July 31, 2011

THIN AIR streeter: Jennesa Dyck

I saw Jennesa Dyck swing dancing with a bunch of friends at the outdoor stage in the Exchange District at the Winnipeg Jazz Festival earlier this summer. I approached her, we began talking, and our topic of conversation often circled around both books and reading.

What are you currently reading?

“Right now I'm reading four books. Well, I've started four books, at least. I'm not sure that I can claim to be currently reading all of them – it seems that I don't have as much free time for reading as I would like.

I'm halfway through Jean M. Auel's latest addition to the 'Earth's Children' series - The Land of Painted Caves. I didn't even know it had come out (or that she was working on it), but I happened to see it in McNally Robinson one day and so I bought it. I already own the rest of the books in the series, and the second one - Valley of Horses - is very probably my favourite book.

Auel should, however, have quit after Plains of Passage – the fourth book – because the one after that isn't very good and this one is even worse. I love these characters, but now the story line seems so dull and forced. It's as though she has taken too much interest in the history of the area, which is certainly fascinating, but it has completely overshadowed any semblance of a serviceable plot line or any interest in character development. Perhaps that's why I haven't gotten any further.

I'm also reading Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, but I haven't yet made it past the prologue. This one came at the very strong recommendation of a friend. He swears it's brilliant, but I'm reserving judgment for a time when I've read more than twenty-two pages of it.

The last two are both by Joel Nickel: The Shadow in the Darkness and Ouroboros. I'm reading both of them not only out of interest in the stories but also because I was asked to edit them. So far, so good, but it's difficult to get into a story when you're watching for grammatical errors and taking time to write comments in the margins before jumping back in. I will once again reserve judgment until I've had a chance to read them all the way through (without having to edit as I go).”

What is your preferred genre? 

“I think that my favourite genre is probably fantasy (followed closely by historical fiction). This is most likely because I use reading as a means of escape from reality. I never read for pleasure during the school year (if I did, I'd never get any work done), so when I start reading in the summer I want it to be a relaxing experience.

I read when I want to wind down before bed, or when I want to spend an entire day just doing nothing – it's a way to turn my brain off and just enjoy existence without great effort.

With fantasy, I can just let the story take me away and let the characters do all of the work – it's effortless pleasure, and that's what I like best about it.”

A new THIN AIR streeter takes place right on the streets of Winnipeg every week. Next time, we could be walking up to YOU and asking questions about your book selections. Be ready!

- Joel Nickel

July 30, 2011

Manitoba Reads top eight have been chosen

It took one month and 1700 votes from people in 17 countries, but the results are in!

Of the original 16 titles on the Manitoba Reads roster, only eight remain. Those titles are:
  • Catherine Hunter - The Dead of Midnight
  • Chandra Mayor - All the Pretty Girls
  • David Robertson - The Life of Helen Betty Osborne
  • Gabrielle Roy - Where Nests the Water Hen
  • Wayne Tefs - Bandit
  • Daria Salamon - The Prairie Bridesmaid
  • Carol Shields - Republic of Love
  • Joan Thomas - Reading by Lightning

Now, four panelists will each choose one of the eight remaining titles and prepare to defend their choice at the final THIN AIR 2011 Mainstage on September 24. It's an event you definitely don't want to miss, so be sure to keep checking our website for details about ticket information.

Thank you to everyone who voted for Manitoba Reads, and we can't wait to see what will happen next!

July 27, 2011

Losing a child will never be easy...

Loss – no matter what form it comes in – can be a truly devastating experience. Every single person experiences loss in a different way, and it takes a tremendous amount of courage to recover from the grasp of sadness and despair.

Two books that will be featured at THIN AIR 2011 deal with a type of loss that is difficult for most to even comprehend – the loss of a child.

In Kalila, author Rosemary Nixon chronicles the lives of a young husband and wife whose joy collides with devastation when their daughter's premature birth comes with the news of her congenital heart condition. The story shifts perspectives from husband to wife, and takes the reader through the isolating days spent at the hospital and the fearful days trying to obtain normalcy at home.

The House with the Broken Two: A Birthmother Remembers - written by Myrl Coulter - is an intimate and honest look at the closed adoption system of the 1960s. The author is forced to give away her first-born child, and for 37 years she is left yearning, hoping and praying that they will one day be reunited.

Both books are heartfelt, genuine and chronicle the true stories of the authors who have written them. For Nixon, it took fifteen years and two continents for her to finish writing her story. For Coulter, it was only after reuniting with her son that she could propel her tale forward.

Nixon and Coulter have faced loss in very different ways, yet through sadness they both found the courage to write their stories and share them with the world. Meet both authors at the festival this year, and experience firsthand how loss can gradually give way to unwavering courage.

