Yoda of the library helps writers pay ‘tribute to community’

Our literary evening at the Pointe Claire Library on March 16 has earned a write-up by Mike Boone of the Montreal Gazette. He covers all the details, so without further ado, here it is:

Yoda of the library helps writers pay ‘tribute to community’

The Gazette March 18, 2011

The place was really quiet, even for a library.

Edna Schell was reading something she had written. And as she turned the pages on a wood lectern, there was the kind of hush that attends a shared emotional experience.

Andrew Schell, the writer’s son, succumbed to non-Hodgkins lymphoma on Nov. 25, 2001. He was 31 and had been married for 11 weeks.

Schell had been a lifeguard at the Pointe Claire pool and was wellknown in the community. More than 500 mourners attended his funeral.

Edna Schell had an audience of about 80, sitting on plastic chairs in a small room off the main entrance of the Pointe Claire Library’s St. John Blvd. branch. We were there, on Wednesday night, to hear readings by 11 writers who had participated in Mark Abley’s workshop.

Schell was the last reader. She began by saying “I feel like I have you in my living room, with the door closed” – an accurate take on the intimacy of the occasion.

Her story, called A Community of Caring, begins with coming home after a walk with her husband to a blinking red light on the phone and a voice message that changed their lives forever.

“I wanted to write something for Pointe Claire’s 100th anniversary,” Schell said after her reading, “and the first thing that came to mind was the people of Pointe Claire were so supportive of us through the tragedy of Andrew’s illness.

“As I said to Mark (Abley), I wanted the people whom I’ve never had a chance to thank personally to recognize themselves in the story.”

Writing about her lost son wasn’t easy.

“I think I’m over it,” she said, “but as soon as I start to say something, I get emotional about it again. It was hard to get it down on paper.”

Abley, my former Gazette colleague, spent six months, beginning in mid-September, as the library’s writer-in-residence. He met writers, individually and in groups, by appointments set up through the library or by email. One of the writ-ers described Abley as “the Yoda of the library, sitting in his corner and dispensing wisdom.”

The Conseil des arts de Montreal launched the writers-in-residence initiative a few years ago. Abley is the first anglophone and Pointe Claire is the first municipality outside Montreal to avail itself of the program.

The work will be anthologized in The City We Share/La Ville que nous partageons. In his email inviting me to the reading, Abley wrote “it’s a genuine tribute to the community, or maybe to Anglo Montreal in general, that a suburb like ours can come together and produce so many fine pieces of writing.”

The readers were:

– Jane Barclay, a “tea-drinking, dog-walking, lawn-cutting shortorder cook” who wrote about growing up in a Pointe Claire “bungalow with a Russian olive tree in the backyard” and outdoor swimming pools with “bits of grass and the occasional Band-Aid.”

– Timothy Fain, who’s been running creative writing workshops at the library for 18 years.

– Sandra Stevens, who chronicled eavesdropping at Second Cup.

– Frantz Mars, a native of PortauPrince, who said his poems would sound best in his native Creole. But because we wouldn’t understand, he recited in elegant French.

– Mouna Shawa, a Beirut-born Palestinian woman, who wrote about a Canada Day parade.

– Donna Nebenzahl, a former Gazette colleague, whose lighthearted account of her teenage years in the ‘burbs had everyone in stitches.

– Chris Galvin, a travel writer who divides her time between Pointe Claire and Vietnam, who wrote a lovely impressionistic piece called Seasons of the Lake.

– Walter Krajewski, an English teacher at Dawson College, who wrote about moving out from Mile End and discovering great cappuccino in Pointe Claire Village.

– Martha Farley, a day-care educator, whose Dancing Nightly is a poignant tribute to her aged parents.

– Catherine Albu, a Secondary V student with whom Abley worked on a 95,000-word story for her International Baccalaurate program.

Schell was the last reader – literally. The writer-in-residence program was a one-off, said Mary-Jane O’Neill of the Pointe Claire library, who praised Abley for being “wise in his counsel, generous with his time and also a funny guy.”


© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

via Yoda of the library helps writers pay ‘tribute to community’.


About Chris Galvin

Chris Galvin is a Canadian writer, editor and photographer dividing her time between Canada and Viet Nam. Her essay Flood Season was a finalist for the 2012 Best of the Net prize, and Discovering Hến Rice in Central Việt Nam won third place (shared) and a Readers’ Choice Award in the 2015 I Must Be Off! Travel Essay Contest. Her work has appeared in various anthologies and literary journals, including Descant, Asian Cha, PRISM International, Room, and others. She has written in Vietnamese and English for Vietnam Tourism Review/Kham Pha Du Lich Vietnam Magazine, Travellive, and Du Lich Giai Tri. Chris is currently looking for a home for her recently completed manuscript, Breakfast Under the Bodhi Tree, a book about living, eating, and tour-guiding in Viet Nam.
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2 Responses to Yoda of the library helps writers pay ‘tribute to community’

  1. Congratulations, Chris!
    It’s nice to be part of and recognized in the community, especially for such a lovely and inspirational event.

    • Thanks Claudia! And thanks too, for dropping by and commenting.
      One of the best things about the event at the library was the discovery of so many other writers within the same community.

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