On Writing

My speech for the Whisky Sour City Book Launch

…because I’m brave enough to share it. I am a writer – hear me roar!

When I was thinking about what I wanted to speak about tonight, one word kept bouncing into my mind. Marty and the Whisky Sour City team of students said I could talk about the process of being the guest editor for an anthology or perhaps what it’s like to work with a team of students or maybe how we were able to get to the point we’re at tonight – at a book launch for the book we collectively created.

No matter what path my mind wandered down, I kept bumping into the same word.

And that word is bravery.

As I reflect on the Whisky Sour City journey, I realize that every part of the process is coloured with some form of bravery.

It takes bravery to commit to a university class that’s two semesters long, and that is guaranteed to be one of the most challenging, time-consuming and invigorating courses created in Canada. It takes bravery to create this class and keep it alive each year – thank you Marty Gervais.

As you can see by the finished products of Whisky Sour City and Talking Derby the students committed to this class with loads of courage, they stood up to the challenges, and will most certainly be invigorated…tomorrow when the launch is over and they realize it actually happened!

It takes bravery to write poetry. And many people in this room, whether they’ve submitted and shared their work or not, write poetry. Whisky Sour City proves that poetry is by no means a dying art. In fact, it proves that the ‘wonder of poetry’ as Alistair Macleod writes in the Whisky Sour City foreword, is very much alive and thriving in our city, our province and our country.

It takes bravery to write poetry and submit it to a contest or a publisher. I do it all the time, and even after all these years, I still get scared to drop the package in the mailbox or hit the send button on an email when I submit.  Over 100 writers submitted to the 3 days in august call for poetry about Windsor in august 2012. And most of them submitted more than one poem. Their stories were intimate, poignant, honest and unique. That’s a lot of bravery.

An editor’s job is not easy nor is it fair – especially to the writers whose work does not get included in the publication. They say you’re not a “real” writer until you can cover your walls with rejections – well, my walls are covered – but I know in my heart that I’m a writer no matter what my wallpaper says.

As guest editor, I did my best to guide and support the students, and to fight for and represent the many authors who submitted, as well as went on to publication.  It takes bravery to sit in a room full of peers, armed with a stack of poetry you believe in, and fight for it to make the pages of the final manuscript. There was no shortage of passionate arguing and dedicated teamwork during the editing process of Whisky Sour City. From the title to the poems to their order to the font choice and cover design, as a team we created and held tightly to an agreed upon unique, raw, bitter-sweet voice for Whisky Sour City.  

This bravery extended out of the classroom and into many lengthy email conversations with authors who were also fighting passionately during the editing process.  And we were grateful for all of it.

It takes courage to pick up the phone and request a donation of food or gifts for a literary event. It takes courage to invite your friends and family to celebrate your success. It takes courage to show up. And we’re all here – writers, family, friends – supporters of the literary arts in our community.

We are a brave city. We fight for what we believe in even if sometimes we’re not exactly sure what that is. We refuse to be labeled or defined. We work hard. We get dirty. We are a personified garden of roses – some with thicker thorns than others. And all of this is Whisky Sour City.



6 thoughts on “My speech for the Whisky Sour City Book Launch

  1. I was planning on asking you for a copy of this! The whole time you were speaking, I was wishing that I had been recording it. Love it!


  2. I’ve been meaning to thank you for this speech, Vanessa. It’s wonderful and true, and it really made me look at the event in a different way.


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