Monday, September 27, 2010

Random ABC

Random Mainstage

you can't escape the crying

I'm afraid to report this, but I fear I've gone and made the ultimate spy mistake.
A mistake so sever, it will force me into early retirement.

I've become emotionally invested in my mission.
I've failed to remain an absent presence, a literary fly on the wall.

spy fail #5: having feelings

Saturday night at mainstage I learned important lessons in dying. I ask you, how does one stay distant from that? I tried my hardest to keep my gaze upon the suspicious crowd, but to no avail. I was thoroughly caught up in the lessons of Paul Quarrington's life and death.

To add to it, Charlene made sure to thank all of the volunteers who help make the festival possible by doing things such as handing out surveys, greeting people, serving wine and much more.
I thought my suspicions were confirmed, that my mission was still on track. She hadn't mentioned the bloggers. Charlene did see us as a lower class of volunteers, and there was reason to remain on the lookout for more attempts to bring us dowm.
We were unmentionable, even in her heartfelt thank yous.
I mean, we didn't even get magnetic badges this year.

And then she gave us our very own thank you.

Apparently her brother had never been to a Thin Air event until this year.
And the reason he came?
He read the blog. It inspired him to check out an event or two.

With this uncomfortably warm and melancholic feeling in my heart as I left Saturday night, I knew my mission was doomed.

And if that wasn't enough, in pondering how I might report to you one last time, I came across Jay's final post. Ever.

I swear it didn't even make me cry. ##imstillabigsensitiveliar

And he spoke the truth of this mission, as I believe we all have.
Thin Air teaches us about ourselves.
My first conclusion, so many nights ago, was correct.
We are drawn to this celebration of writing and self expression, not because we are all a bunch of book snobs dressed in tweed with our red wine accessories, but because we are people who seek. Seek out truth and understanding and compassion and laughter. We seek out language to engage and connect with.

Being a spy isn't the only lonely job in the world.
Being a person is a pretty damn lonely job too. Especially if you are a writer.
This is why we have Thin Air.

We find people like us, and a space is created, if only for 1 week each year, where we are held up.
And so together we explore weddings and cowboys. Hunting and kugle. Ectoplasm, fathers and the redemptive qualities of coffee.
It is the magic of people working through their lives, with words.

As we learned in the documentary on Paul Quarrington, the boogie man isn't death, the boogie man is not being creative on a daily basis. And when creativity can be brought together and shared, something happens that not even the best spy can name.

And so, as I hang up my stick on moustache on last time, I say to you all
Thank You. For all that you give of yourselves through writing, reading, talking and being.

None of us are the same because of it.

Over and Out

* * *
Courtney Slobogian was born in Winnipeg and likes it that way. She is a writer/understated activist/ irreverent feminist.

Some of her work can be tracked down in quiet corners of the internet.

She co-hosts a radio show on CKUW called Tiger Lilies are Poisonous, dislikes cotton socks and is currently working on developing her spy skills.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Okay I'll admit it. I skipped a lot of the festival this year. There were events I had planned to go to, like the Family Business mainstage and Amy Jo Ehman's Big Ideas reading to name only two. But sometimes, life gets in the way, or you just get tired.

But I did catch a few of the nooners, an afternoon bookchat, a big ideas session, but only one-and-a-half mainstages. All of these events I enjoyed, some just more than others.

The Tuesday's mainstage (which I had to leave halfway through) was well worth going to for Ken Finkleman's performance alone. A slightly self-deprecating, slightly off-colour reading from and critique of his first novel, Noah's Turn, which is "minor stuff," he said casually as he held up the book and shrugged. At least compared to great poetry. Poetry is the great art.

Here is a photo from that night of hunter-turned-conservationist David Carpenter, author/photographer AJ Somerset, and former Winnipegger Ken Finkleman perusing his book with sunglasses on. He took the glasses off when he took to the podium because, he said, "the speaker's gotta see the fuckin' audience."

I also quite enjoyed David Carpenter's reading that night, and then again the next day at the Big Ideas series. David's reading from his latest work of fiction in addition to his non-fiction went on a little too long and took away from the discussion that was supposed to happen. And that's what the Big Ideas are supposed to be about. Still, the reading was good, and David's a nice man.
Here's a picture of him:

And then there were the little things. Beers with Toronto poet Michael Lista and Hot Air blogger-in-chief Ariel, and the brief time spent in the hospitality suite getting a glimpse of what it's like to be one of the authors at a festival like Thin Air. It's things like these that are worth the most.

And there's always the wine and there's always the cheese.
Served up by fine folks like these ones:

I don't know quite what else to say. It was a different festival experience than last year. I think that has to do in part with not being at the opening on Sunday night. Because of that it was like the festival didn't start. There were just all of a sudden all these things to go to. I should have planned better.

But let's end this thing on a good note. The festival was good, and I enjoyed it. There's no poison, psychotropic drugs, or brainwashing. It's just good people having a good time talking about good books. And there isn't any harm in that. See you next year?


