Tuesday, April 26, 2011

a sudden avalanche of black snow

since its launch last summer, the hermit of africville has rather dominated my life as a writer, so it was a pleasant surprise when black snow roared back into my life last week.

it started with a superb book club visit to chapters in mic mac mall. when us writers crawl out of our caves and blink into the sunlight of reader-writer interactions, anything can happen. you will recall that i have been berated and had books thrown at me at past events. so one is cautious.

the first thing that amazed me thursday night was the fantastic turnout - about 30 book lovers had gathered in a big circle at the back of the book store. Gaye DeWolf, the chapters staffer who also runs the 'For the Love of Books' book club, met me at the front door, treated me to a tea and welcomed me to the circle. she had done her homework and gave a jian ghomeshi-style introduction touching on much of my writing career. she then started things off with some questions about black snow and we had a great conversation about writing and reading.

usually, writers are asked about the subjects of their books, not the actual writing. it was great fun to go under the hood with black snow as the conversation dug into the techniques of actually writing - why it's in the first person, present tense, why the the sentences, paragraphs and chapters are short and choppy, why it jumps between the present and the past. (basically, i wanted to blow the dust off the explosion and make it feel like it is happening to the reader right now and to hook them along with the pringles approach to writing - bet you can't read just one chapter).

we also talked about how to actually write a book (do it every day. even if it's just 500 words, it adds up and makes a dreamy project real) and how to get published (tenacity - don't take rejection personally and keep hunting publishers until you find yours).

it was a great evening - one of the best events i've been invited to as a writer.

the following day, a reader tweeted me to say she'd loved BS - i assumed she had been at chapters, but it turns out she had just coincidentally finished reading it.

the finale of my BS week came while watching the CBC news friday. colleen jones had done a piece on an award-winning halifax teacher called andrew stickings whose grade 5s at Ecole Grosvenor Wentworth had won an award for their film on the halifax explosion called Black Snow. you can watch the CBC piece here.

i had interviewed andrew before about past awards and he invited me to talk to his class in the fall as they created their explosion piece. the pic is of me visiting the class and holding the Black Snow clapboard. i can't find their movie online yet, but you can see some of the grade's past work here. i suspect he'll post it there when it's ready.
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