Prose in the Park (Part I)

[We asked local poet Pearl Pirie to check out the inaugural Prose in the Park event that took place in Parkdale Park on June 6. Here’s her piece! Also, don’t miss Pearl’s more poetic interpretation of the event right here.]

“A fabulous day, both in terms of the weather and the crowds of book lovers who trooped past our Capital Crime Writers and booth stopped to buy books and chat about crime-writing. I look forward to this becoming an annual community event," said Brenda Chapman, Kitchissippi resident, crime fiction novelist (left). Photo by Pearl Pirie.
“A fabulous day, both in terms of the weather and the crowds of book lovers who trooped past our Capital Crime Writers and booth stopped to buy books and chat about crime-writing. I look forward to this becoming an annual community event,” said Brenda Chapman, Kitchissippi resident, crime fiction novelist (left). Photo by Pearl Pirie.

The inaugural Prose in the Park event was a resounding success; a fill-your-brain extravaganza with lively discussions, and plenty of excitement from writers and participants alike.

“It’s been a really beautiful day. Tremendous fun from the beginning to the end,” said local fantasy author Amal El-Mohtar. “I’ve been delighted to meet writers in the Ottawa scene, local people doing tremendous things like Jay Odjick.” (Odjick recasts Anishinabe legends in superhero context in graphic novels.)

There were all kinds of new authors and discoveries to be made.Did you know Ottawa has a flash-fiction magazine? It’s called Saturday Night reader, and it can be found in print and online at saturdaynightreader.com. A portion of subscription sales goes to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Cystic Fibrosis Canada.

The event featured over 100 authors and 11 panels. Many genres and publishers were represented, including self-published authors to Giller Prize winner, Vincent Lam, local publishers, big presses, and bookstores.

It was a new experience for many, including Ottawa short fiction writer Craig Calhoun.

“I had a great time. It was my first time doing a panel like this and it went a lot better than I expected,” said Calhoun. “It was really great to see independent publishers represented.”

Councillor Jeff Leiper was also in attendance. [story continues below photo]

It’s a success by any measure. I’ve seen hundreds of people. I’ve talked to authors and all day and they seem to be moving books. The author panels have been really well-attended. The park is the perfect size for this event and I’m looking forward to having this at Parkdale Park for years to come,” said Councillor Jeff Leiper. Photo by Pearl Pirie.
It’s a success by any measure. I’ve seen hundreds of people. I’ve talked to authors and all day and they seem to be moving books. The author panels have been really well-attended. The park is the perfect size for this event and I’m looking forward to having this at Parkdale Park for years to come,” said Councillor Jeff Leiper. Photo by Pearl Pirie.

“They started talking to me months ago about doing this and it’s come together really quickly,” said Leiper. “The organizers have been laser focused on all the details.  Take a look around… Not every event has thought things through the way they have.”

It was a steady, happy crowd and the outdoor space worked very well; conducive to the panels as well as networking and informal chatter. There was space enough for conversations that were breaking out all day. [story continues below photo]

“I’ve sold three books, I’m happy.… there’s 150 authors here – some really far out authors – so if I sell 3-5 books today I’m happy,” said Martin Bueno, Kitchissippi resident and author of Rainbow Alchemist. Photo by Pearl Pirie.
“I’ve sold three books, I’m happy.… there’s 150 authors here – some really far out authors – so if I sell 3-5 books today I’m happy,” said Martin Bueno, Kitchissippi resident and author of Rainbow Alchemist. Photo by Pearl Pirie.

The panels covered a variety of literary topics. Kevin T. Johns of Write Along Radio moderated a sci-fi panel with local writers, Alex Binkley, Hayden Trenholm, and Toronto’s Julie Czerneda. He also brought forward some thought provoking questions during a later fantasy panel. Both had energetic witty conversations and great rapport.

On the fantasy panel, veteran novelist, Charles de Lint, and local  Aurora winner, Marie Bilodeau, debated the role of violence and magic in the genre and what distinguishes the genre. Julie Czerneda remarked that sci-fi has a long history of inclusivity, with no distinction between professional writers and fans. Readers are real people, not just “some guy to sell a book to” but to invite to write as well. It’s about participation and community, not static consumption.

I’ll leave the last word to Ottawa’s Brenda Gayle, romance novelist and author of Six Geese for Monica:  “I think it’s a fantastic event…. It’s amazing.”

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