It was just after 12:30 in the afternoon when people started piling into the Art Gallery of Hamilton, prepared for the first event of the ‘All About Hamilton’ portion of the annual gritLIT literary festival.
All About Hamilton: Humour From the Hammer
The first event in gritLIT’s All About Hamilton series featured Gary Barwin and Showey Yazdanian. Local writer Gary Barwin is known for his short stories and poetry. In his Irish accent, Gary read from his first novel, Yiddish for Pirates, narrated by a parrot. He had the audience thoroughly engaged and laughing throughout.
Showey Yazdanian is originally from Toronto but moved to Hamilton in October. She read from her book Loopholes, which follows three dumb lawyers who hit rock bottom but scam their way to success. I kept an open mind, not knowing much about the world of law, and found myself laughing along with the rest of the audience.
After reading excerpts from their respective books, the audience was able to interact with the incredible writers and speakers to ask them questions. During this time, Showey revealed that the gritLIT audience was the nicest she had encountered, and Gary noted that Hamilton has always been warm and inviting. (That’s us!)
All About Hamilton: Outside Looking In
Following the half hour intermission was second event of gritLIT’s All About Hamilton series which highlighted two more authors: Kim Echlin and Rachael Preston. Kim is a Burlington born author who now lives in Toronto. She started her talk with the laws surrounding the morality of women and incorporated how these laws played a part in her novel. Kim read from Under the Visible Life, a novel based in both Hamilton and Karachi, Pakistan and tells the story of two girls who meet in New York City and bond over jazz music. Kim had a soft voice which helped create a bond between the characters in her story and the audience. Kim’s inspiration for the setting of her novel was Hamilton’s music scene at the time.
After Kim came Rachael Preston who is originally from England. She lived in Hamilton for ten years, spent six years on Saturna Island B.C., and now lives in Departure Bay, Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Rachael softly read from her Hamilton-based novel, The Fishers of Paradise, set in Cootes Paradise. It tells the story of consequences and choices but Rachael lightened the mood with her witty and sarcastic humour. Rachael was inspired to set her novel in Hamilton after seeing a photograph in the city and realized there was no better place.
Both women sat together in front of the audience answering questions. Their two personalities worked well together and allowed the audience to feel more comfortable and connected.
All About Hamilton: Writing the City
The last event of the All About Hamilton series was a panel discussion where the audience could ask five authors questions. Most of the questions asked were topics surrounding Hamilton, why they wrote their novels, and how writing changed their perspectives of the city. The panel included Kim Echlin, David Lee, Rachael Preston, John Terpstra, and Brent van Staalduinen.
The whole panel was like a conversation between a group of friends. The authors often added to each other’s answers and in turn, asked the audience questions about their opinions of the city.
When asked if they felt like they know the city better as a writer, Brent responded: “Yes, the tools of our craft give us the tools to see things differently,” and John added: “ I see what is no longer here, but young people see the city with fresh eyes.” Both of these answers gave me insight into seeing the city from a writer’s perspective.
It was never a dull moment as the authors constantly made jokes throughout the entire panel. The panel was the most audience-engaged event of the three ‘All About Hamilton’ parts of the day, and encouraged the audience to connect and talk to the authors. After the panel ended, we were encouraged to purchase the texts that were featured, meet the authors and get the books signed, or enter a draw where to win all the books that were discussed throughout the day’s events.
What was your favourite part of gritLIT?