I enjoyed so many words on Sunday! Saskatoon hosted a Word on the Street Festival for the third year running. My fella and I attended all afternoon – so pretty much the whole thing. From noon to two we enjoyed spoken word poetry by our local youth team and a great writing workshop hosted by the Mighty Mike McGee. Mike is an amazing spoken word poet from California who travels the continent making people happy because he is one of the sweetest humans on the planet – you should check out some of his stuff on YouTube.
At two I went to a talk by one of my favourite authors, Anthony Bidulka. His talk was in the ‘Odyssey’ tent and he chatted about his decade-long odyssey of writing Russell Quant novels and his next odyssey writing Adam Saint novels. Bidulka is from Saskatoon, he writes about Saskatoon and he lives in Saskatoon. Proof that you don’t have to move away from this sleepy, prairie town to ‘make it’ as an author. His books are also proof that Saskatoon is a perfectly acceptable setting for mystery and suspense novels. I like to think I acted like perfectly normal person when I chatted with him as he signed my copy of his new book. I chuffed as hell that he recognized me and thanked me for tweeting about his talk at Word on the Street. I, of course, told him a bit about the novel I’ve started. So, this poop just got real – as the youngsters say! I told one of my favourite authors about a book I’m working on so I darned well better get on it! (Which I have, really!)
After some more poetry on the street from Saskatoon’s adult slam poetry team, my fella and I went to see Robert J. Sawyer speak. I first heard of Robert J. Sawyer when he was the writer-in-residence at the Canadian Light Source in 2009. I started working at the University of Saskatchewan that year and the Canadian Light Source, also known as the synchrotron, is a giant science thing on campus. My fella is a big fan of Mr. Sawyer and we’ve had the luck of seeing him twice this year. Mr. Sawyer’s talk was about writing thematically, specifically in science fiction, but his suggestions could certainly relate to nearly any, possibly every, genre. Essentially, he has observed that the key to publishing a very popular novel is to explore a timely and controversial issue. Not only to explore that issue, but to write the ‘hard’ novel exploring the issue. The ‘hard’ novel is that one in which the message is, for example, ‘capital punishment is wrong’, but our protagonist is in favour of it. Through the development of the story and our protagonist the reader come to the conclusion the author intended. ‘So,’ my fella asked me, ‘what controversial issue will you tackle in this novel you’re writing?’ Well, I just don’t know, do I? The overarching story I want to tell with any work of history, fictionalized or not, is that the past is not such a different place from the present, humans being humans after all. Of course, there must be an issue to tackle that would be well suited to being set in the past. Science and speculative fiction can explore controversial issues because setting a story in an imagined future or on a different planet makes it easier for readers to distance themselves from and think critically about the topic. I am certain there are issues that, when filtered through the lens of the past, can be seen more clearly. I’m sure I’ll find something timely that catches my eye while swimming through the archives and microfilm! I’m very eager to get into them, too.
Be Lovely to Each Other,