Permission to attend our reading

Judy LeBlanc’s new collection of personal essays, Permission to Land, reflects on her mother’s First Nations heritage, and why this wasn’t discussed in the family during her lifetime. It’s a beautiful read and you can hear from it, and poetry from me too! at Nanaimo’s Harbourfront Library on Monday April 15 at 4pm.

Author photos and book covers, Judy LeBlanc's Permission to Land and Rhona McAdam's Larder

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Salt Spring

I travelled to Salt Spring Island at the start of November for a couple of reasons: but mostly to take a turn as featured reader at the Poetry Open Mic series, at the Salt Spring Library. Mercifully arrived between rainstorms and enjoyed a couple of sunny days along with the rainy evenings. I was in town the week after the Saturday market ended and there was a distinctly autumnal feel to the farm stands, where squash and apples and firewood had taken the place of summer vegetables and berries.

Once I’d firmed up my travel dates, I scheduled a Salt Spring social for local Writers Union of Canada members while I was there, because the night of my reading was also the union’s 50th anniversary, and I thought we might toast its continued success, armed with our 50th anniversary TWUC cookies and a glass of bubbly.

So on the first of November, nine of us met in local writer and artist Briony Penn‘s beautiful home. Writers had come from Nanaimo, Sidney and Victoria as well as Salt Spring. Conversation swiftly broke out, with discussion ranging from difficulties of getting published, to the looming intrusion of Artificial Intelligence in the writing life, whether through books being used without permission to train AI, through the use of AI for editing our writing, or through AI’s replacing live writers for the kind of stock writing – ad copy, product descriptions, copy editing – that pays the bills for so many writers. We talked about copyright and the dramatic decline in payments to authors for use of their works, and about the origins of the union in 1973, and the ‘good old days’ of in-person AGMs where motions were thrashed out, debated, reversed and revised in the pub after hours – and how to carry this spirit on with today’s challenges: much larger membership (2,600), members scattered across the country, carbon footprints, availability of virtual meetings, and questions of time, expense and accessibility.

A heavy rainfall overnight gave way to a sunny afternoon, and an opportunity to browse the food shops, galleries and oddities in Ganges. My reading was gratifyingly well attended, given the dark and dribbly weather. Half a dozen local poets kicked off the evening by reading at the open mic, and only one of these fled the scene before my reading (over the years, I promise you I have been at many readings where the room virtually emptied after the open mic!). I read then, mostly from Larder, and then braced myself for resounding silence at the utterance of “any questions for our reader?” But was surprised at the animated and interesting questions that came up… anything from whether there were subjects I couldn’t write about, to whether writers can make money selling books?

On departure day, I couldn’t resist stopping in at the annual monster book sale which raises funds for literacy on Salt Spring. Books and Bling attracts a lot of readers – early arrivers were  lined up around the barn at the Farmers Institute when I got there shortly before the 10am start, armed with shopping bags and boxes that predicted lively sales. It takes a team of volunteers to run these things, and I was impressed by the efficiency and patience of all concerned, as I trundled off to the ferry with my 3 books and 1 bit of bling!


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See you on Salt Spring?

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Circular Food

As the organizers might have expected, registration for this evening on the circular food economy mushroomed when it was known that food would be offered!

Turns out there’s a lot happening in Victoria to rescue food from grocery outlets, then sort and redistribute it in various forms.

Chef Chris Hammer

In keeping with the presentations, all the food on offer had been donated or rescued and then prepared for the participants. The buffet was vast and included  vegetarian, vegan, omnivore and gluten free offerings. All the items were the same or similar to what would be provided to the recipients of some of the organizations represented. There was a predictable surge of interest in sampling some ice cream from 49 Below, and when we had eaten our fill, Mustard Seed’s chef Chris Hammer came out for a bow and a word on his creations.

Speakers represented a wide range of food waste and food security groups: Mustard Seed Food Bank and the Food Security Distribution Centre; Love Food Hate Waste, which targets food waste in the home;  the Food Share Network which coordinates food security nonprofits; the South Island Farm Hub, which arose during the pandemic and continues to support local farmers with distribution; Reroot, which processes surplus food into meals for the Vancouver Downtown East Side; and Community Food Support, which provides a free fridge in Victoria’s Rock Bay neighbourhood.


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Word Vancouver 2023

I hadn’t been to Word Vancouver for several years. This year exhibitors were in the ice rink and readings and panels took place in the adjoining UBC classrooms and on the pavement level above.

Here we see a typically Vancouver spin, with tai chi practice at the edge of the literary exhibitor area.

And on my way to the venue I’d passed an outdoor yoga class in the courtyard of the former Nordstrom’s department store. But my main business at the event was overseeing the volunteers who had kindly offered to sit at the table and answer questions about the Writers Union of Canada, for which I am currently BC/Yukon representative.

We shared a table with Joy Kogawa House; good neighbours to have! And luckily for me, almost all the volunteers arrived on time, and I was able to catch a few of the readings and panels, including one featuring two Victoria writers, Lorna Crozier and Eve Joseph, who with Vancouver writer Tara McGuire were discussing Life After Loss, with Vancouver poet Rob Taylor presiding. At the end of the day, I managed to catch the very end of a panel I’d wanted to hear, featuring Hilary Peach and Kate Braid, with Heidi Greco, discussing their writings about working in trades as women.

Author Esmeralda Cabral works a shift at the TWUC table

4 people at conference table

Life After Loss – Rob Taylor, Lorna Crozier, Eve Joseph, Tara McGuire

womans face between two turned heads

Lorna Crozier speaks on loss

5 women seated beneath canopy

Hilary Peach reads; Heidi Greco, Kate Braid. Vancouver poet laureate Fiona Tinwei Lam listens


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