The Pointe Claire Public Library is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015. The opening ceremonies on January 24th included readings by local authors, live music, and cupcake decorating workshops. I was delighted to receive an invitation to take part in the events and read from my work.
We were blessed with mild weather, and when I arrived at the library, the coat racks were already bursting, children and parents were choosing books to borrow, and the cupcake workshops, hosted by Pointe Claire’s own Crazy About Cupcakes, were in full swing.
In the teen section, Duo Jaï (Stewart Grant, oboe; Joanne Grant, cello) were setting up their music stands. They opened the afternoon programming with a mix of baroque, popular and contemporary classics, including some lovely Bach partitas, and Gershwin and Beatles tunes. Following the literary programming and a coffee and cupcake interlude, they returned later with their terrific interpretations of more Beatles tunes, including a personal favourite, Come Together. When Stewart introduced the piece, I wondered how they would pull it off with cello and oboe, but the arrangement was outstanding.
Award-winning authors Mark Abley and Joel Yanofsky held the floor for an informal chat on the theme of inspiration. Mark, also a Gazette columnist, poet, and the library’s first Writer-in-Residence, emphasised the importance of libraries when he mentioned what a major role the Pointe Claire Library played in his decision to live in Pointe Claire. They discussed the capricious nature of inspiration, and the ways in which they each find it. Joel, a frequent book reviewer for the Gazette, talked about the struggle to find inspiration while working on his most recent book, Bad Animals: A Father’s Accidental Education in Autism (Viking Canada, 2011).
Mary Jane O’Neill (the library’s section manager of audiovisual and adult programming) then introduced several local Pointe Claire writers, who read from their work.
Karen Zey is an emerging writer who worked for thirty-five years as a teacher, consultant and administrator in the Quebec public school system. Now a part-time educational consultant, she writes whenever she can. Karen read an excerpt from Tough Talk, a personal essay forthcoming in the spring issue of Prick of the Spindle. Karen is working on a collection of school-based stories. (One of her stories, Jake, appeared in the December 2013 issue of Hippocampus, a magazine of creative nonfiction.)
Claire Pelletier devotes her time to her two passions, writing and travelling. She read an excerpt from her second book, Les dé boires de la veuve (Première chance, 2013), a fanciful and rather surreal collection of allegorical stories in which some of the characters are garden vegetables, others, bottles of wine. Claire takes inspiration from her travels and from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Her first book, a collection of poetic prose entitled Le voleur de sourires (Première chance), appeared in 2010.
I took my turn in front of the audience to read Life with Mệ, one of the essays in the collection I’m currently working on, about living in Việt Nam. (Life with Mệ also appeared in the 2012 Writers Abroad anthology Foreign Encounters.
Francine Marcil, who writes about the hidden treasures on the library’s bookshelves at Il y a Tant à Lire, gave us a few examples of these treasures and read a passage from her top pick, Marie-Claire Blais’ Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel.
Michelle Payette-Daoust, fluently bilingual and an avid reader, hosts both the library’s English online book club blog and French online book club blog. Michelle gave us a bilingual presentation, and spoke about the challenges of writing her posts in two languages. She read from some of her posts, which include book suggestions and literary musings, and thoughts about books and films, posted under a category called “Should I Read it or Watch it?”
Many local writers, including Karen Zey, Claire Pelletier, and I, had benefited from the one-on-one meetings with the library’s Writers-in-Residence, Mark Abley in 2010-11, and David Homel in 2013.
As the library’s first Writer-in-Residence, Mark Abley worked with local writers (both published and aspiring), reading their work and offering valuable critique. He also put together and edited a bilingual collection of 35 local authors’ writings about Pointe Claire, The City We Share / La Ville que nous partageons (Shoreline Press, 2011). I was lucky to be one of writers he mentored during that time, and to have a nature essay, Seasons of the Lake, appear in the collection. Mark has a new collection, The Tongues of Earth: New and Selected Poems, (Coteau Books) coming out this spring.
We had hoped that David Homel, who took up the reins as the library’s second Writer-in-Residence, would be present, but he was unable to attend. During his tenure, he wrote a series of thoughtful posts about writing, all archived on the Library’s blog. He is an award-winning writer and translator, editor, journalist, filmmaker and teacher. His children’s book, The Traveling Circus (Groundwood Books), coauthored with Marie-Louise Gay, is forthcoming in April, 2015.
Section manager Mary Jane O’Neill is one of the Pointe Claire Library’s most valuable resources. Always on the lookout for something new to foster the love of books and literature and to keep the library vibrant, she’s doing an outstanding job! Mary Jane co-organised the library’s Writers in Residence program (Mark was chosen by a board consisting of Pointe Claire library staff, the Conseil des Arts de Montréal, and the Quebec Writers’ Federation). In 2011, she set up a human library event, where people could borrow a living book, as part of the City of Pointe Claire’s100th anniversary celebrations, and she worked with three other libraries to set up OverDrive, a system offering free downloadable eBooks and audiobooks to their adult members.
Thanks so much to the amazing Mary Jane for putting this event together!
The Pointe-Claire Public Library was established as a municipal service in 1965, but the history of the library goes back to the end of World War Two, when the Valois Citizens’ Association established the first library in a tiny wooden cabin in Valois.
The library offers a huge and varied collection of books, and much more. Throughout the year, cultural activities include readings by both award-winning and emerging writers, and conferences, lectures and films. Also offered are a variety of workshops, from Computers for Seniors, and Family History Research, to Creative Writing with Tim Fain, and knitting and crocheting clubs and more.
Special services include home delivery of books for people with limited mobility or physical disabilities, and large-print books. Then there’s the handy Ask a Librarian service, the career-search database, the Mango Languages database, and a teen space, with work stations, a sofa, and chairs, where teens can read, do their homework or relax at the library.
The library will host many more activities to mark its 50th anniversary this year. Follow the library’s blogs or visit the library in person for more information, to become a member, or just to relax, read a book and enjoy the natural light and marvellous view of the woods from the picture windows.
Address: 100 Avenue Douglas-Shand, Pointe-Claire, QC, H9R 4V1
Phone: (514) 630-1218
Adult Blog: http://pcplblog.wordpress.com/
Teen Blog: http://pcplteens.wordpress.com/