so last night managed to catch only one event, the ReLit Awards, an initiative founded & carried out by Kenneth J. Harvey. when it first began they had a small party in Newfoundland with a bonfire. for the past few years, the Ottawa International Writers Festival has been its home. it is one of three (four) awards that take place as part of the festival, including the Bywords John Newlove Poetry Award, the City of Ottawa Book Award & Arc's Archibald Lampan Award for Poetry.the idea behind the ReLits is to celebrate independent Canadian presses. this becomes more & more important as we watch our Canadian publishing industry be gobbled up by monopolies, now that it looks like the Penguin will be Random. just what we need another house penguin.
i go to this event almost purely to obtain free books, that's what a book slut I am. I think my favourite time was a few years back when John Lavery played music for the ReLits at the Barley Mow & Stuart Ross won the short fiction category. the bar was packed, there were snacks.this time around the ReLits took place in Under One Roof, a space for NGOs & private businesses dedicated to social activism, including Octopus Books, which has opened a second location there. you could feel the good mojo in the room.
Congratulations to the winners : Monoceros, Suzette Mayr (Coach House) - Novel; Jumping in the Asylum, Patrick Friesen (Quattro) - Poetry; Pretty, Greg Kearney (Exile) - Short Fiction.
See the lovely photo taken by the even lovelier John W. MacDonald. I sat between two shutterbugs at the event: my husband Charles & our dear friend John.I was blown away by Kearney's fantastic reading from a short story from Pretty in the voice of an aging torch singer. this is the other reason I go to the reading, to discover new (to me ) writers.
The winners get these cool rings which spell out four-letter words. the rings were designed by Christopher Kearney.
During the event Harvey gave the audience challenging questions about the books (I hope you realize I'm kidding when I say challenging) & gave the books to those who answered correctly.with a few exceptions, I was in a room full of strangers. I'd never seen most of the audience before. glad to see the event attracting new blood, but missing all my literary cronies.
I was glad to pick up Straight Razor Days from Joel Thomas Hynes (Pedlar Press) & Grunt of the Minotaur by Robin Richardson (Insomniac Press). it's wonderful that the publishers make so many books available for free.[as an aside, I have a less than sweet, but probably still old-fashioned crush on Joel Thomas Hynes thanks to his first novel Right Away Monday, which had me sitting in bars alone, drinking Guinness in the afternoons, alternately delighting & agonizing over the travails of the main character Clayton Reid. & then there was the second book Down to the Dirt, which became a movie with JTH as the main actor. what a great piece of twisted fuckupery. & then there's the chapbook "God Help Thee: A Manifesto with original engravings by Abigail Rorer from Newfoundland's Running the Goat). gosh I have such a hard on for Newfoundlanders. I expect the same fuck you attitude & edge from Straight Razor Days, which I hear JTH doesn't like to call poetry. yes, it is…JTH, yes…it decidedly is.]
tonight I'm looking forward to the 8:30 fiction event with my old writing pal, Spencer Gordon, not that he's old. I consider him a dear friend, even if he's another one of those who abandoned us for Toronto; Anton Piatigorsky (who came to the fest before to talk about playwright stuff & mesmerized me &); Barry Webster, a voice new to me.last day of the fest, peeps. hope to see you there. buy me chocolate.