Writers at the Library

News Date: 
27 April 2017

It seems that over the past few months Canadians have had to bid a final farewell to so many of our great wordsmiths: Leonard Cohen in November, Stuart McLean in February and in more recent days, Richard Wagamese. All of these wonderful writers shared their life experiences through their unique voices, in turn provoking us to thought, laughter or tears. Many times they shed light on issues far removed from our everyday life, giving us a personal perspective that now lives on in the pages of their books, recordings of stories or songs. For those of us who were privileged enough to hear Richard Wagamese speak at the library as part of the Out Loud Series in 2014, the loss is especially poignant. To listen to his personal journey from homeless teen to Calgary Herald journalist; his struggles with alcohol and his history with Residential schools, did not leave any one unaffected. It was a powerful evening, particularly when he spoke of the role that libraries had played in his life, providing a place for a homeless teen to spend the day where he could read. It was here that Richard learned about the arc of narrative and what makes good writing. He was always profoundly thankful that the staff gave him free access to the collection at the Toronto Public Library. This sentiment is penned by him in my personal copy of Indian Horse, “For Jan, thanks for the availability of the stacks…”

Richard’s story got me thinking about all the ways libraries collaborate with writers. We can be the place where they write, or where writers meet together to talk about their work with other authors. Many times the library is the source of research necessary for a piece of writing whether it be an article or a novel. One of the ways we work with authors which is probably the most fun is a book launch. This occurs when all the work is done and the finished product is now a tangible object with printed pages bound between covers with professional artwork, bearing the name of the author. Over the past six years we have had numerous book launches for local authors. Our most recent was for Anya Unbound by Dan Carruthers. This novel is set in the Yukon where the author lived for many years. The protagonist, Sean finds Anya, a young Polish girl who has escaped from human traffickers.  Although the book is clearly a suspenseful read it also sheds light on the growing problem of human trafficking, an issue most of us know little about. The book is now available in our collection, along with many others written by people from our own community, which is another way we work together to support these efforts.

I’ll leave you with the final words from Indian Horse:

Everyone dropped their sticks in the centre-ice circle. I skated in and began pushing sticks towards each blue line. When they were all cleared from the centre, the teams were set. Virgil was on the opposite team. He skated to the faceoff circle.

     I met him there. At least eighteen of us were on the ice.
    “How are we gonna do this?” I asked.
    “Gotta hit the post to call it a goal. No raising the puck.”
    “No, I mean with all these people. How are we gonna play the game?”
     He smiled and tapped my stick with his. “Together,” he said. “Like we shoulda all along.”
     I smiled. He won that first face off, but I didn’t care.