Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reflections on an author tour

Barbara here, recently returned from the British Columbia mini-tour that I blogged about two weeks ago. What a wonderful adventure it was! Some of the greatest, unexpected, perks of being an author are the adventures you have and the people you meet in the pursuit of your career. You may be out of pocket or at best clear mere pennies once you have factored in the cost of travelling, conference fees, promo, etc., but the sheer fun of the constantly changing experiences makes it all worthwhile. The tax deductions aren't bad either.

The trip began with the usual cramped, frustrating plane trip across the country. Air Canada had chosen to assign me middle seats for the two legs of my journey (despite my stated seat preference), and it was only by alert attention to detail that I detected this early enough to change to the aisle. So far so good. In Vancouver, after waiting ages in the ticket line, I navigated the city's fancy new Sky Train and found my way to my Airb&b, which provided reasonable accommodation near the downtown that didn't break my budget.

The Airb&b had a great location within walking distance of the Book Warehouse and the coffee shops on Main St., and I had dinner at a local noodle place with some old friends before the reading. The Book Warehouse on Main Street has a wonderful, flexible space that allows shelves to be moved and chairs set up for readings. Not only did I share the stage with two of my favourite Vancouver authors, Sam Wiebe and ER Brown, but I also met another terrific local author Janie Chang, who came to the readings and joined us afterwards for drinks at the pub across the street (by which time it was two in the morning for my eastern body). I bought her book, THREE SOULS, which I am currently enjoying thoroughly. Connecting with new author friends from all over the world is another unexpected perk of this author business.

The next morning my Sunshine Coast Festival adventure began with a 1955 DeHaviland Beaver float plane, which seats six people including the pilot. I got to ride shotgun. What a thrill! We took off out of Vancouver's downtown harbour and soared over the sunlit coastal mountains and twisting coastline to the Sunshine Coast peninsula. There I was met by Shelley, who drove me in her green Mazda Miata convertible to the inn. What an introduction to the next four days! The Driftwood Inn is an old-fashioned, unpretentious motor inn with a spectacular location right on the ocean front. Its dining room has a wall of windows overlooking the ocean. After lunching there, I walked along the ocean and took two swims in the warm, gentle surf. Being used to the wild, frigid breakers of the North Atlantic, this was a special treat.

That evening, the formal festivities began with a reception followed by a presentation by Anne-Marie MacDonald. The festival is unlike any other I have been to, and under the special stewardship of festival organizer Jane Davidson, it is an author's delight. Attendance at the festival as a whole is in the thousands, and each author is given a full hour on the stage to shine. Most of us combined talk and reading throughout our hour, and every presentation I attended was heartfelt and riveting. As a crime writer, I most frequently meet other crime writers at events and festivals, so it was a treat to meet authors from all across the spectrum, from Camilla Gibb to Waubgeshig Rice to Craig Davidson, Michael Christie and Cathie Borrie. Everyone used words in unique and moving ways. This is another unexpected perk to the writer's life– the chance to broaden and inspire our own writing.

Many festival attendees come year after year and often stay for the full three and a half days, giving a warm welcome to new authors and old favourites alike. Most sessions were full. Where else can an author get an enthusiastic and appreciative audience of 450 people on a Sunday morning? After each session the bookseller, the wonderful Bev Shaw of Talewind Books, did a brisk business. Mindful of my flight limit, I resisted the urge to buy books by each of the other authors.

Photo by Cathie Roy

My four days at Sechelt ended, fittingly, with a devilish moonlight swim in the ocean and then an early morning float plane back to Vancouver and a ferry ride to Victoria. I wandered the streets and pathways of that charming city for a day before my final event at Chronicles of Crime,  one of the few mystery bookstores left on the continent, and well worth the trip. Owner Frances Thorsen, along with Orca Books, had organized a panel with myself and local authors Kay Stewart, Linda Richards and Brian Harvey. What a lively and interesting exchange it proved to be, with the discussion ranging over morality, justice, mystery conventions, and the death of cats. The audience pitched right in and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

I staggered into my taxi at 6:00 am the next morning to begin the flight home, bearing a suitcase of lovely memories, new books, new friendships, and fresh inspiration to explore new heights in my own writing.


Aline Templeton said...

Sounds wonderful, Barbara!

Barbara Fradkin said...

It was, Aline. Someday I hope to get to Scotland too!

Donis Casey said...

What a lovely recounting of your tour. Wish I could have been there.