Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Home at Last...to a Heatwave and a Blackout!

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I returned home with Derek to Toronto last night from our trip out west and beyond.

I am not a fan (har!) of hot and humid weather, so I was a bit sorry to leave behind Victoria’s temperate climate and arrive in the middle of Sticky Town here. Then this morning, immediately after we installed the air conditioner, the power went out.

Before I knew the blackout was only affecting our neighbourhood—and was therefore less scary—I spent a few panicky moments taking a mental inventory of what we currently had in our apartment that would help us to survive. I felt reassured by our stocks of canned food, batteries, candles, and plentiful unread books. A few hours later, the power was restored, as was my happiness at being back in Toronto, which had only briefly dimmed due to grumpiness over this friggin’ heat.

Among other vacation delights, I had a blast reading in Calgary at Pages on Kensington, a beautiful indie bookstore, with Samantha Warwick and Cara Hedley. I also had the pleasure of reading at Sean Cranbury’s wonderful W2 Real Vancouver Writers’ Series, along with Peter Darbyshire, Gurjinder Basran, Robin Spano, Fraser Nixon, Raoul Fernandes, Elissa Van Struth, and Jeff Bursey. In both cities, of course, a bunch of us went out for beers after.

My brother and sister-in-law live outside Calgary, and they came to the Pages event. Later on, my sister-in-law said to me, “You seem to have these nice communities of writers wherever you go.” That made me smile. Someone once remarked, on my being a writer, “You people, you’re all word people, right?” I know some great word people, both abroad and at home.

I’ve been part of Toronto’s very supportive literary community since moving here in 1998 and joining my first writing group, The Hoity Toity Writers. From there, I got involved in the small-press and zine scenes by participating in the Toronto Small Press Book Fair, Cut ’n’ Paste, and Canzine. I volunteered with The Scream in High Park, an incredible litfest that is, unfortunately for writers and readers and listeners alike, celebrating its last hurrah this July. Over the years, I’ve attended and performed at fantastic (some now sadly defunct) reading series including the Idler Pub, the I.V. Lounge, Lexiconjury, Pontiac Quarterly, Rowers Pub, Strong Words, Pivot, and Draft, and met more writers that way.

I think it’s true that as we meet more people, the world gets smaller. But at the same time, these communities of writers I’ve encountered keep getting bigger, expanding within Toronto and across Canada.

Which is pretty cool, even in this heat. (Har.)

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.

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Jessica Westhead

Jessica Westhead's short stories have appeared in major literary journals in Canada and the United States. "Unique and Life-Changing Items," which appears in And Also Sharks, was shortlisted for the 2009 CBC Literary Awards. Her first novel, Pulpy & Midge, was nominated for the ReLit Award. Westhead lives in Toronto.

Go to Jessica Westhead’s Author Page