Saturday, May 28, 2011

Birthday poem sparks controversy at Writers' Union AGM

Controversy erupted Saturday at the annual general meeting of The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) when members were urged to seek the attention of book clubs and reading groups with a bad poem. The motion that sparked a spirited debate was the second of two involving Canada’s Public Lending Right Program (PLR), which reimburses authors for the presence of their books in libraries.
The first PLR motion, decidedly serious in tone, noted that digitization is revolutionizing the world of books, and urged the federal government “to demonstrate its commitment to Canadian culture by providing funds to enable the PLR Program to include eBooks.” The PLR Commission, which is co-sponsoring a study of eBooks and libraries, was a main focus of the four-day gathering.
The second motion, noting that the PLR Program is celebrating its 25th anniversary, called on TWUC  to urge book clubs and reading groups to open each meeting with a solemn reading of the following poem:

Happy Birthday, PLR!
We borrow books and, yes, you are
The way we show appreciation
To the authors of our Nation.


The nay-sayers argued that the poem is so awful that TWUC could not endorse it. But David Waltner-Toews – who presented the motion while disavowing authorship of the poem – argued that the badness of the poem was necessary: “If it was a serious poem,” he said, “there would be no joke. These people have no sense of humour!”
The nay-sayers carried the day by four votes – the narrowest margin of the afternoon. One GG-award-winning novelist hollered for a recount, and a nonfiction prize-winner muttered darkly about revisiting the matter next year. The author of the poem has yet to admit he wrote it. But he does believe strongly that book clubs and reading groups should solemnly intone the poem when they gather, even without official endorsement.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Tribe Invites You to Party at the Toronto Public Library

It did not officially launch the annual general meeting of The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC). But last night’s Toronto event, a literary cabaret mounted by the Creative Nonfiction Collective, drew a star-studded, standing-room-only crowd to Harbord House. This preliminary event left no doubt whatsoever:  The Tribe is gathering in force at the Centre of the Universe.
Some 150 writers from across Canada, all with at least one published book to their credit, will participate in TWUC events over the next four days.  Tonight, May 26, is the official launch – an open-to-the-public celebration of the 25th anniversary of Canada’s Public Lending Right Program. That happens in the splendid Appel Salon at the Toronto Public Library, Yonge and Bloor, starting at 7 p.m. Admission is free, and you can reserve tickets here: http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/programs-and-classes/appel-salon/
Did I mention that last night's cabaret was standing-room-only? Performers included Maggie Siggins, Merilyn Simonds, Wayne Grady, Marni Jackson, Don Gillmor, Rosemary Sullivan, Anthony Westoll, and Yours Truly. But the real story, and the hint of things to come, was the audience. It included Toronto writers Susan Crean, Erna Paris, Leon Rooke, Christopher Moore, James Adams, Ted Barris, and Brian Fawcett, as well as Albertans Brian Brennan and Myrna Kostash, and from British Columbia, Rhona MacAdam, Michael Elcock and Andreas Schroeder. OK, I’ve missed people -- for example, Trevor Ferguson (Montreal) and Susan Olding (Kingston). But you get the idea. Maybe see you tonight, when Schroeder tells The Untold Story of Canada’s PLR Program? Oh, yes, a cash-bar reception will follow.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Tribe gathers to celebrate PLR

That's how Margaret Laurence would have described it -- as a gathering of The Tribe.
Scores of Canadian authors are heading to Toronto from across the country for the annual general meeting and conference of the Writers’ Union of Canada.
The May 26 kick-off event, which is open to the public, celebrates the 25th anniversary of Canada’s Public Lending Right Program. The prolific Andreas Schroeder, one of the founding fathers, will fly in from British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast to deliver a keynote address: The Untold Story of Canada’s PLR.
Speakers will include Anna Porter, whose book The Ghosts of Europe recently won the 2011 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize.
At the reception afterwards, those in attendance will rub shoulders with dozens of authors, among them Susan Swan, Margaret Atwood, Katherine Govier, Merilyn Simonds, Wayne Grady, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Graeme Gibson, Lee Gowan, Greg Hollingshead, Brian Brennan, Judy Fong Bates, Alan Cumyn, and yours truly.
This free event happens in the Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library, Yonge and Bloor, starting at 7 p.m. Be there, as they say, or be square.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Expedition to Mount McGoogan

A couple of years back, Our Hero led a two-person expedition in an attempt to  climb Mount McGoogan (Cruach Mhic Gougain) in Kintyre, Scotland. On that occasion, he failed -- a story he tells in the epilogue to How the Scots Invented Canada. Late next month, after voyaging around Scotland with Adventure Canada, Ken will return to Kintyre to try again. This time, he will lead a four-person expedition in an effort to conquer the 246-metre cruach. "Last time out, I took a crucial wrong turn," he says, looking back. "We got halted by an impassible burn. This time, different route, four people . . . I think we can reach the summit."