Well, maybe not rockin’, but certainly a blast. I just returned from the Writer’s Guild of Alberta’s annual conference & AGM in Grande Prairie (the Alberta Book Awards were also part of the weekend). It was a super-cool time. Of course, the best part of any conference should be meeting like-minded individuals and tons of new people. Being the hardcore introvert that I am, I approached the weekend with some trepidation. I don’t do well in large crowds and the thought of filling an entire weekend with schmoozing and elbow-rubbing didn’t sit too well at first. All my anxiety was assuaged, however, when I arrived at my hotel and found some familiar faces. I took a few photos on the first day – check them out here.
The weekend had many highlights. Probably the most memorable event was the keynote from Wade Davis, a noted ethnographer and writer. He delivered an hour-plus oration during the Alberta Book Awards ceremony. To say that his talk was stunning is an understatement. He covered a lot of ground, far too wide in scope to go into here, but my “walk away” point was this: The diversity of the people on this planet is key to our continued survival. Monoculture = death. He received a standing ovation and most in attendance were left speechless. The book awards proper were also an exciting time. It was my first awards ceremony. Lynn Coady won best novel for Mean Boy, and Tim Bowling’s Fathom snagged the Stephan J. Stephanson award for best book of poetry. The esteemed Rudy Weibe took home a Golden Pen Award for lifetime achievement. It was a fantastic celebration of Alberta literary talent. Really fun to hang around such great writers. I was truly honoured to attend.
The Saturday afternoon panel was killer, and Todd Babiak delivered some deeply inspiring and scathing comments on Alberta’s economic mindset (i.e. the unrestrained pursuit of profit). I was also a presenter. Along with Alexis Kienlen and Eric Barstad, I delivered a presentation on blogging and podcasting for writers. A blast! It inspired me to take the thing a little further and develop a whole-day course. I posted the slides from the show here. Check them out if you’re interested.
Next year’s conference is in Red Deer and I will most definitely be attending. Just now I was going to write something like, “it’s important to be present in one’s community.” That’s true, but it’s a trite understatement. It’s not just important, it’s essential. Writers must inspire and support one another. I saw a ton of inspiration and a whole fuckload of support this past weekend. Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers who made it all happen. I know they all worked their asses off (my lovely wife included). Your efforts have not gone unnoticed.
Lynn Coady, WGA Conference, September 2007
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?