Lessons from Readings by Writers

A book reading entertains an audience and gives authors a venue to sell their books. So was the case at the Vancouver Public Library on June 27, 2023, where the event Writers Showcase featured four established and emerging authors. Furthermore, attending a reading is also how fellow writers can improve their craft. Below is my take on the readings and not a review of the books. 


After a lively introduction by host Jonna Milledge, first at the lectern was Jane Callen, who presented Bernini’s Elephant, a thriller set in Italy. She read two excerpts, revealing her two main characters. A cameo on Pompei led to discussing the research that backs up her fiction. Brief dialogues in Italian and a hummed popular song title gave life to her reading and engaged the audience. It was music to my ears since the novel I am working on is set in Spain and includes Spanish words.


The second author was Ella Harvey, reading from A Time of Light and Shadow, a compelling travel memoir. Various excerpts introduced us to her times as a nurse amid humanitarian devastation and as a lone traveller. From her times in Africa to trekking the Himalayas solo, she took us ‘from back then to now’ as she reflected on her free-spirited life upon returning to India many years later. From her expressive excerpts, the audience wanted to know more about the circumstances of her travels. 


The third reader was Lisa Hartley sharing Love and Salt Air, a moving tribute to her mother. Several excerpts took us from her mother’s untimely passing from cancer to their post-morten ‘relationship.’ The story reminds us that we collectively need to talk about the natural transition that is death. It struck a chord. My unpublished memoir is also about loss only from the standpoint of the long friendship between two women. Her delivery fitted the mood with a modulated voice and the occasional gestures punctuating some of her words.


The fourth reader, Pakistani-Punjab-born Canadian poet Talik Malik, read from Exit Wounds. Drawing on his life as an immigrant who speaks as many languages as the countries he fled, he combined the language of pain and survival with an insatiable need to share cathartic words and imagery. Malik illustrates a writer’s motto: “Write about what you know.” In his case, it is about longing for his lost homeland while yearning to belong to another land. The excerpts were reminders that after reaching a haven, finding peace of heart and mind is how life re-begins for immigrants.


From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s quote, “Easy reading is damned hard writing,” a reading shows how good writing leads to easy reading then easy listening.