This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Victoria Writers Festival at Camosun College. It reminded me of a similar event I went to in Sidney, Australia, that brought together authors and readers for readings, questions, and panels. I was excited to see an awesome lineup of great local writers at this event, including readings by Bill Gaston and Esi Edugyan and panels with Steve Price and Madeline Sonik, among others.
My biggest disappointment was the fact that the two panels I wanted to attend were happening at the same time. I had to choose between fiction and nonfiction and the offer of a free ticket to the latter event helped me make up my mind. I went to “The Bendy Truth” to listen to “diverse local writers explore the expansive, ever-changing landscape of creative nonfiction.”
Panel host David Leach (a nonfiction instructor at UVic) had us all laughing just with his introductions to the three panelists. Christin Geall and Madeline Sonik (both of whom I’ve had classes with) and Monique Grey Smith read from their books before answering questions from David and the audience. I scribbled a few notes quickly in response to the questions about writing autobiography and memoir.
“I had to let go of my opinions and let them be changed, and that was a big challenge.” ~ Madeline
“Writing about children is difficult… writing about my son is my least favourite part of writing, but I’ve made sure there’s nothing embarrassing for him in later life.” ~ Christin
“Anyone who writes a memoir in middle age probably started much earlier, and it comes out of some sort of trauma—trying to find meaning. My father died when I was 14 and I became a writer.” ~ Madeline
“People want hope, something to hang onto, and [nonfiction] provides relationships. When we hear people’s stories, relationships, hopes, it resonates with us and we crave that.” ~ Monique
“People come to nonfiction looking for truth, some kind of truth about human nature, and we really need that.” ~ Madeline
On a side note: Madeline recently received the City of Victoria Butler Book prize for her collection of essays, Afflictions and Departures.
For the afternoon that I was there, the building was packed with eager readers and writers. It looked like the first Victoria Writers Festival was a huge success and I hope it returns next year with more great writers. If you’re in Victoria next October, watch the website or follow VWF on Twitter and Facebook to stay updated about future events.