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San Miguel Writers’ Conference Day Two, the Canada connection

Definitely surreal, juggling the delights of sunshine and this fine country with the reason I’m here – to sit listening to people talk about writing. Each morning at breakfast, I am the only person who takes the food outside; today I took my lunch plate outside too. Every chance I get, face in the sun. Got to absorb as much as possible because the deep freeze awaits.

Last night, Madeleine Thien gave an extraordinary keynote talk about her new novel-in-progress that made me, and I think the whole audience, feel a bit stupid and dull; she spoke about the space/time continuum, Spinoza, and Hannah Arendt. So you see, not light and chatty, but fascinating. Before she spoke, we heard from one of the founders of this festival, now celebrating its 15th anniversary, and then from a woman from the Canadian embassy, because the festival is deeply connected to Canada, many Canadians attend, and the embassy donates money. The cultural aide spoke beautifully in English, Spanish, and French about our country’s support for the arts while also mentioning that our prime minister is a feminist and that a good way to stem the tide of populism infecting the world is through the arts. She made me proud. Yes, we Canucks have lots to fix, but in comparison with many countries – one in particular comes to mind – we have a lot to celebrate.

The all-female mariachi band that played before the talk.

After Madeleine there was an opening reception that I was not invited to; Curtis and I took the Writer’s Package, much cheaper than the Whole Enchilada package but with many exclusions. I am starting to wonder if that was a mistake – we are missing a lot of things, could buy individual tickets but they’re extremely expensive. However, I’m now sitting in the shade by the pool again while others are inside listening, so nothing to complain about.

This morning a workshop on social media, very interesting – I seriously need to up my game. And then a rather infuriating workshop entitled “Bring your scenes to life with cinematic flair,” instruction I really could use because I’m not good at scenes. But the first hour was the nice young teacher reading long passages from novels and then showing the scene in the subsequent movie – not a valuable use of time. The last half hour, she gave us the six elements of scene and had us write from fiction prompts that I simply turned to memoir. So something gained in the end but a lot of time wasted. BK does not like to waste time. Even with the cheap Writer’s Package.

Set out to go for a walk this afternoon but it was too hot (too hot!) and the exhaust fumes were overpowering, so I went for a swim. Soon Curtis and I will have a glass of wine and then the next keynote, by Colum McCann. Tomorrow a full day, from 9 right through to a big party at 8 that I bought an expensive ticket for; there’s going to be music, can’t miss that.

A lot of people are here to network and schmooze. I’m hopeless at it. The place is crawling with interesting writers talking madly, and I’m happy sitting here, writing to you.

PS And now, 5 p.m., I’m in jeans and a sweater. The weather turns quickly. Wine time.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


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