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I just met a young writer from Vancouver who said, “I feel overstuffed with both food and words.” I think a lot of us agree. It has been an intense experience, and I didn’t even do the full amount. The people who took two three-hour intensives yesterday are really bushed.

So now sitting by the pool, wincing to the loud explosions of firecrackers nearby; I’m winding down, though yesterday I did almost nothing related to writing. Except for the afternoon, a seminar about an organization called Narrative 4, founded by the Irish novelist Colum McCann who brought his charming self here to tell us about it. It brings together teenagers from vastly different cultures, to learn each others’ stories and thus learn empathy and bridge divides. He had the audience do what the kids do, to show us how it’s done: he had each person in the crowd find a stranger, sit with him or her, and tell each other a personal story.

I sat with Stephen, originally from England now based in the States, who told me stories from his childhood, starting with quite a funny adventure and ending with a tale about one of his brothers who was killed on his bicycle a week before Stephen was born. A ghost haunting you, I said. Yes, he said, and told me about it. By the end, we were besties, Stephen and I. The few who shared with us what they learned stood and said, “My name is…” using the name of the other, and then told the story in that person’s voice. It was truly wonderful, one of my favourite events here.

Dinner that night with Curtis and his Montreal friend Kristen who has lived here in the winters for years, a wonderful meal at a small local place, grilled fish and vegetables and lots and lots of wine. Perhaps a bit too much wine – I’m a bit woozy today. Especially as the two last workshops were this morning at 9 and 11. Then the last lunch, and tonight the last party. And we’re done. Today I learned about the business of publishing, and then about the generosity of personal essays. I’m glad I took a mix of craft and practical business workshops.

Mistakes: I only brought 3 books to sell because of suitcase weight and sold all of them, so could have sold lots more. Next time, if there is one. I’m going to think about applying, not to attend, but to teach here; I have as much experience as some of the teachers here, and in some cases more. It has been fantastic. I too am stuffed and will need time and distance to sort out what I learned about both craft and business. But I’m already looking for a tech assistant to help me up my social media game, have ideas about my books that are already out and ideas for what’s next, how to approach the material. Really terrific.

Lots of banging and loud music – went to see – a funeral again passing by the hotel, the coffin carried high through the streets followed by the crowd and musicians playing bouncy music, one with tuba. A public celebration of death. Should I ask my kids to carry my ashes through the streets of Toronto playing loud songs by the Beatles, the Travelling Wilburys, and Bach?

Clanging of church bells, all day, all the time. Love that.

My photographs are very slow to download so will post when I get home. This is definitely a paradise, at least for us gringos. But it’s a pretty good place to live for many Mexicans too. Do have to say: our CNFC organization has been talking about how to diversify our demographic from older white women, who make up the majority of our members. Well, the writers here are about 88% older white women. And hooray for them, too, or this amazing festival would not exist. Over and out for today, from this OWW. (If I called myself an older white lady, I’d be an OWL. But I’m no lady.)



2 Responses to “stuffed”

  1. theresa says:

    Love Colum McCann's novels, esp. Zoli. That's an exercise I used in classes I taught a decade or so ago. One person recording another's story and then writing (in our case) it and seeing where it led. It teaches care and attention for sure. Will be interested in following your attempt to up your game, re social media!

  2. beth says:

    I'm having breakfast tomorrow with a young Mexican writer who has offered to help explain Instagram. And I've already found a couple of possible helpers in Toronto. Plans are afoot to bump myself into the 21st century – we'll see how that goes. McCann is a lovely man, as you know from his novels, which I have not yet read. So so so much to read.

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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.

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