One of the things I will be doing with this blog as I take on my new role at the Ontario Arts Council, is to track my own movements around the province. I plan to be working hard at expanding the already extensive network of contacts for the Literature Office, making sure everyone working to make excellent writing and publishing in Ontario is aware of the OAC and the potential for public support.
I had a real taste of that work this weekend, as I traveled with Lorraine Filyer (the retiring Literature Officer) to Ottawa to meet with a number of OAC clients and potential clients. This was a valuable and enjoyable trip for me. It gave me the chance to observe Lorraine in action, and to meet with the organizers of some of Ottawa's outstanding reading series. I spent two student winters in Ottawa back in the 80s, and struggled through my time there, trying to build a literary community for myself. ink magazine, the national quarterly I edited and published in the early nineties was conceived and planned in the student pubs of Ottawa, and our first issue was launched on Rideau Street. So it was very gratifying indeed to see how far bookish Ottawa has come from those days.
What I would have given as a student to have The Ottawa International Writers Festival to attend early in each school year. Or local series like the Tree and Dusty Owl readings. And it seems I left Ottawa just a few short years too soon to see the birth of the Ottawa Storytellers Festival -- but I made up for it on Saturday evening when I attended the festival's closing concert. I'm not old enough to have been a student before the establishment of Ottawa's venerable ARC magazine, but it's satisfying to see it still around, and with such a vibrant web presence as well.
Thanks for a great visit, Ottawa... and sorry to all those friends I didn't see on this trip. There was a whole lot on my schedule. Next time.
Thanks to local Ottawa writer and blogger Pearl Pirie for this photo from the weekend. Andrée Laurier of the Canada Council for the Arts, Lorraine and I presented a workshop to a group of writers gathered by the good folks at Dusty Owl readings: