Friday, October 19, 2012

Inspiration: moving forward

One of these years I plan to figure out a way to go to every day of the Vancouver Writers' Festival. Once again, I have had to be satisfied with a single day's outing. Still, the time proved to be very well spent.

The afternoon session, A Long Walk to Truth, explored two very different takes on what might be called family stories. Deni Y. Bechard's book looks into the relationship he had with his very non-traditional father -- a man who was, among other things, a bank robber.

The other presenter, Carol Shaben, wrote a book that was a long time in coming -- about a plane crash in which her father was one of only four survivors. The two writers' work seemed to complement each other, but that may have had something to do with the skill of moderator Kirk LaPointe.

Walking in the rain and exploring Granville Island were also part of my day. But for me the real 'meat' of the festival was an evening presentation on Women and Literature. Not the usual festival presentation -- generally focused on an author's current book -- this was a discussion of a topic that's often ignored despite its being the proverbial elephant in the room: gender equality in the literary arts.

Anne Giardini, who hosted the event, had a world's worth of talented women on stage with her. They included Kate Mosse, founder of the prestigious Orange Prize (now transformed into the Women's Prize for Fiction), Australia's Gail Jones, noted Canadian author and activist Susan Swan, and Vancouverite Gillian Jerome.

Thanks to Jerome's work with CWILA, some startling statistics revealed that although women publish more books than men, the state of reviewing doesn't reflect this. Mosse and Jones bore witness to the parallel (and dismal) situation in their countries.

The discussion, of course, was broader than mere statistics, ranging to the selection of judges for contests, marketing and cover art (with -- gasp -- the 'decapitated woman' too often depicted). It felt as if some of the old fires of early feminism were being re-ignited, with a conversation that was not only lively and entertaining, but pointed and stirring.

As for me, the first small step I plan to take is to sign on to the CBC's current Canada Reads invitation to nominate books for their annual contest -- and this year to ensure that the book I suggest is one that was written by a woman.

To note: If you plan to nominate a book for Canada Reads, the deadline for doing so is this Monday, October 22nd.

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