July 26, 2011

THIN AIR streeter: Amanda Buchko

What better way to escape the drama of your everyday life than by taking a break from it and indulging in someone else's life story? You could read a biography, perhaps. Even better, pair that with a trip to the nearest park and you’re in for a treat...

That is where I found Amanda Buchko on a Monday evening, sitting under the shade of one of Munson Park’s old Elm trees. Munson Park is a popular place for many people living around Winnipeg’s beautiful River Heights area. While sipping a refreshing bottle of iced tea - one that would save her from the sizzling, hot day - she treated her wild side to a taste of I'm With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres.

Interviewee Amanda Buchko enjoying a VERY warm Monday with a book.

What is the book about?
“Pamela Ann Miller (Des Barres) tells the story of her life as a groupie in the late 60's and early '70's. After graduating high school she moved from Reseda, California to the Los Angeles Sunset Strip. She was a member of the GTO's, an all girl group formed by Frank Zappa, who she later became a nanny for. She had "affairs" with Keith Moon, Chris Hillman, Jim Morrison, Waylon Jennings, Mick Jagger and many others. I'm currently reading about her time with Jimmy Page.”

Why did you choose this book?
“I was browsing through Coles on my lunch to pass the time and picked this up in the Biography section. It was the only copy, and I love reading anything to do with the music industry. It also had quotes on the back from Robert Plant and Gene Simmons raving about Pamela, how could I resist?”

What sparked your love of reading?
“My Dad used to read to me every night before bed, starting when I was really young. We went through all the Little House books and anything else I could get my hands on.

I started to realize that reading a book was way more interesting than the stuff I was watching on television. Books have a way of pulling you in. I'll get lost in a book and ignore anyone and everything around me.”

Is there anything you would like to add?
“TV has become such a necessity to people these days. They'll have 200 channels and still complain there's nothing on! Don't get me wrong, I enjoy it as much as the next person, but pick up a damn book and exercise your mind!"

A new THIN AIR streeter takes place right on the streets of Winnipeg every week. Next time, we could be walking up to YOU and asking questions about your book selections. Be ready!

- Nicole Dola

July 21, 2011

We want your books!

THIN AIR is holding a mega book sale at The Forks Market on the Labour Day weekend in September. Support our fundraising efforts and clear out your overcrowded bookshelves at the same time!

We're looking for gently used books of all types. Please, no magazines or National Geographics.

Drop off your books during business hours at the festival office: top floor of Artspace, 100 Arthur St, in the Exchange District. Or call 927-7323 to inquire about a pick-up when we're in your area.

You can get information and updates on our website at www.thinairwinnipeg.ca

Happy summer reading, everyone. Thanks in advance for helping to make our first THIN AIR book sale a roaring success!

July 19, 2011

Manitoba is filled with talented writers

We’re hooking up with CBC Manitoba & McNally Robinson Booksellers to produce the very first Manitoba Reads, a friendly-but-fierce contest to choose a book for all of us to read.

The long list of 16 titles is now online. You can vote once a day for your favourite book. On July 30, the top 8 books go on to the next level. Our four book advocates will each choose one of those finalists, then debate them down to a single title on September 24 at the closing Mainstage show of THIN AIR 2011.

Voting ends July 29!

July 18, 2011

A collection of stories by Clark Blaise

I am a big short story reader. Literary journals such as Prairie Fire, Event and CV2 have always been my choice reading materials, and I can usually be found with some sort of short story collection tucked into my purse.

When I stumbled upon The Meagre Tarmac, a novel written as a collection of short stories by Clark Blaise, I immediately picked it up and started to read.

A very regal head shot of Clark Blaise. We can't wait to meet him!

Blaise is no newcomer to writing, and he has written more than 20 books of fiction and non-fiction. He has taught both writing and literature at Emory, Columbia, NYU and UC-Berkley, to name a few. In 1968, he founded the postgraduate Creative Writing Program at Concordia University. In 2010, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, an extremely important distinction that isn’t just given to anyone.

With a background like that, I knew The Meagre Tarmac was going to be good…

It begins with three stories about the Waldekar’s, a family originally from India who has spent the last 20 years in the United States. Gradually, the collection begins to include a host of other, interesting characters. The last story features an Indian businessman who is both very lonely and very rich.

The cover of The Meagre Tarmac. It's definitely worth a read...

Throughout the collection, the characters are stuck between doing what they want to do and doing what they are required to do. Even though all of the main characters come from Muslim backgrounds, they are all different in their personal beliefs. Choosing to step away from one’s upbringing is a monumentally difficult task, but for some, a necessary action on the road to becoming an individual.

Blaise currently divides his time between homes in San Francisco and New York, so we’re truly lucky to have him as a presenter at THIN AIR 2011!

