August 25, 2008

I was privileged to open the weekend’s WRITING OUTSIDE THE MARGINS festivities along with Brooklyn-based writer/performer Hadassah Hill. She had the south stage and I had the north. I spent the entire half-hour reading from THE P-TOWN MURDERS.

Foot traffic was slow to pick up (despite some fairly renowned names in the early hours of the readings), though things were rolling passably well by early afternoon. Still, it seems a sad statement on Toronto’s sublime artistic indifference. On the other hand, the talent was sparkling and the hosts (Ryan G. Hinds and Kristyn Dunnion) were engaging.

One of the best things about participating in a writers festival is the opportunity to meet new writers and reconnect with others you haven’t seen for a while. One of the newbies was Geneva St James, a BC author with an infectious reading style whose MADE FOR YOU is a fun ride. It was also good to hear Anand Mahadevan read from his wickedly funny THE STRIKE, though ironically a nearby lightning strike cut short his reading. RM Vaughan read from his new memoir-in-verse, TROUBLED, reminding us what it’s like to hear poetry read by a talented reader, and the sensational Nina Arsenault thrilled and trilled with her personal take on beauty and mortality.

The festival also helped answer a question I’ve had hanging over my head for 40-plus years. What do I want to be when I grow up? Now I know: I want to be John Cameron Mitchell. I want to be someone so talented, genuine and insightful that he can drop all facades and just stand in front of a crowd and talk about his personal life, joke about his intimate sexual explorations, discuss his artistic successes and his conservative family upbringing without a hint of ego, or better yet, complaint.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt myself in the presence of someone so inspired and inspiring. I tried to meet John several times during the festival, unsuccessfully, but just as I was leaving I spotted him sitting on the patio at Zelda’s, introduced myself and gave him a copy of my book. I was a fan of SHORTBUS when I saw it and now I’m a fan of its creator too!

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