Beer and Baseball Road Trip

Wednesday, 22 April 2015
“That's why I love road trips, dude. It's like doing something without actually doing anything.”
John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

We spend a lot of time trying to get from place to place as quickly as possible. In past years, some of my smallest victories have been mapping shortcuts and shaving minutes from my daily commute, all in an effort to maximize that difficult-to-wrangle concept of free time.

A few weeks ago, on a road trip, we took the less-travelled route between Toronto and Ottawa (and later Ottawa and Toronto), taking the scenic route along Highway 7, and stopping along the way. The trip also took us to Olympic Stadium in Montreal for a pre-season Jays game.

Our soundtrack was favourite albums and favourite songs, among them:

I can't feel you anymore, I can't even touch the books you've read
Every time I crawl past your door, I been wishin' I was somebody else instead.
Down the highway, down the tracks, down the road to ecstasy,
I followed you beneath the stars, hounded by your memory
And all your ragin' glory.

Stop One: The Campbellford Toonie
Old Mill Park, Campbellford
Highlight: A 27-foot toonie, obviously.

Stop Two: Church Key Brewing Company
1678 County Road, Campbellford
Highlight: Church Key's Holy Smoke beer (one of my favourites). This girl is a sucker for smoked beer.

Stop Three: Olympic Stadium, Montreal
4141 Pierre-de Coubertin Avenue, Montreal, Quebec
Highlight: The Jays took the lead early in the game, and ended up winning 9-1.

Stop Four: Dieu Du Ciel
29 Avenue Laurier Ouest, Montréal
Highlight: Another smoked beer highlight, this time the Dieu Du Ciel Caserne 30 Weizen Fumee

Stop Five: High Spring Trading Post
RR3, Havelock
Highlight: The High Spring Trading Post is on Highway 7, just outside of the Village of Marmora. The store sells some great bits of Canadiana, but it is wondering around the outside, reading the signs and snapping photos, that is most fun. 

Stop Six: The Oldest Barn in Town
4477 Highway 7, Norwood
Highlight: Everything. You would need days to do this place justice, and we had only about a half hour. The Oldest Barn in Town is worth a road trip in itself.

gritLIT 2015 with LitLive

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Same brick wall as the previous post, but this time, the evening was a mix of poetry and prose. On Thursday night, gritLIT partnered with LitLive, welcoming Elizabeth Bachinsky, M.A.C. Farrant, Janet Hepburn,Stephen Smith, Michael Lista and André Alexis.

gritLIT officially kicks off on Thursday. Everything you need to know is available at

Thrilled to find out that Homegrown Hamilton stocks my favourite local beer, the Garden Brewers' Piperales!

gritLIT2015: Poetry with the Hamilton Poetry Centre

Sunday, 12 April 2015

gritLIT: Hamilton's Readers & Writers Festival has kicked off with two pre-festival events so far — Battle of the Books at the Hamilton Public Library (unfortunately I brilliantly forgot my camera's memory card) and Poetry with the Hamilton Poetry Centre at Homegrown Hamilton. Poetry with HPC featured one of my favourite poets — Gary Barwin — and introduced me to a new favourite — Deanna Young.

Tonight we're back at Homegrown Hamilton for gritLIT's partners event with LitLive. Things kick off at 7:30. Here's everything you need to know:

LitLive Partner Event
7:30 pm at Homegrown Hamilton
gritLIT partners with Hamilton’s long-running LitLive reading series for an evening of readings encompassing everything from octogenarian adventurers to serial killers to our national obsession with hockey. Readers include Elizabeth Bachinsky, M.A.C. Farrant, Janet Hepburn,Stephen Smith, Michael Lista and André Alexis.

See you there, Hamilton.

Gary Barwin at Homegrown Hamilton on Thursday night. 

Ottawa's Deanna Young on Thursday night.

Spring is Springing

gritLIT 2015 is just around the corner ...

Sunday, 29 March 2015

I am thrilled to once again be on the committee for gritLIT: Hamilton`s Readers & Writers Festival, now in its eleventh year. The festival runs between April 16-19 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, but we have three pre-festival events. See the complete schedule of events and workshops below. Hope to see you at gritLIT

Wednesday, April 1st
Battle of the Books with the Hamilton Public Library
7:00 pm at Central Library (Wentworth Room – 1st floor)

gritLIT once again joins forces with the HPL to present our fourth annual Battle of the Books. Come watch ten well-known local personalities discuss, debate and mud-sling in defense of their favourite titles from the 2015 Evergreen Reading List. Hosted by CHCH anchor Annette Hamm.

Thursday, April 9th
Poetry with HPC
7:00 pm at Homegrown Hamilton

Join Gary Barwin and Deanna Young for an evening of award-winning poetry at our pre-festival partner event with the Hamilton Poetry Centre.

Sunday, April 12th
LitLive Partner Event
7:30 pm at Homegrown Hamilton

gritLIT joins forces with Hamilton’s long-running LitLive reading series for an evening of readings encompassing everything from octogenarian adventurers to serial killers to our national obsession with hockey. Readers include Elizabeth Bachinsky, M.A.C. Farrant, Janet Hepburn,Stephen Smith and Michael Lista.

Then, come see us at the Art Gallery of Hamilton for an unforgettable weekend of readings, discussions and workshops.

Thursday, April 16th
Chapbook Launch Party
7:00 pm

Winners of our 2014 gritLIT Short Story and Poetry competitions share their work as we mark the launch of the annual gritLIT chapbook.

The Life Bohemian
8:30 pm

Celebrate la vie boheme! Heather O’Neill and Elyse Friedman share their tales of the lives and legacies of struggling artists. Come dressed in your best Bohemian garb for a chance to win aBryan Prince, Bookseller gift certificate, and join us after the reading for music, cash bar and free goodies.

