I knew a guy once who worked years to get his first book published in the children’s market.

He was on a board I frequented.

The first school visit he did, I think he showed up in jeans and bragged to the kids that he could work in his pyjamas.

I think he only ever published one or two books.

Now I hate getting dressed up too.

But I went to a professional seminar once where the lady said you should really dress for success. Even if it was a picnic barbecue situation (but you would meet professionals) dress up, not down.

I think it’s sound advice.

Especially for me since I’m going to look weird and alien no matter what I wear, I always make sure that I’m wearing nice co-ordinated clothes at these kinds of things.

I still keep thinking about the doom and gloom that permeated the festival attendants. Everyone was agreeing that books and publishing were dead. And isn’t it ironic that this was on the same weekend that scored a record for the last Harry Potter installment?

Honestly speaking though, I’ve read some of the award winning adult literature in Canada and I simply don’t get it.

It seems as though the authors deliberately avoid any semblance of a plot.

Even Alistair McLeod’s wonderful No Great Mischief, had a series of loosely connected anecdotes. One of the participants said that each chapter was kind of a short story, and I thought, yeah, that’s right!

And sometimes the beauty of the language can carry a book.

But most of the time there’s no substitute for a good plot.

I mean what’s wrong if there’s a story???

The literati here seem to think that it’s un-Canadian.

And now they’re moaning and groaning that the industry is dying.

Frankly I think that when a reader picks up a book to read, the most important thing they’re hoping is that they won’t regret the money or the time they spent reading it.

So as authors we should make sure that at the end of the journey, the reader will be satisfied.

If they’re not, you can bet they won’t pick up another of your books.

And to top it off, one of the participants said that there should be quotas for a percentage of Canadian content on all bookshelves.

These are, for the most part, ‘liberal’ minded people, who are trying to control independent businesses/bookstores to force them to carry Canadian product.

You can bet they’d carry it if it sold!

They carry Robert Munsch’s books don’t they? They’re Canadian!

But what it seems has happened is that the elite and academia have convinced the literati that only a certain type of work is literature.

In fact Robert Sawyer made a good point during the panel where they were discussing ‘respect’ and how genre fiction doesn’t get much respect in literature circles and especially he as a science fiction writer and the others as mystery/thriller writers could expect to be kept off the literature award circuit. They said that even Margaret Atwood refused to refer to herself as a science fiction writer even though many of her work fit the category.

And yet I was feeling quite upbeat during the whole festival.

I do agree that the publishing industry is in flux, that the old model no longer works, but I don’t agree that it’s doom and gloom.

We seem to be going through the same thing the music industry went through a while ago when their tunes were being downloaded for free.

On another note, I just want to say what a beautiful little place Moose Jaw is.

I asked, during the drive in, why it was called that and the driver said that he thought someone had used the jaw of a moose to fix a covered wagon wheel or something, or it was named that because the river curved in a way that resembled the jaw of a moose.

It’s not such a little town.

In fact at one point it was considered for the capital of the province of Saskatchewan.

And it’s old! goes back to the 1800’s.

One of the things I found particularly fascinating, being such an afficianado of native history, is that just south of Moose Jaw was where Sitting Bull fled with his people when he was being chased by the American government after the battle of Little Big Horn. Eventually the Canadian government starved them out and forced them to return to America where later, Sitting Bull was assassinated.

He camped just south of the city.  I asked the driver if there was any sort of commemorative plaque to mark the spot and he said no. It didn’t seem that the city cared to honour that particular historical bit.

And yet references to Al Capone were quite prevalent. There was a place called Al Capone’s Hideaway, just opposite the old Canadian Pacific Railroad station (that was now, ironically, a liquor store). And there are tunnels in Moose Jaw!

They are well worth touring!

The most historically accurate of the tunnels are the ones that recreate the conditions of the Chinese laundry and document the history of the abuse and racism Chinese immigrants faced when they arrived in Canada.

It’s a fascinating tour that combines a tour guide and dramatic actor who treats the people on tour as if they really were the Chinese immigrants they used to bully beneath the well-manicured streets of Moose Jaw.

The other tour, which I didn’t get a chance to see, was the Al Capone tour. It’s more ‘dramatic’ but less historical. They’re not exactly sure if old Al really did make it up to the city.

The mayor of Moose Jaw attended the festival. He was a jovial looking bearded gentleman, and he graced one of my presentations.

He seemed to really enjoy it!

And afterwards he honoured me with a little gold pin. It was a moose and it said in black letters underneath, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

And speaking of honours, one of the previous directors of the festival, who was volunteering behind the scenes, came also to listen to my presentation.

He had been through a lot, and he told me a little of his story.

What a story!

He was a poet, and had published a poetry collection a while back and only had one copy left.

He was going to lend it to me on the last night, but when I told him I was leaving at 8 am the next day, he instead signed it and gave it to me.

I don’t think I’ve ever received such a touching gift.

His last copy!

I would never part with my last copy of a book!

It’s late and I’ll talk about what happened at the mineral spa tomorrow, insha Allah.