My recent trip to the Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story in Bayfield and Wingham Ontario earlier this month was a treat. Although I was only able to attend the sessions on Saturday I was not disappointed. I heard one of my favourite Canadian voices as Ami McKay took the stage and delighted the audience with her process and a short selection from The Witches of New York. McKay is fast becoming one of my favourite authors as I have been a fan since her debut novel The Birth House. Her writing process and her interest in historical events, people and places gives her stories life and the connections to her own relatives is fascinating. If you have not read McKay’s work yet, please do so because she is one of the best.
Further I was introduced to new voices including Sarah Meehan Sirk and her debut of short stories called The Dead Husband Project. Please read my review of this brilliant new Canadian voice in the link.
In addition to Meehan Sirk, I was introduced to my first transgendered writer Casey Plett. Plett is a new voice in Canadian literature and her novel, Little Fish tells the tale of a Wendy, who is transgendered coming back home only to learn that her grandfather may have also been transgendered. Shockingly, the grandfather was from a devout Mennonite background at a time when transgendered would not have been discussed. Plett offered the audience a little glimpse of her story (see picture above) and I was so intrigued as she started to tell Wendy’s story. She writes with vivid candour and develops each character’s voice in a unique way. I look forward to reading more of her work. Casey was exceptionally gracious and kind as she signed books at the end of the panel. Always a thrill for a bibliophile like me!
Lastly during the festival I was so fortunate to hear from established Canadian-Irish writer Emma Donoghue who was so funny and intriguing to listen to. She had the audience captivated from her first word. Although slated to read from The Wonder, her latest novel, she opted to instead read to us a hilarious story she had written for radio called The Road Taken (a nod to Robert Frost). She did not fail in her delivery as the audience laughed out loud at the absurd tale of a mother harshly criticized on social media. I will never hear the word (#) hashtag the same way again. Donoghue’s commentary on social media and her insight into writing in general was refreshing and very inspiring.
Overall I am so happy that I took the solo road trip to the festival. It was well worth my time and what I learned from each author was incredibly invaluable as not just a reader and writer, but as a teacher too. I look forward to going to the Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story in 2019.