Friday, April 17th
The True North
7:00 pm

Explore the rugged and dangerous wonders of Northern Canada with award-winning authorsJames Raffan and Kathleen Winter.

Homes and Native Lands
8:30 pm

Richard Wagamese, Krista Foss and Tasneem Jamal present their intensely powerful novels exploring our relationships to our ancestral lands.

Saturday, April 18th
Literary Salon with Richard Wagamese
10:30 am at the Sheraton Hotel

Join national-award-winning author Richard Wagamese for coffee and tea, light refreshments, and lively discussion about books, writing and more. This event takes place at the Sheraton Hotel, Ferguson Room, 2nd Floor.

Workshop: Looking Into the Abyss
10:30 am

This workshop offers an in-depth look at how to write fictional villains who are both evil enough to be terrifying and complex enough to be real. Led by Giller-Prize-finalist Russell Wangersky.

Workshop: How to Catch a Polar Bear
12:00 pm

Winner of numerous geographical awards, James Raffan has been keeping journals of his wilderness travels since early days as a Boy Scout in Guelph, Ontario. No one was more surprised than he was when one of these journals morphed into his first bestselling book,Summer North of Sixty. Since then, journal keeping has been an integral part of his personal writing process but also something that he loves to share in his encounters with others interested in capturing the essence of experience through creative journal keeping. How to Catch a Polar Bear is a hands-on workshop that explores journal keeping as a first step in the writing process.

Workshop: It’s All About Character
12:00 pm

Alison Pick, bestselling author and nominee for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, leads a lively and participatory workshop about character development in fiction. Come prepared to have fun and leave with an enhanced understanding of how to create dynamic, three-dimensional characters.

Secrets and Lies
1:30 pm

Alison Pick and Alison Wearing share true-life tales about secrets that can tear families apart and their own journeys of discovery and acceptance.

Short…Not Always Sweet
3:00 pm

Discover the art of short-storytelling with three masters of the craft: Kathleen Winter and Denise Roig.

The Capitalist Regime
7:00 pm

Author Richard Swift discusses his controversial book and his assertion that finding alternatives to capitalism is no longer a leftist academic issue – it is a planetary necessity.

Monsters – Human and Otherwise
8:30 pm

Be thrilled and amazed by literary tales of terror from Andrew Pyper, Russell Wangersky andClaire Cameron.

Sunday, April 19th
Workshop: Flying with Butterflies
12:00 pm

Some people love doing public talks and readings, but many would rather crawl under the lectern with a glass of wine. Drawing on her experience as both an acclaimed author and an award-winning performer of one-woman shows, Alison Wearing offers insights and inspiration for ‘flying with the butterflies’ that can fill our stomachs when we stand in front of an audience, and she shares techniques for presenting literary work in engaging and enjoyable ways. This workshop is designed for anyone who would like to become more comfortable performing their work in public.

Unearthing the Past
1:30 pm

Christine Fischer Guy and Stephen Marche offer up compelling stories of odyssey, discovery and long-buried regrets.

Men of International Mystery
3:00 pm

Let acclaimed mystery writers David Rotenberg and Ian Hamilton transport you from Namibia to Shanghai with their electrifying tales of conspiracy and criminal underworlds. Then, join us in the Fisher Gallery for meetings with some famous literary detectives and a chance to win amazing prizes.

Closing Night with Steel City Stories
7:30 pm

Some of Hamilton’s best storytellers close out the festival with stories inspired by the word and concept Epilogue.

Solo Adventure: Chester and Manchester

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Nearly a year ago, I travelled to the UK, starting in London, taking a train to Edinburgh, and ending in Chester for a friend's wedding. I've posted already about parts of this trip, but sadly, it's taken me a year to wrap up this series. Check out the other posts here:

London, Edinburgh, and the Scottish Highlands were busy excursions. I darted from landmark to landmark, town to town, in an effort to see as much as I could in my mere week abroad. Thankfully, my friend's wedding was in the outskirts of Chester, in a part of the country ruled by green pastures and lambs, and I was forced to take some time to relax and enjoy the scenery. 

I trudged around Chester, a city of Roman baths and beautiful architecture that lies on the River Dee, near the border of Wales, with my backpack, which was already weighted down by souvenirs. Then I took the greatest bus ride of my life, through tiny towns and over stone bridges, to reach Higher Farm Bed and Breakfast, a beautiful slice of perfection that I hope to one day revisit. I walked. I snapped pictures. I watched lambs chase one another and I relaxed. 

I wasn't planning on going to Manchester. After a week of moving quickly from city to city, the backpack's straps cutting into my shoulders, I was ready to stay in one place. But my flight was out of the Manchester Airport, and in order to get to my airport hotel, I needed to pass through the Manchester Piccadilly train station. I'm one of those people who live in fear of missed opportunities. Knowing it might be my only chance to see Manchester, I couldn't pass it up. I'm glad I didn't.

One quick book blogger anecdote before I wrap up these posts for good. I'm a fairly awkward human being — one who isn't the best at striking up conversations or meeting new people. But of all people in the world standing in the baggage line in the Manchester Airport, I spotted Steph from Bella's Bookshelf. After I checked her Twitter account, and confirmed she, too, was in England, I went to say hello. After meeting Tanya from 52 Books or Bust in Edinburgh a few days before, my first solo European adventure turned out to be way more of a #CanLit adventure than I ever could have imagined.

I'll end these posts with a quote by Terry Pratchett, an author the world lost only last week. It reminds me of the importance of travel, and more so, the importance of travelling alone, giving yourself the chance to escape your comfort zone and see the world in a new way.

"Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving."
— Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld, #32)

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