Saturday, November 21, 2009

On Thursday and Friday I took part in the 2nd Annual Writers Jamboree at the Carnegie Centre. Four one-on-one sessions, followed by a roundtable. Everyone I met with left an impression, though two stood out.

K and W are both middle-aged and have been writing for some time. K’s manuscript consisted of a series of film reviews written in the voice of former US Vice-President Dick Cheney, via Stephen Colbert. K alluded to how liberated he felt to be channeling someone with whom he had so little in common, and what can be gained from such a perspective. W’s manuscript was the opposite: a memoir focused on her experiences living in a farmer’s outbuilding during a bout of mental illness, where nothing much happens apart from her prose. Reading W’s work was like reading Marilyn Robinson’s Housekeeping – fluid, seamless, translucent.

There was not much I could say to writers as assured as these. To K, who is more interested in writing screenplays, I suggested his reviews become a blog. To W, who would like to see her story in book form, I put her in touch with my agent.

But the writer most on my mind after the second and final day was someone so eager for us to get at his work that he did not have time to tell me his name. This was someone of indeterminate age (he could have been thirty, he could have been fifty), someone who could not get beyond voice and description, two things he did incredibly well. As I waited for the light to change, I saw him leaning against the Carnegie’s wrought iron fence, his eyes, at least as far as I could tell, on nothing.

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