"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Two Red Chairs - an evening with author Will Ferguson

Will Ferguson, author of Spanish Fly, Canadian Pie, Happiness, Beyond Belfast, Hitching Rides With Buddha, Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw, Coal Dust Kisses: a Christmas Memoir, Why I Hate Canadians (he's a Canadian author), How to Be Canadian (with Ian Ferguson), Canadian Pie, and most recently the Scotiabank Giller Prize winner 419.

Last evening a friend and I drove out to St. Albert to the Arden Theatre for the opportunity to take part in a presentation featuring award winning author Will Ferguson.  Accompanying him in the other red chair, as interviewer, was Paula Simons, journalist for the Edmonton Journal.

Paula had read Will Ferguson's 419 twice, while neither my friend nor I had yet read it.  Following a brief interview, Will Ferguson read from one of his books, Canadian Pie, I think; and then 419, following which he welcomed questions from the audience.

Predominately, the evening conversation focused on 419 but a noted commonality was identified between the writing of a fiction novel, 419, and his books of the humour genre.  Each book, 419 and Canadian Pie, have a common thread of parenting.  In 419 he asks, "If it gives the child a better life, would they? Would they die for their child?”

The other book from which Ferguson read shares a conversation he had with his son while reading the Hardy Boys together at bedtime.  Interestingly, the worst characters in the Hardy Boys series seem to be smugglers or something of similar sort and his son picked up on that after the first few books.  Today's society is far different, I think.  

At any rate, as Ferguson ties the concept of parenting as a common thread, not always so obvious in his books, so does he use humour.  Of course his books like Canadian Pie and Why I Hate Canadians are strictly humorous, 419 does have the odd humour thrown in lest the story become too dark.  (paraphrased from the author)

So, yes, an author can cross different genres and do it well. Ferguson is an example of this success.  As he was introduced at the top of the evening as being three separate authors, well in a way he is.  As he wrote in my copy of Hitching Rides With Buddha, he is also known as William (the intellectual author), Billy (the humour writer) and Will (the travel author).  All three in one....and he does it well.

Should you have the opportunity to see him in person, I hope you will.  He is as gifted on the stage, sharing humorous anecdotes, his research (how did that car come to be where it was), and offering advice (outline, outline, outline and write 10 minutes every day).  Oh, and there's the question about a Pontiac Oldsmobile......he cleared that up for us but perhaps he will generously share this with you too!

It was a longer than expected evening with complimentary refreshments and a book signing to follow. We left around 10 pm.  He must have been exhausted but he courteously allowed everyone the opportunity to get their book signed and to speak with him briefly.  After all, he drove all the way from Calgary that very day and, as he put it, his butt was tired.



Ferguson wore a kilt to the award ceremony and toasted the written word at the close of his acceptance speech.  You may watch a portion of it on YouTube.  Funnily, if one of the judges had known he was going to show up in a kilt, Ferguson said, he would not have won his vote.  I wonder why not? (tongue in cheek)

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