Sat., May 30: Since I was early for the celebration for 1955 graduates, I sat with Northrop Frye on his bench outside Alumni Hall, Victoria College, University of Toronto. Over a beautiful luncheon I reconnected with two friends who had attended his lectures with me way back then. We discovered we have all written memoirs and shared tips on promoting them and writing more books. We could have talked all day and all night; when we parted, we promised not to wait sixty years until next time.
Sat. June 6: As a reception table volunteer, I fetched a chair for Rosemary Sullivan, the author of Stalin’s Daughter, when she arrived at Ottawa’s Prose in the Park and needed to make a cellphone call and wait for the reply. She was the literary festival’s headline celebrity. Fortunately I had done my homework by reading all the advance releases from the organizers. One of her earlier books was on Gwendolyne MacEwen, a poet whose mentor was Frye. Knowing Sullivan was an English professor, I gestured towards the U of T crest on my anorak and introduced myself as one of Frye’s former students. In the few moments we had together (on the very day her 700-page tome was featured in the New York Times Saturday Review of Books) I was not shy about showing her my memoir. She started by reading the back blurb, which says Frye was my guru, and then she looked at my chapter titles. From the 13 of them she picked out two which made her chuckle. They are “A Fairy Tale Marriage Gets off to a Rickety Start” and “Dying Well in Love’s Embrace as Methodists Are Wont to Do”. Then she was off.
When I picked her brains for help, she rose to the occasion. I never thought of using chapter titles to promote my book because I have too many. However, the two she picked sum the contents up precisely. Next time I write a book description I will use them.
Famous authors are not all stereotypes with big egos. Many of them stop to mentor and share their wisdom with beginning writers. Prose in the Park was a magical event where the dynamic of mixing readers and writers was electric. It was Ottawa’s first major Literary Festival and Book Sale and promises to become an annual production.
In my next blog I will write about the two memoirs I purchased at the fair, both by Ottawa writers.
Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!