Aug 26, 2014

Bill Gaston speaks at the Festival of the Written Arts

bill gaston

The festival of the Written Arts

Last week I wrote about the Festival of the Written Arts that took place in Sechelt, BC, just a short ferry ride from Vancouver. I have been participating to five of the twenty-one events of the weekend, it has been such a rewarding and inspiring experience that I decided I would like to share it with you. Last Monday I posted about the first event: Aislinn Hunter. Today I would like to introduce you the second guest I met at the Festival, Bill Gaston.

The World

bill gaston

Imagine this: A recently divorced guy, just a regular guy, is about ready to burn his mortgage but instead accidentally burns his house down, only to discover that for the first time in his life he’s forgotten to pay a bill: his insurance premium. An old friend of his, a middle-aged musician, prepares for her suicide to end the pain of eight years of throat cancer. Her father, who left his family to study Buddhism in Nepal, ends his days in a Toronto facility for Alzheimer’s patients. The three are tied together not only by their bonds of affection, but by a book called The World, written by the old man in his youth. The book, possibly biographical, tells the story of a historian who unearths a cache of letters, written in Chinese, in an abandoned leper colony off the coast of Victoria. 

Questions and Answers with Bill Gaston

The title of Bill Gaston's book is quite bold, it comes natural enquiring about the choice. The question makes him laugh and it seems obvious he's been asked the same many times lately. He quickly explains how one of the characters of the book, suffering from Alzheimer's, has written a book called 'The World' about an abandoned leper colony near Victoria, BC. In that book it's mentioned another book called 'The World'. Sort of a story in the story in the story.

The next question then is: has he really written the story about the leper colony living off the coast of Victoria, where Bill Gaston is presently living and teaching a creative writing course? No, he says he hasn't written that story in full, he didn't feel like it was his thing. He then laughs thinking that it would have probably been a bestseller!

Funny and easygoing, Bill Gaston has a head of thick, white-as-snow hair but he reminds me of a teenager, his expression is Peter-Pan-ish. He doesn't lose his smile during the event, not even when he explains that the research for his book comes from his personal experience. Sadly, both his parents suffered from Alzheimer's, his brother is not well either and the idea of the guy burning down his house comes from something that happened to him in first person. His book is a good example of how we can turn bad luck into something good! When asked how can he speaks so lightly of such deep sad matters, he says that is exactly what is trying to do. These words were inspiring to me, that is exactly what I would like to achieve in my writing and in my life. 

My journal reads: Put a smile on your face, you might convince yourself you are happy.

Juliet was a surprise

bill gaston

Towards the end of the event, Bill Gaston read an extract from a short story collection recently published, Juliet was a surprise. He decided to read the title and the first paragraph of each story, a risky choice that paid off when the audience sat laughing and clapping repeatedly.

I was impressed by the rhythm and energy of this event, it made me think of how being a writer doesn't mean to just sit down and fill the white screen but also implies learning to read in a compelling way, being able to hold an audience for an hour, advertise your work and your person in front of 450 people. Scary, but exciting!

How do you feel about writing of serious matters such as disease and disasters? Is it possible to do so while still enjoying your day-to-day life?
Please share your impressions in the comments below.

Have a good novel! 

Aug 18, 2014

Aislinn Hunter speaks at the Festival of the Written Arts

aislinn hunter

The festival of the Written Arts

The past few days have been the coronation of a year long dream. Participating to the Festival of the Written Arts in Sechelt, BC, a sunny town on the ocean just a short ferry ride from Vancouver, has been a rewarding and inspiring experience that I would like to share with you for the next five weeks.

I attended five of the twenty-one events available and I will introduce you each one of the writers I listened to, talking about their novels and what impressions I took home from the encounter.
Choosing five out of twenty-one events was no easy task, I eventually picked writers whose books were significant for my writing career, at this moment focusing on women empowerment and mainstream novels, not belonging to any specific literary genre.

Aislinn Hunter

Today I would like to speak about the first writer I picked: her name is Aislinn Hunter and she's a well known Canadian writer who is hopefully about to be worldwide famous. Aislinn is a charming woman with interesting experiences to share, a deep sensitive soul and a remarkable writing style. Pretty much everything she has written in the last 15 years has been nominated for, or won, a significant literary award. Her first novel, Stay (2002) has been chosen to become a feature film. During her lecture Aislinn read an extract from her new novel, The World Before Us, inspired by the wonder of how we react to tragedies that don't belong to us in the first person but happen in our peripheral world.

The World Before Us

aislinn hunter
When she was just fifteen, smart, sensitive Jane Standen lived through a nightmare: she lost the sweet five-year-old girl she was minding during a walk in the woods. The little girl was never found, leaving her family, and Jane, devastated. Now the grown-up Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As her one last project, she is searching the archives for scraps of information related to another missing person–a woman who disappeared some 125 years ago from a Victorian asylum. As the novel moves back and forth between the museum in contemporary London, the Victorian asylum, and a dilapidated country house that seems to connect both missing people, it unforgettably explores the repercussions of small acts, the power of affection, and the irrepressible vitality of everyday objects and events.

Losing a loved one

There are different types of grieving and everyone grieves in their own way. When we lose someone we love we feel a present absence of the person, their presence is still lingering around us, it is a palpable presence. On the other hand, we could feel their absent presence, the void they left in our life.
Struck by an acquaintance's tragedy, Aislinn asked herself how she could somehow help the world, and she decided to do so by writing.

Curios facts on Aislinn and my personal opinions

I was attracted by some weird reading that Aislinn mentioned, she said to get ideas for her book she read a collection of journal entries from in-patients of a psychiatric asylum. It made me want to try some random reading myself to see if I get the idea for my next novel plot.

The name of the characters in Aislinn's book are famous poets she loves: Blake, Elliott and so on. That's quite a risky choice, I feel in my novels I would rather invent specific names myself.

Aislinn mentioned butterflies in a museum: perfectly beautiful but stuck to the wall with a pin in the stomach. It made me think of how I want to live and let my body show the signs of a life lived to the full. My journal reads: Love yourself but don't become a slave of beauty.

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A note to my Italian followers:
In a few weeks I will publish my Italian blog on Creative Writing with book reviews of Italian authors and my future novels (hopefully). The decision of switching from English to Italian when I write comes from the awareness that the mother tongue is and will always be more linked to my feelings and memories, both basics necessity of writing good books.

Have a good novel!