It’s interesting that in an age of social media, where authors can let us into their daily lives on Instagram and we can retweet their 240-character thoughts, there is still such unparalleled excitement in meeting them in person; it’s beautiful hearing them read from the pages of their own book, the piece of their soul they have courageously shared to stir some kind of feeling in us: memories, questions, curiosity, fear, compassion or empathy.
In fact, six times a year, crowds of people gather at the Casablanca Winery Inn to do just this at the Grimsby Author Series. The Grimsby Author series was founded by the Grimsby Public Library Board in 2002, originally to raise funds to support the new local Library/Art Gallery. Sixteen years later, their mission has grown to “foster literacy in our community while promoting and celebrating Canadian authors and literature.”
Over the years, the Grimsby Author Series has drawn over 20, 000 people to its event along with 150 Canadian Authors. When I attended my first meeting on Monday, April 23, it was their final formal meeting of the year, thus ending their 2017-2018 season.
The charming elegance of the Casablanca Inn was the perfect setting for an evening of literary indulgence. I walked up the grand staircase into the ballroom and enjoyed a glass of beer from Bush Pilot Brewing Company. As I found a spot near the back, like I do everywhere except in a classroom where I’m a total second-row nerd, I took a moment to gage the vibes around the room. It was buzzing. People held the books of that night’s presenting authors, Laurie Petrou and Jennifer Robson, flipping open to pages and showing their friends, with glasses of beer in hand.
The series host Ken Boichuk opened the night up by introducing Kathryn Drury, CEO and Chief Librarian of the Grimsby Public Library, who announced the winners of the book giveaways. It was also a beautiful moment when Ken and Kathryn thanked Marsha Cox, potter at Forks Road Pottery in Grimsby, for the beautiful mugs she has supplied for author gifts over the years. Marsha will now be retiring from her work, so that night’s authors would be the final recipients of her beautiful, handcrafted mugs.
From there, Ken introduced the authors, and discussed the similar themes that run through their books: gender identity, issues facing women and the presence of two strong, female protagonists.
Excellent. I knew I had come to the right place for my next blog post.
The first author, Laurie Petrou, lives right here in Grimsby. I was thrilled to discover she wrote her book Sister of Mine from Station 1 Café, where I have also spent countless hours producing blog posts, copywriting and essays (and drinking Green Goodness Smoothies). It makes me wonder, what else has been created in this space?
It was an exciting time for both these authors; Laurie’s book had just launched the previous week, and Jennifer had completed the manuscript for her next book that very afternoon. I felt privileged to be sharing in these milestone moments with them, while simultaneously hearing how “ordinary” their lives are – work, kids, travel, students… they’re women who operate in many spheres and I am always inspired to hear from women who manage this balancing act in their own unique ways.
As Laurie Petrou spoke before her first public reading of Sister of Mine, she talked about the themes that run through her book: secrets, sisters, suspense and a small town in the summertime (I’m really pleased about the way the “s” alliteration worked with this one). As a girl who grew up in a small town myself, I was captivated by her description of St. Margaret’s in the summer, a small escarpment town that resembles Grimsby. As she gave her reading, the scene she described was soft, lilting and foreboding all at the same time. I imagined George Gershwin’s Summertime playing in the background – the juxtaposition of cheerful and yet, something a little ominous.
“I love writing about summer. I love the memories of summer from my childhood” – Laurie Petrou
Jennifer Robson closed off the night with a reading and discussion of her book Goodnight from London. I was intrigued by her writing process. She has an academic background in history and she brings that into her fiction writing. The inspiration of her grandmother runs throughout the novel as well, who was a newspaper journalist in Vancouver during the 1920s and 30s. As she read an excerpt of her novel about the Blitz, Robson perfectly captured the paralysis that I’ve experienced in a moment of shock. Like everything is happening in slow motion around you, and you’re helpless.
I eagerly purchased both books at the end of the night and have begun devouring them in my quiet, early-morning moments. When I met both of them at the end of the event to have my book signed, I mentioned to Jennifer that I would be passing her book on to my mum when I was finished (I know she will love it). To this, Jennifer responded that this was the best compliment she could get: that someone liked her book enough to pass it on to their mother. She has a point. I wouldn’t recommend just any book to my mom. Then, Jennifer crossed out her name in the novel and signed it in ink herself.
If you want to learn more about some of the sneak peaks we got that evening for the next season of the Grimsby Author Series, read more in Niagara this Week.