Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

A Foggy Day in Vancouver Town

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Hi — I wrote this post before the incredible ice storm that hit southern Ontario. Please excuse any typos, etc., since my editing and e-mail facilities are a little rudimentary right now. Thanks!

Two months ago today I was on Granville Island, giving my first-ever Power Point presentation. Wow, was I nervous! It was part of the Vancouver Writers Festival and I had a great time. If you’re a writer and you’re invited to take part in this event, don’t hesitate for a second — just say yes!

Frieda Wishinsky and I presented our book A History of Just About Everything (for more about this book, please see my December 16 posting) to sold-out and enthusiastic audiences. I was amazed at how much the kids knew about subjects including physics, Egyptology and history, and what great questions they asked.

I spoke on many topics ranging from the many ways fire has changed human history (see my post last Monday) to how the first Star Wars movie revolutionized the film industry — its incredible success led to today’s multiplexes. Like adults, kids love stories with fascinating characters, so they especially seemed to like the tales Frieda and I told about people who have changed the world. For instance, I talked about how heartbreak led Samuel Morse to invent Morse Code (sorry, but you’re going to have to read the book to find out the whole story) and how a flip of a coin decided — but in an unexpected way — who would be the first man to fly.

The part of my talk that got the biggest laughs from the kids? When I revealed that physics genius Sir Isaac Newton owned a cat who rejoiced in the name of Spithead. (I had no idea where this name came from until I happened to mention the name to my brilliant friend Frank who knew about the Battle of Spithead between the British and French in 1545.)

Hal Wake, Artistic Director at the Festival, and Clea Young, Artistic Associate, were so kind and helpful. Also amazing were the many incredible volunteers, especially Ella Kuc-Schneider. They made sure we got where we were going easily and quickly so that we could focus on giving the best presentations possible. I also have to mention the tech staff at the venues where we presented. They made sure this nervous author had nothing to worry about and my Power Point presentation went off without a hitch. Of course I must thank my husband, Paul, who helped me pull it together and communicated with the Festival’s techies ahead of time to make sure everything would be in place.

When I wasn’t giving presentations, I was meeting other authors and attending talks — both so helpful to any writer. I even took the tiny ferry across False Creek and walked down to the Olympic Cauldron. Many Vancouverites lamented the almost-constant and dense fog during the Festival. It did cause problems with some flights, but there was no rain while I was in town, so I thought the weather was great.

Now I hope you’re sitting down as you read this — a few weeks after the event, I received a hand-written note from Hal and Clea, thanking me for taking part in the Festival. Unbelievable and so kind. I think that tells you everything you need to know about how well taken care all of the authors are at the Festival. I was also amazed at how quickly Clea learned all the authors’ names, even though there were new writers arriving every day. Thanks again, Hal and Clea, for a wonderful experience.

And Another Thing …
Politician Jeanne Sauvé accumulated many first in her life. It was on this day in 1983 that she was appointed Canada’s first woman Governor General. But she was also the first female French Canadian cabinet minister, and first female Speaker of House of Commons. Sauvé also opened the first daycare centre on Parliament Hill.

All of our female governors general have been ground breakers. Adrienne Clarkson was the first visible minority to be appointed governor general and Michaëlle Jean was Canada’s first Black governor general.

Thanks for reading.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Elizabeth MacLeod

Award-winning author Elizabeth MacLeod has written over 50 books for children. Her most recent book, Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries, was published by Annick Press.

Go to Elizabeth MacLeod’s Author Page