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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Life, Love, Art: an Evening With Alanis Morissette and Margaret Atwood

Last evening I attended a premiere event wherein two globally recognized artists were paired up with a moderator in a forum about Life, Love and Art.  What do these two esteemed artists have in common besides success?  Both are advocates for the arts and in one form or another, for feminism.  Both have overcome trials though Alanis' were perhaps a bit tougher (in my opinion) on a personal level considering the exploitation by a former agent.

Alanis Morissette Festival of Ideas Promo Photo
Morissette developed her first "recording company" at the age of 10 when she used a tape recorder to tape herself singing a self-composed song which she later presented to friends who worked in the industry.  She had a single made, "Fate Stay With Me" in 1985 and a "company" was born.  

As a child she was often told she had a terrible voice, mostly by her brother but her belief in herself and her talent took off the day she was singing a song in church and she really "belted" it out, singing with all her heart.  Afterwards a lady in the congregation told her she had a lovely voice and from there Alanis knew she must use that voice.

She has since earned critical appraise and 12 Canadian Juno Awards, 7 Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe nomination and sales of over 60 million albums worldwide.  She has performed songs for theatre and film including "The Chronicles of Narnia," "Prince of Persia," and "City of Angels."  She has done some acting and appeared as a celebrity guest member on the television hit "The Voice."  Alanis is a supporter of female empowerment and a public speaker as well as supporter of "spiritual, psychological and physical wellness." (from the evening's program: Life, Love, Art)  She is currently writing her memoir/biography and resides in Toronto, Ontario.

Alanis believes everyone has two - 30 talents and when you do not use those talents you are denying yourself which is a recipe for depression.  She highly recommends The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde.  Incidentally, if you look up reviews for this book Margaret Atwood states, The best book I know of for talented but unacknowledged creators. . . . A masterpiece." (portions of her review quoted on Amazon.ca)

Ms. Atwood started out as a writer at a time when women writers were not of the norm.  Publishers typically had a publishing quota of two to three female authors per year.  If you were in addition to those select few, you were out of luck.  I can see why authors may have written under pseudonyms in an effort to increase their odds though Ms. Atwood didn't.  Struggling to find her way in the world of publishing she has made her splash and developed it into a wave of followers and fans of great literary fiction.  She doesn't believe in genre writing.  She writes what comes to her and asks herself what would she do in a particular situation but does not see herself in any of her characters.  Margaret Atwood has authored "more than forty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. " (from the program Life, Love, Art).  Her novel Alias Grace won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Premio  Mondello award in Italy.  Her novel The Blind Assassin  won the Booker Prize in 2000.  She is also the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator's Award.  She resides in Toronto, Ontario. 

She shared this bit of wisdom on the writing process:  writing is like a dark room, everything is in the dark.  The journey into darkness is going into that very black place and finding something  of value and bringing that to another world.  Through the dark with a lantern shining upon something that is already there, that is how you reveal your world in the written word.  (paraphrased from the conversation with Margaret Atwood.)

The moderator for the evening, also from Toronto, was Jared Bland.  His credentials include current book editor for The Globe and Mail and previously the senior editor at House of Anansi Press where his responsibilities included poetry and Canadian fiction, and once served as the managing editor of The Walrus magazine, editing fiction and poetry and culture coverage.

These two women have strengths and weaknesses.  They are funny, observant (note the photo above where Margaret Atwood is leaning forward, actively listening and participating), kind, bold, confident, and brilliant.  They believe in the arts and its role in society.  They advocate for women and believe in pursuing dreams and developing and using talents to better the lives of others.  Neither do what they do for fame nor glory.  They do it because they love what they do and love to see the effect they can make in others' lives.  They are truly women of vision who contribute to society as a whole through their works.  Both are on Canada's Walk of Fame.

Fun part of the evening, I met Margaret Atwood and she signed my book!!!  Prior to this event I'd known of Atwood but hadn't yet read her but I am currently three chapters into Alias Grace!  She has a fascinating style that I long to explore more.  I've long been a fan of Alanis Morissette.  Some of my personal favourites are: Everything and You Oughta Know and Ironic (watch the YouTube video here.)

*The evening is part of the "biennial Festival of Ideas, a partnership between the City of Edmonton, The Edmonton Arts Council, Capital Power and the University of Alberta.  The festival is built on a tradition of forging connections between the sciences and the arts, as well as the university and the broader community.  To this end, the festival invites performers, writers, visual artists, scientists and the public intellectuals to share their views and exchange ideas with the general public through forums, panel discussions, artistic productions, and community events." (Life, Love, Art program)

The author for the 2014 festival (November 23/14) was announced as being Joyce Carol Oats.  Feel free to visit festivalofideas.ca and register for updates.

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