I'm back from Toronto and Book Expo 2008. Before I left I spent two nights in Vancouver with friends and flew out early Saturday morning. Had coffee and a catch-up with Andrea, a fellow mom-to-be, on the corner of Davie and Seymour, then wandered around Yaletown for a few hours and revisited memories of living in Vancouver. The shopping, the dining, the Park, the dogs strolling along the seawall, the quality of morning light in mid-June. There are days when I sorely miss all these things.
And I always forget how stylish Vancouverites are. I've gotten used to the casual Victoria dress code, and it's not until I find myself walking down Granville Street that I realize I look like an urban pilgrim. What has become of me?!
The morning I left Vancouver was a comedy of errors that ended spectacularly well. I woke up at 5 a.m. and bid my hosts a sleepy goodbye. Only problem is, to get out of their building you need a scan key to use the elevator. So it was the fire stair for me and my 50 lb suitcase. Not an easy undertaking when you're pregnant! I hope the baby didn't mind the clumsy racket.
I opted for the express check-in at the airport and couldn't figure out why I didn't have a seat assignment on my boarding pass. Turns out, Air Canada down-graded the aircraft to a smaller one, so 17 passengers were without seats and likely to be bumped to another flight. I overheard one impatient traveller proclaim "I hate my life" in response to the situation. I, on the other hand, (looking for the positive) assumed the original flight must be doomed and that I had fatefully been spared from the impending disaster. Some of you are familiar with my flying anxiety, although lately it's been much better! Fortunately, of course, all flights departed and arrived without incident that day.
After walking a kilometer to gate thirty-eight I was given a credit for a future flight and also handed a boarding pass with seat 5E assigned. Row five, you ask? Business class indeed! And not just any business class. Nothing less than Jetsons-inspired aviatic pods with seats that recline into beds! And big screen personal televisions! and breakfast! and real cutlery and white dishes! and hot towelettes! two of 'em! phhhffftt. I am afraid there is a tragic flaw in all of this luxury....I am now simply too good for Economy class.
I arrived in Toronto that afternoon and Dayle, Andrew and I went to the CCBC Children's Gala at a restaurant downtown. It was a cocktail and appetizer affair, and an opportunity to put faces to dozens of emails sent along the cyber wires over the past few months; authors, illustrators, publishers, publicists, booksellers. I am learning how dependent the book business is on making connections.
A full day at Book Expo on Sunday, chatting up our frontlist to customers and setting up book signings with many of our authors. This is my favourite part, meeting the authors and illustrators; accomplished storytellers who I am innately curious to learn more about. I want to know about their life's bits and pieces that have ultimately lead them to this spot: sitting behind a stack of printed words, signing their name inside the front cover, sending a story out into the world. And truly, at last and without hesitation, when asked of their profession, they are able to say "I'm a writer." Which, for this reason and that, makes me think of Goethe's words:
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius power and magic in it. Begin it now."
We would all be wise to not forget this.
On Sunday night I had a fantastic French meal at one of Toronto's trendiest restaurants, Le Select. Myself, my co-worker, a Montreal-based author, and a bookseller from Victoria made for a lively and unique foursome. I missed my wine (do I ever miss my wine), and decided to avoid the Cock's comb dish on the menu (yikes!).
But it was the best kind of dining experience, long and drawn-out with just the right amount of attention to service. Most importantly, there was laughter, exchanging of personal stories and acknowledgment of those moments when you're enjoying the company so much that you don't want the hours to wane or the wine to dry up or the wicks to extinguish. And you can't help but feel grateful for whatever design caused otherwise independent paths to cross for dinner during a summer thunderstorm in Toronto.
West, through the quiet night, above the the congestion, beside the moon. I looked down upon the rivers and lakes of central Canada, the patchwork patterns of prairie fields and later, little flickering mountain towns nestled between the peaks of the Rockies. Over Kelowna and Vancouver, lower....lower, over a lone pair of headlights winding along a road on a Gulf Island which was surrounded by waters so dark and still, I imagined it was moonlit concrete.
Finally, Victoria. Dear, small, quiet Victoria.
I am privileged to have touched down in three wonderful and diverse places in three days, each offering equally wonderful and diverse people with whom to make acquaintance. And at the trip's conclusion, I am grateful to see it all from way above, all in miniature. All as if it is really that small, but also so immeasurable and total at the same time.