“One’s life should always be read twice, once for experience, then once again for astonishment.”
- Wayson Choy
Last night’s Atlantic Book Awards was a dazzling display of the formidable literary talents found all over the four Atlantic provinces. It was such a thrill to be part of it. I was surrounded by family and friends, and by some marvellous fluke my three reserved seats were at the same table where my beloved Writers’ Group had settled. My three favourite french horn players attended! Perfect.
I had a few words of thanks scribbled on a piece of paper and folded into a small square, tucked away in a pocket just in case. In the end I didn’t have the opportunity to read it; my friend Shandi Mitchell read hers instead, on behalf of her marvellous novel, Under This Unbroken Sky.
Earlier in the day I gave a reading at the Northwood Centre, a nursing home in Halifax which was the model for the Harbour View Centre I wrote about in my novella. What a lovely occasion. The reading was held in – and this is the truth – the Harbour View Room. There were about a dozen people in attendance, some residents and some staff. Others sat at tables nearby drinking coffee and visiting, but I noticed that as I read, they grew quiet and listened. I read three short excerpts, and then we had some polite questions before one of the staff raised his hand and made the following observation:
“You’ve shaped a world in your book, and I want to tell you that J shaped this world here for us at Northwood.”
The gentleman was referring to a loved one of my family’s who lived her last four years very happily at Northwood. Before I could collect myself to respond, four or five hands shot up as, one by one, different staff members reminisced fondly aboutJ. J, by the way, died three years ago. The response of the staff drove home to me the fact that the care J received was genuine, and ran deeply in all directions.
Soon it was time to sign books, and I had a lovely, touching time talking individually to residents, the oldest of whom was 95 and the youngest, 31. All of them had stories to tell of their rich pasts, both recent and distant.
And that was the point, really, of Harbour View.
It was a day of special reminders.
PS – I’m going to take a little hiatus from the blog for the next few weeks, unless I find I’ve got too much to talk about and can’t keep my fingers off the keyboard. Back soon.
(I have one more reading to give this week, on Saturday at 12:45 at the Spryfield Book Bonanza, Captain William Spry Centre, Halifax. This should be fun – I love reading to children. I plan to read a picturebook manuscript of my own, as well as a few “real” books to show the kids where books come from.)