May 17, 2013

NeWest Press Spring Spectacular: Let's Celebrate Local Literary Talent

Edmonton has quite the literary scene - you just have to know where to look for it. Or you just have to have the right friends to tell you about it (thanks to Laura for putting the buzz out about this one!) This is one thing I really love about living in a big city: there is a lot of intellectual and fun things (yes - at the same time even!) to do as an adult that does not include going to a nightclub and will still get you home in time for bed on a weeknight.

Last night, me and 3 other fellow book-bloggers (Laura, Rick and Elizabeth), met up at Roast Coffeehouse + Wine Bar for the NeWest Press Spring Spectacular event which celebrated the release of four of their new books.

Corinna Chong, Marguerite Pigeon, and Rebecca Campbell reading from their books.

I've been to my share of bookish events over the years, and I can honestly say that each one is always a little bit different - which I think adds to the appeal of attending these kinds of events. The casual, more laid back style of last night, in which a packed coffeehouse of book lovers gathered to hear four different authors brave the mic to read from their books, made for a very different experience than I'm used to, but ranks up there with one of my favourites. (But let's be honest - if you add coffee or wine to almost any situation, I'm a pretty happy camper).

So with our drinks in hand and our books anxiously waiting to be signed, we listened to each author read briefly from their book while I mentally added said books to my ever-growing TBR pile. The readings were short (which my fidgety self was thankful for), the MC (Chris Craddock) was funny and cut to the chase, and musician Tyler Butler added that musical ambiance that pairs well with coffee shops and books.

Singing about The North Saskatchewan River

The Books of the Night:
Half-Chinese, half-English teenager Grace (but she’d prefer it if you called her “Gray” instead) is not a perfect little supermom-in-the-making like her older sister Jessica, and would rather become a marine biologist than a mother—although she does understand how to take care of her special-needs kid brother Squid better than anyone else in her family. When her mother Belinda abruptly runs out on her family and flies across the Atlantic in order to study crop circles in the English countryside, Grace is left alone to puzzle out her life, the world, and her unique place within it. {Read a review of Belinda's Rings on Laura's blog here.}

El Salvador, 2005: a group of Canadian human-rights activists are taken hostage by a former revolutionary fighter who demands that a new gold mine stops production. For Danielle Byrd, the situation is all too familiar, as she was there twenty years previously as an embedded journalist with a guerrilla faction during the country's civil war. Now, her daughter Aida must herself travel to the scarred landscape and choose her allies carefully if she wants to see her mother alive once more.

While working to restore an historic theatre in a seedy part of the city, a graduate student named Anthea searches to find her best friend, lost to the rhetoric of an itinerant preacher and street mystic. Almost a century earlier, Liam, a tenth-rate tenor, visits the same theatre while eking out a career on the dying Vaudeville circuits of the day. In both eras, an apocalyptic strain of utopian mysticism threatens their existence: Anthea contends with a nascent New Age movement in the heart of the city while Liam encounters a radical theosophical commune in the deep country along the coast of British Columbia, who appear to be building ... something. {Read a review of The Paradise Engine on Laura's Blog here.}

 Seldom Seen Road is a collection of sharply observed and understated poems about the land and its people, specifically those who have made it grow. Full of wit, insight, and fine bare bones imagery, they make up a book carefully constructed around a striking vision of the Prairies and its slowly disappearing history. Butler illuminates an oft-hidden world of strong women spanning two centuries, focusing perhaps the most powerful sequence of the book, “Lepidopterists”, on them.


  1. I totally agree with your assessment of fun and intellectual events. I wish I hadn't wasted so much time in nightclubs when I was younger. I mean, they weren't even good nightclubs (Nashvilles, The Joint, Rum Jungle, repeat lol.) I was always a reader, but I never even thought to seek out events, or look for other readers to talk to. Like Rick said in his recap, reading was always insular for me. It's so cool that it's becoming something else.

    1. Oh geez, I have many memories of standing in ridiculous long lines waiting to get into Rum Jungle...and The get the picture lol! My mom used to drag me around to her author's events during that nightclub phase, and while I NOW appreciate that she did, I wish I had embraced the experience more. But I'm glad that we can at least make up for it now! Plus, it's great to make new friends that have similar interests, now that I am older :)

  2. What a great event! Wish we could have an evening like that around here... thanks for sharing.

    1. You're welcome, JoAnn :) It was a wonderful event and hopefully encourages other bookish-peeps to seek out bookish events that they might otherwise miss.

  3. I wish I could've made it to this event! It looks like it was a lot of fun. :)