Word On The Street happened yesterday at Harbourfront. Book lovers came from all around for the bargains, the signed copies, the readings, the chance for one last sunburn before we all head back to our hidey-holes with our book stashes to wait out the interminable winter. It was a fun day by the lake, and even though there were kinks with the new location, all the sailboats made up for them.
(Can I also say how nice it was to be on the other side of the table this year? Being an exhibitor last year was a great experience, and I did sell a decent amount of books, but elevator-pitching is not my favourite, and WOTS 2014 was like the Groundhog Day of elevator pitches for me. It didn't help either that my table-mate was a writer of vampire fantasy with an entourage who kept bullying in on my 36" of table space. H.E.Double Hockey Sticks.)
With Word On The Street's new location came a new feature, a collaboration between sculptors and writers called Sculpting New Reads. Word On The Street challenged four artists "to create a new art installation inspired by the themes of their [assigned] book, using the festival site to engage audiences." (For a great rundown on one of the pieces that was part of this installation, check out my good pal Emily's post Words (and giant pipes) on the street)
I don't know what the other presentations were like, but the one I saw (Newberry/deWitt) needed a facilitator, someone to ask really great questions and get the creatives talking about their work and how artists inspire one another. During the very brief chat following the unveiling of Newberry's Giant Pipe, Patrick deWitt mentioned that the classic fairytales and oral lore of Eastern and Central Europe inspired his new novel Undermajordomo Minor. And nobody was prepared or brave enough to pick up and riff on that idea, to say "Yes! Writers inspire writers, and stories inspire other stories, but can you think of a time when you were influenced by another art form? What about music, visual art, dance?
As a poor substitute to knowing what deWitt's answer might be, I give you mine, and ask yours in return. Nine years ago, I wrote a whole series of poems about VanGogh's Cafe Terrace At Night that thankfully never saw the light of day. (They are so so bad.) My short story Riesenrad is a slightly more successful example. The narrator is loosely based on the woman that Joni Mitchell sings about in The Cactus Tree.
Now your turn. If you've never acted on the inspiration, that's fine too--has the work of someone else ever made you want to write a novel/break out the paints/tour jeté down the hall? And, if you're interested in this kind of thing, check out a great essay by Andrew O'Hagan, Writers in love with other art forms, or just ponder this little snippet:
Half the job of a working writer is to seek and maintain his own affinities. You’ve got to know where to lay your empathy and why. And you’ve got to know how to recognise the kind of material that releases your imagination. You don’t always find those things in other novelists: often, indeed, it will be the artist in the next field, the craftsman, the expert, the sportsman, the hero in another line, who will pump fresh air into the recesses of your talent.
Erin Bedford, writer.