The Word Vancouver festival’s annual celebration of all things literary is getting set to present its 2019 edition, which will take over venues around town starting September 24, and end on September 29 with a huge array of panels, talks, readings, and more at the Vancouver Public Library downtown. At the heart of the fesitval is, as always, a wide-ranging roster of authors.
The Straight approached a group of these writers and asked them to describe their most significant experiences as readers. Which books fired up their desire to become authors themselves? Which ones resonated in a life-changing way?
Here’s what acclaimed children’s author Kit Pearson told us. Books such as A Handful of Time and Awake and Dreaming Pearson have brought Pearson a Governor General’s Award, a Canadian Library Association Award, and the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence. She’ll talk about her latest work at 4 p.m. on September 29, on the Children’s Stage located outside the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch.
When I was about nine I discovered a story called “A Bad Day for Martha” by Eleanor Farjeon. The author depicted a child’s emotional and imaginative life in a way I now find remarkable for both the time it was written (1928) and the time it depicted (the late 1890s). Martha is constantly misunderstood and confused by the adults around her. Shy, sensitive, and lonely, she is sustained by her fantasies. On this particular awful day “all her lovely hopes and plans and visions had gone wrong.”
How I identified with this! No matter that Martha inhabited an unfamiliar Victorian world based, I now know, on the author’s own childhood. Her anguish was so real that I almost winced in recognition.
What drew me the most to Martha was her imaginative life. How affirming it was to read about someone who lay awake every night and made up stories, just as I did. And when I grew up and became a writer, Farjeon’s story inspired me to create young characters who, like Martha, are ill at ease in an adult world.