Brandon James Bertram is a perpetual student. When he's not at the university you might find him going casually about his business in his West Broadway apartment or spending his leftover student loans on beer at Cousins. He sometimes reviews music for the Uniter and his poetry has been published in Rhubarb magazine. He might graduate with a bachelor's degree next year.

The End

I don’t really know what to write. Since this is my last Hot Air post ever, I want to write all sorts of things about my feelings, but that’s not really what I do. When I try, I usually come across sounding like a 12 year old girl writing in her diary. Not that that’s an inherently bad thing, but I am a 35 year old man and that's not really the image I’m shooting for. So that leaves me here, unable to write this post, for fear of sounding like a sissy.

Ah well, I can’t really have all that much in the way of credibility by now anyway, so here goes nothing;

I like the Winnipeg Writer’s Festival. Every year I learn something important about myself when I attend festival events. I hear ideas and poems and jokes and writers. Sometimes it triggers an epiphany, other times, a roll of my eyes, but without fail, it teaches me something about me that I need to know. If I hear something that rocks my world, I’m usually hearing for the first time a feeling I’ve had, but could not put into words. When I want to heckle, it’s usually a discovery of something I disagree with. Neither reaction is right, they’re just the amazing little gifts of self knowledge this festival gives me every year I attend. I’ll really miss my free pass.

I like the Winnipeg Writer’s Festival Organizers. Without Charlene, Perry and the rest of the executive types, we’d all be just a bunch of people standing around wearing magnetic badges. They tell us what to do and keep in mind the big picture. They make sure every detail is looked after to insure this festival performs like a well oiled machine year after year. No Thin Air team, no Thin Air. Thank you.

I like Ariel Gordon. She keeps bringing me back and has no problem with me making a fool of myself. Thank you Ariel, for not only being a friend and blog mentor, but for also not getting mad at me for my limited production this year. Twins are harder than I thought. Thanks for understanding and don’t worry, we’ll still see each other lots at Aqua Books. I know you can’t wait.

I like the rest of the Hot Air team and will miss seeing them. I got to know you guys better this year and it was nice. Even though I’m not much for going out in crowded public places, knowing that I’d see one of you all there made it a lot well worth the stress. It almost makes me think I should get out more. Thanks guys.

Well, I don’t really know what else to write. This took me 4 hours. It was hard, but as they say, goodbyes always are. Thanks for reading. Take care.


PS Don’t fill out the surveys, that’s where they put the poison.

* * *
Jason Diaz is a Winnipeg-based writer, bookstore employee and handyman (the bookstore business isn't as stable as you'd think). His poetry and prose has been published in dark leisure magazine. He has no idea why he keeps working for these meanies and volunteers coaching basketball to all the artsy kids in Wolseley so they never have to sit on the bench. He has a wife and many children.

Volunteer party!

At Aqua Books, everyone with their mouths full of tiny perfect cupcakes...

Hands on: Charlene Diehl

Charlene has been everywhere this week. All over HOT AIR. All over THIN AIR. So it's easy to forget that she's a writer too, that October 7 is as significant, event-wise, as September 19-26.

Because October 7 is when Charlene has the launch for her new memoir, the first book she's published since joining Winnipeg's lit community.

And it's just a coincidence that her sweater matches the cover of her book. Really.

* * *

Out of Grief, Singing
is an achingly beautiful account of how a woman comes to terms with the loss of her newborn. After a bewildering series of rapid diagnoses and emergency interventions, Charlene’s daughter Chloe is born. But her too-brief life is spent in the neonatal intensive care unit, and her mother, leveled by an epidural anaesthetic procedure gone wrong, can barely make it to her daughter’s side. In the months following Chloe’s death, more medical crises further complicate matters, making it nearly impossible to even begin the grieving process, let alone return to any semblance of a normal life. But return she does, and with a poet’s ear for language, Charlene Diehl

Charlene Diehl is a writer, educator, critic, teacher and the director of THIN AIR, Winnipeg’s annual literary splash. She has published essays, poetry, non-fiction, reviews, and interviews in journals across Canada, and has to her credit a scholarly book on Fred Wah as well as a collection of poetry, lamentations, and two chapbooks, mm and The Lover’s Handbook. Excerpts from Out of Grief Singing, which appeared in Prairie Fire, won a western Canadian Magazine Gold Award. She was the featured poet in the fall 2007 issue of CV2. When she’s not chasing literary language (or her two speed pre-teens), she edits dig! Magazine, Winnipeg’s little-jazz-engine-that-could.

A Pint of Bitter Murder: GB

My thanks to Mike Deal, who attended the event and sat in the front row and took these pictures. Well, except for the one of the books, which were on Aqua's counter.

A Pint of Bitter Murder: Giles Blunt

Everything except Giles Blunt in and around Aqua Books.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hands on: Nora Gould

It's sort of a tradition for me to shoot the hands of the Bliss Carman winner. Apparently, it's also a tradition for me to shoot a blurry picture of the Bliss Carman winner. didn't help that Nora was standing in the doorway of the hospitality suite, on her way out, and kept on saying in her oh-so-wry way, "Are you done yet? Are you done?"