July 14, 2011

THIN AIR streeter: Lexsie Castro

Under the shade of Manitoba Hydro Place, Lexsie Castro sat at Second Cup sipping her coffee and enjoying A Piece of Cake.

This piece, however, was enjoyed not by a fork but by the eyes. It is a book titled A Piece of Cake: A Memoir, and it was written by Cupcake Brown.

What is your book about?

“It’s the autobiography of Cupcake Brown, a successful lawyer who shares her struggles as she was growing up,” said Castro. “Her mother passed away when she was young and she was sent to an abusive foster home, which eventually lead her to drugs, alcohol and prostitution.”

A candid shot of Castro enjoying her book.

Why did you decide to sit here and read?

As Castro neared the end of A Piece of Cake, she told a friend working nearby she would wait for him at the Second Cup on Edmonton Street and read until he was finished work. 

“I just miss sitting here and reading,” she said. “I used to come here all the time when I was in school about six years ago.”

Do you recommend this book?

“I would definitely recommend A Piece of Cake to people. I mean, it’s not for everyone, but I would recommend it to anyone who has struggled in life in general,” said Castro. “I can’t relate to her life myself, but it was amazing to read how someone can change and come out of a bad situation.”

Castro – who is more into reading fiction – had A Piece of Cake recommended to her by a friend.

“I thought it would be interesting and different from what I am used to reading because my friend said it was all about sex, drugs and alcohol.”

For Castro, A Piece of Cake has been one of the most inspiring books she has read.

“Reading her book made me realize that no matter what situation you’re in, or how old you are, or how hard you’ve hit rock bottom, it’s never too late.”

A new THIN AIR streeter takes place right on the streets of Winnipeg every week. Next time, we could be walking up to YOU and asking questions about your book selections. Be ready!

- Brian Bulos

July 13, 2011

Gabe Foreman thinks about people

Every person is different, yet we are all still people.

Gabe Foreman’s reference book – A Complete Encyclopedia of Different Types of People – attempts to define who and what people are through a collection of poetry that is unique, funny and engaging.

While not every person may understand the collection as a whole, there is something for everyone. Some insightful poems include: Bridesmaids, House-Sitters and Transplant Survivors. More off-kilter, quirky poems include: Entomologists, Organ Donors and Snoops.

The collection is definitely worth a read, and it’s something that you’ll pull off the bookshelf and return to again and again.

He just seems like a really cool guy...

Gabe Foreman is a part-time tree planter living in Montreal. His writing has appeared in a number of literary journals, including Grain, The Fiddlehead and Event. His work has also been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards, and he will be a featured writer at THIN AIR 2011.

Check him out on Facebook!

July 09, 2011

THIN AIR streeter: Mallory Richard

Mallory Richard was sitting at the Second Cup in Osborne Village when I saw her reading. For future reference, the cool, air-conditioned solace of the coffee shop is a wonderful place to isolate oneself from the summer heat, especially when paired with a good book and caffeine.

She was reading Canadian Labour in Crisis by David Camfield. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to learn more.

What is your favourite genre to read?

“I love reading books that offer insights and perspectives that can change the way I understand and experience the world. For non-fiction, that usually means history, politics, and cultural studies – books that try to explain why things are the way they are. For fiction, it means seeing the world through the eyes of characters whose lives differ from mine, but still resonate.”

Why did you choose that particular book?

“I'd heard about this book because Mondragon was hosting its launch, and I thought I'd give it a try. I really like how Camfield describes the workers' movement in a way that's critical but not defeatist.”

The cover of the book Richard was reading.

Why do you enjoy reading?

“For me, reading means discovery: new ideas, information, pleasures, possibilities. Reading as an "escape" can be wonderful, but my life and experiences affect the reading I do, and I like the reading I do to affect my life and experiences.”

Do you have any final thoughts?

“This book has been especially interesting because its topic is so relevant. During the recent federal election, parties and candidates worked hard to appeal to middle-class Canadian "families,” but Camfield makes the point that even though many Canadians self-identify as middle class, they are members of the working class.

There were also two high-profile strikes very recently, and it's fascinating to hear what Camfield has to say about strikes and other activities meant to advance workers' interests.”

A new THIN AIR streeter takes place right on the streets of Winnipeg every week. Next time, we could be walking up to YOU and asking questions about your book selections. Be ready!   

July 07, 2011

The WestJet Fun n’ Festivals Contest

THIN AIR 2011 has entered an online festival contest hosted by WestJet Airlines, and we need your help to become the highest rated festival in Manitoba!

Go to www.westjetfestivals.com and vote by creating a profile or logging in with your Facebook account.

