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Birth of a Book opens festival

The 22nd annual Festival of the Written Arts opened on Aug. 12 in Sechelt with one of its most ambitious opening night programs ever.

The 22nd annual Festival of the Written Arts opened on Aug. 12 in Sechelt with one of its most ambitious opening night programs ever. No fewer than nine people, including broadcaster Arthur Black, crowded the stage to talk about the Birth of a Book, in this case, Black's latest, Flash Black. It was a difficult birth.

The concept involved interviewing everyone who had touched the book in its progress: the editor, represented by Andrew Scott; the publisher, represented by Howard White and two of his staff, Harbour Publishing's production manager and marketing manager; through to bookstore owner Sonja MacKenzie from Gibsons' Coast Books. Not one of them told a good juicy story, although book agent Kathryn Mulders tried to share some tidbits about the sale of Bridget Jones' Diary in Canada. The arrival of Georgia Straight book critic John Burns, on stage with a broken arm, could have been really interesting. We waited, but no sparks flew between him and Black. Moderator Paul Grant of CBC Radio held the forceps, so to speak, but did not manage to elicit any bundles of joy.

Remember that last year's opening night performance featured the hilarious Will and Ian Ferguson. The previous year, the articulate Jane Urquhart had appeared in lively conversation with CBC's Shelagh Rogers. This year, it felt as if the audience was at career night at the local high school. "Well, Paul, my job on production entails "

Just as things were heating up, Grant suddenly changed the subject to that of book returns. Yawn. Okay, so it's a big issue in the industry and White waxed eloquently on the subject (although when hasn't he waxed eloquently on a subject to do with books?) but he wasn't addressing a trade convention. This event was a chance to inspire novice writers with the thought of producing their own book not to fully inform the audience of the slim profit margins of the publishing industry. A brief scheduled reading from Black did not take place in the pavilion to the paying audiences, but instead, took place after the show in the North Wing of Rockwood with a jam-packed crowd standing in a smaller, stuffier space to hear his humourous story. Despite this bumpy start, the festival opened out into its usual entrancing showcase of Canadian authors. Allan Fotheringham entertained a full house with his good old jokes, and women swooned to the romanticism of Nick Bantock of Griffin and Sabine fame. New Coast resident and physician Art Hister encouraged the audience to a fitter lifestyle in a non-threatening way and also told a few old jokes. But the real star of the show was the lively 83-year-old Mona Brun, once known as the Happy Homemaker, a cookbook author and representative of Woodward's food floor. During the Sunday event, Eaters' Digest, which Brun shared with Six O'Clock Solutions cookbook author Eve Johnson and moderator Paul Grant, Brun proved that you're as young as you feel by relating story after funny story of her long career.