But the moment I want to leave you with is this: in the green room before the Poetry Bash, Nora re-braided her long hair. And so I idly watched her hands comb through all that hair, as she un-made and then re-made a knot of her hair.

* * *

Nora Gould has studied at Sage Hill, St Peter’s, Banff Wired Writing and Piper’s Frith in Newfoundland, and her poetry has appeared in echolocation, The Society, cv2, and The Prairie Journal. She is the 2010 recipient of the Bliss Carman Poetry Award, one of the prizes supported by the annual Prairie Fire Press-McNally Robinson Booksellers Writing Contests. Her winning poem, “Some nights he breathed up all the air,” appears in the summer issue of Prairie Fire, and she will be presented with a replica of Bliss Carman’s ring at the Poetry Bash! Gould writes from a ranch near Consort, Alberta, and volunteers in wildlife rehabilitation with Medicine River.

Afternoon Book Chat: kevin eckhoff mcpherson & Ariel Gordon

A bird's eye view of the last ABC.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Revolution is Now

I definitely think Courtney the Spy is on to something. Somebody IS out to get us. But it's not who we think. So Agent C., count me in. We gotta be one step ahead of them. I'll be your sidekick in the land of spies, big ideas, truth and seeking. You know what's what; I had suspected this previously and only added in the DOUBLE AGENT comment to gauge your reaction to be sure of your allegiances. But at the hospitality suite late into the night last night after The Play's the Thing, I knew you could be trusted. We sized them all up, the drunken playwrights, poets, deemed them worthy. Got right to the heart of the matter. They're in on it too and can be trusted. The Revolution is happening and it's right in front of us at the Festival. So yes, I'll be the Robin to your Bat-Man. Moustache or otherwise. We gotta keep this festival safe from infiltrators. It's never been more important.

This was the scene as I left work yesterday, wanting to get back to another BIG IDEAS at Millennium. But I never got there. The police had Main Street all blocked off.

The authorities are getting restless. They know something is afoot. They're trying to stop us.

As I began snapping a few photos, you know, in case, who do I see stroll by? If you can believe it, one of the Thin Air Attendees I had met at the BIG IDEAS session w/ David Carpenter the previous day. I was shocked. What a coincidence. But I've learned at the festival this year there is no such thing as a coincidence. The astute and helpful festival-goer shall remain unnamed to protect his/her identity. But suffice it to say s/he reminded me of Freedom of Expression and to Be Ready. Knowing glances were exchanged.

There are more of us out there than what we might think. And we're ready. For the Revolution.

And I think Charlene knows much more than what she's saying. And is indeed the one behind it all anyway. The Festival is the front, so to speak, albeit, it's doing the work too, the work to get us to revolution.

Jay Diaz, fear not. She's just testing you with her jabs, her bobs and weaves. To make sure you're strong enough. Your drunken monkey kung fu is good, my friend. You're ready.

It's nearly time, people. You can smell it in the September air, feel it in the audience as they take in the words, the wine, creative flow. You can see it in festival-goers' eyes when you see them in the city, on the street. Call on Akna, Charlene. Folks, call on your goddesses or knomes, your own inner artist. Cover yourself in mud. Embrace the proud beaver, the moon-phases of our Canadian landscape.

It's the dawning of a new age (isn't that what they were talking about in the 60s, the coming of the Age of Aquarius?). The "pseudo fascist Canadian government" is going down.

Thank you, Greg MacArthur, and your rousing call to action from Main Stage last night in your daper (orange-plaid!) ensemble from Ragpickers. You're right, the world is waking up.

And thank you for asking, kevin mcpherson eckhoff, denim jacket and all, poetry is life. And you're doing it now. Be the Che to Charlene's Fidel. Bring the Great Exchange of Ideas all the way West when you go home to the Okanagan. Then we have the whole country covered (well, except Vancouver and Victoria, but we'll deal with them later.)

A new world, a new beginning. And Charlene, her Thin Air Minions, and all Festival-goers alike are leading the charge.

To Art. And Love. Poetry. Plays. To Wine and Cheese. Blogger Hugs. Jumping in all the way, not looking back, like only melancholy writers can. And pouringdownrain that lets you see right through to your own heart.

We can't be stopped. The Revolution is now. And Thin Air is the breeding ground for revolutionaries.

See you in the streets, in the woods, in the deep dark night or blinding sun, all over the place, everywhere.


Stacy drove to Winnipeg in two days and five hours from Clydesdale, Nova Scotia. She only planned to stay for a year, but it has been four already, because this city keeps you, holds you. Though she works at a corporate publishing company, she has learned about writing, art, urban living, praying mantis kung fu, cycling, goddesses, and the middle while here. She hopes to figure something out about preserving, wool, gentleness, Mandarin, and movement. And, always, poetry. For the duration. Email Stacy at