting with La Guerre, Yes Sir ! (1968), which made
not only his name but also that of his audacious translator, Sheila Fischman,
who dared to use French in an English book. The
Hockey Sweater (1984) has become one of the defining books of Canadian
children’s literature, and his recent titles include Les Moines de la Tour (2004), a novel of the Twin Towers – and of
the village tower of his youth. He has also devoted a lot of his time to
activities other than writing, serving as head of the Canada Council for the
Arts and as Canada’s National Librarian, no less.
written any classics, nor have I headed up any national institutions, but I do have
this much in common with Roch: I too have spent a lot of my time
on activities other than writing.
to Simon, I found myself thinking about my need, while I was a Blue Metropolis,
to find more time to write. I wondered if Roch had ever had the same wish. Perhaps
we will find out on Wednesday.
it isn’t all or nothing, with writing. There’s always going to be something
else that takes up a big chunk of your life. It isn’t essential, or perhaps
even desirable, to focus solely on writing.
takes place in a context, after all. That context can be the literary milieu, which
is the inspiration for my most recent book, Writing in the Time of Nationalism (2010). It can be the broader
cultural world. It can be family relationships or an enclave of refugees, an
online community of writers, a bygone world on board a battleship, a future
world on a distant planet, or some mix of two or three or more.
the context, some of it may be imagined, some remembered, some invented, and
some documented fact. We write out of a certain place and time and situation,
and we have to live that, whatever it is.
After a preliminary reading, Simon will sit Roch and me
down to talk about “Culture: A Source of Tension or Cohesion?” If you’re in
Quebec City, do stop by. I’ll be one of the judges of a student writing
competition on Thursday, April 14; the winners will be announced
during a VIP cocktail 5-7 p.m. that evening. And I’ll be signing books at La Maison Anglaise stand at the Salon international du livre de Québec
at 1 p.m. Thursday -- ou j'espère voir mes amis du milieu francophone.
festival continues through April 17. I'm looking forward to getting together with the other festival participants: Todd Denault, Sheree Fitch,
Paul Kropp, Rabindranath Maharaj, Andrew Potter, Ami Sands
Brodoff, Claire Holden Rothman, Alexander MacLeod, Nigel Thomas, Charles H.
Mountford and John Whitt. As I mentioned to Gregory McCormick when he emailed me just now about Blue Metropolis (about which more next week), I just love being invited to festivals – and not having to organize them