A few years ago I attended the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival (recap here) and this past Sunday I went back…but it was quite a different experience. Because I was one of the writers!
I received a call a few weeks ago saying that my short story “Catch of the Day” had been selected as a winner of the Fringe contest, which is put on by the festival, for yet-unpublished authors. What that meant was that I was invited to read at the festival, my story would be published in a chapbook along with the works of three other aspiring writers and that I was invited to attend an exclusive dinner the night before with the visiting authors and festival volunteers. Needless to say I was over the moon at this news.
The dinner took place just outside of Eden Mills is the backyard of a couple from the EMWF committee. Cold, but thankfully rain-free, it was a lovely night spent under the light-draped trees with live music, a bonfire, champagne and delicious food (I’m going to be dreaming about those stuffed shells for days). And then there were the literati just walking around, chatting and having a good time. I felt extremely honoured to be included amongst such company.
While at the dinner I met the other Fringe winners. We stuck close together for most of the night as we newbies navigated this strange new world. After dinner I left the safety of the pack to wander around a bit and I found myself at the bonfire (getting warm!), eating cake and sitting beside award-winning author Shani Mootoo (who, by the way, was just longlisted for the Giller for her book Moving Forward Sideways Like A Crab—Congratulations, Shani!). She was super nice and down to earth. When I told her I was nervous about reading the next day, she gave me some advice that I will always remember. (I hope she doesn’t mind my sharing.) She said, “Whether it’s your first reading, or twenty-eight years later, the nerves never go away so you may as well enjoy it.” Thank you, Shani!
Another thing I learned at the dinner was that people have the best reactions when they hear that I proofread romance novels for a living. Turns out it is a terrific ice-breaker.
I may have felt a bit out of place, a bit too shy, but all in all I had a marvelous time and would definitely do it again—you know, provided I get a book published and am invited back (oh, the pressure!).
Come the day of the festival I was nervous. Really nervous. I’d been practising reading my story all week, making sure I was under my allotted ten minutes, but there were still lines that my tongue kept tripping over. I knew my nervousness was ridiculous, that I could do this, get up in front of a bunch of strangers and read my words aloud—but it seemed there was a disconnect between my brain and my stomach full of flutters.
Once at the festival, my excitement started to take over. It was a beautiful sunny day and Eden Mills was just as picturesque as ever. I had my “I’m on the list” moment where I felt like a VIP. On the way into the festival I stopped to take pictures to commemorate the moment. And children’s author and all-around-nice-gal Lisa Dalrymple (Skink on the Brink) caught me looking like a crazy woman getting a picture of me pointing to the program (My name was in it!) She recognized me from my blog and Word on the Street last year. Having a published author recognize me—me!—was pretty incredible to say the least.
As a reader I had access to the authors’ greenroom where I received a nametag and there were refreshments. I wandered around Publisher’s Way for a bit with Boyfriend and Best Friend, checking out the different vendor booths. I was too jittery to settle on any one thing, though, and soon it was time to head to The Cottage where I would be reading.
The Fringe reading location was gorgeous. Outside on the shore of the river with gardens and lovely trees. There were about fifty plus people who came out to hear the Fringe readings. Stepping up in front of everyone and having them listen while I read my story was an incredible and surreal moment I will never forget. My nerves started to fade a few pages into my story and I really did enjoy myself up there. I even managed to look at the audience a few times. And those lines I’d been stumbling over in practice? Nailed them! #personalvictory
After that there was nothing left but to enjoy the works of my fellow Fringers and then the rest of the festival. It was a once in a lifetime experience and an absolute rush. Thank you, to everyone who came out to the reading! And thank you for having me, Eden Mills Writers’ Fesitival! I hope I’ll see you again soon.
A Few More Pictures:
For more information about the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival and to find out how you could be reading at The Fringe visit www.edenmillswritersfestival.ca.