A REBEL AT WORD ON THE STREET

When I published Stories About Storytellers in 2011, I was pleased to be asked to play my part in Word-On-The-Street (WOTS) in Queen’s Park. I was honoured to be part of the “Vibrant Voices of Ontario” in the booming tent of that name, and I tried to keep my voice as vibrant as possible as I read from my book. I tell the story of my limited success that day in Across Canada By Story.
This year WOTS moved south to the refurbished Harbourfront, where the attractive new street patterns have been carefully designed to create conflicts between walkers and cyclists. But despite all things being new, I was back at, yes, the “Vibrant Voices” tent. Before we started, the pleasant and efficient young woman who was the MC for all the events there explained that she would introduce me, then I would read from my book for 10-15 minute, then she would direct a Question and Answer Session with the audience, then she would call a halt.
No, no, no, I responded.
What she should do is introduce me, then sit back. Instead of reading from my book, I’d talk very briefly about how I’d created the “Stories About Storytellers” show, and how I’d created the new book, Across Canada By Story. Then I’d read out the list of authors featured in the new book, and at the end I’d say “OK, who do you want to hear stories about?”
She looked a little dubious, but I said, “Trust me, this will work. And I’ll rely on you to say ‘One last question’”.
And it did work. Hands shot up to ask questions…..about Guy Vanderhaeghe….about Marshall McLuhan…about Nino Ricci…about Grey Owl…about Alice Munro….. even about Mordecai Richler, who was not on my list. And as I told stories about each of them, the crowds of people drifting by stopped to listen, and in some cases found a chair, swelling my audience.
By the time of “One last question”, it was clear that we had a very successful session on our hands. Whenever my time is short I’ll use that format again. Trust me, it will work!

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