Once you vote, you’ll have a chance of winning one of six fantastic grand prizes, including:
  • Prize #1 – Calgary Stampede VIP Package
  • Prize #2 – Just For Laughs Montreal Weekend Getaway
  • Prize #3 – Abbotsford International Airshow Package
  • Prize #4 – Pacific National Exhibition Package
  • Prize #5 – Niagara Wine Festival Package
  • Prize #6 – Okanagan Wine Festival Package
In addition, each grand prize includes:
  • 2-3 nights accommodation
  • Two event tickets
  • Special VIP access for two
Not only can you win a fantastic prize, but you can help THIN AIR 2011 become the highest rated festival in the province! So log on and vote today!

July 06, 2011

Analyzing ‘Niko’ by Dimitri Nasrallah

Dimitri Nasrallah is no stranger to civil war.

He was born in Lebanon in 1977 as the country was rife with opposition and discontent, and it was the only environment he knew as a young child. In 1981, his family went into exile, living in Athens, Kuwait and Dubai before immigrating to Canada in 1988.

Currently, Nasrallah lives in Montreal. His first novel - Blackbodyingwas published in 2005. It recounts the exile stories of two Lebanese citizens as they trek to Canada. Both have very different experiences as they attempt to find their places in a new world.

The cover of Blackbodying, published in 2005.

Nasrallah’s most recent novel – Niko – chronicles the life of six-year-old Niko Karram. After his pregnant mother is killed by a car bomb in Lebanon, his father Antoine decides to leave the war torn country. Throughout a twelve-year odyssey that leads them across seven countries, Niko has difficulty growing up and becoming an adult in a society he feels he can’t truly be comfortable in.

Cover art for Nasrallah's most recent novel, Niko.

Overall, Niko is written in a simple yet poignant tone. It mainly tells the story from Niko’s perspective, but occasionally shifts to the thoughts and experiences of other characters. This seems to be a technique used to fill in information that is necessary to advance the story but unknown to the main character. The perspective shifts are slight and gradual, making it easy for the reader to follow one point of view and then another.

The content of the novel is so similar to the life events of Nasrallah that it almost reads like an autobiography at times. Certain scenes – such as Niko’s first days at a new school in Canada – are so compelling that it’s easy to picture a young Nasrallah sitting amongst a diverse group of students who’ve just arrived in a new country for the first time.

We can't wait to meet Mr. Nasrallah., and are sure his reading will be insightful, moving and interesting.

Whether or not the novel is in fact based on Nasrallah’s life is a question that will have to wait to be answered until his appearance at THIN AIR 2011 in September… 

Want to follow him on Twitter? Click here!

July 04, 2011

THIN AIR streeter: Ashley Goodfellow

I met Ashley Goodfellow on the set of a film being shot in Winnipeg.

We were both extras and, as many extras can attest to, there was plenty of downtime. While waiting for her next scene, Ashley was reading Echkart Tolles’ A New Earth. For my first THIN AIR streeter I decided to come back to Ashley to ask her a few questions about her current book selection.

"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey,” she said. “I love insightful books; books that make you think.”

Why did you choose that particular book?

“[It] was recommended to me by my previous employer. I actually didn't have any interest in reading it - sounded kinda lame to me and I almost didn't get it. But now that I've gotten into it I feel bad having judged it because it's honestly one of the best books I've ever read. It’s my second favourite book next to Tolles' A New Earth. It's a life-changing book for sure! It's helped me as much personally as it has professionally and has taught me some amazing insights that I can apply to all areas of my life. It's amazing! So glad I decided to read it!”

Why do you enjoy reading?

“I hated reading as a kid and then one day, I just woke up in my teen years and had to read everything in sight!  

The first novel I ever read was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was assigned reading by my high school teacher. I loved that book! 

Then I read The Thief of Always by Clive Barker and I was off to the races! I love how reading stories can transport you to other times and other places. I started reading self-help type of books, insightful books, and loved how they challenged my beliefs/opinions and really made me think and question why I believe what I believe.

I suppose I love to read now because I love to learn! I believe words have great power and we need to respect them and use them wisely. For example, with words alone you can tear someone down or build them up. Words are powerful, and so is the knowledge they convey. I also believe knowledge is power, and I crave knowledge/learning.

I also read books about controversial topics such as "How Porn has hijacked our Sexuality" and "Saving Jesus from the Church."

Do you have any final thoughts?

“I feel sad for people that don't like to read. I feel like they're missing out on some of the richness of life. Reading is enriching and empowering. If there's something you want to learn, then there's a book that will teach you. It blows my mind that we have access to bookstores, libraries and online media where we can essentially learn anything we want. Books really are open doors to anywhere we want to go…”

A new THIN AIR streeter takes place right on the streets of Winnipeg every week. Next time, we could be walking up to YOU and asking questions about your book selections. Be ready!

-        Joel Nickel