By Ania Szado
At IFOA 35, several industry folk have been invited to participate as Delegates. We’ve promised to attend events and contribute our thoughts via discussion, social media, blogging and so on.
Me, I think of it as making connections. I’m not talking about networking, though that’s almost inevitable at a festival that brings together so many industry peeps, both on stage and off. The connections I’m referring to are the unexpected kind. The ones that remind you that being a writer need not be isolating or lonely. The ones that come of being open to possibilities. Serendipitous encounters that prove that—as in the pursuit of writing—the first and most important act is to show up.
Sometimes the click comes when tossing 140 characters into the Twittersphere. In the dark of the Studio Theatre yesterday, thumbing away, I broke into a grin at seeing the #IFOA35 hashtagged tweets of Delegates and pals Anthony De Sa (@antiole) and Amanda Leduc (@AmandaLeduc) pop up in my feed. I couldn’t spot the tweeters in the audience, but the real-time awareness of our shared enthusiasm for author John Boyne‘s forthright, thoughtful comments on writing and religion added a certain energy to the experience—the zing of connectivity.
One hour later, one step beyond. As Mary Ito introduced a half dozen amazing poets, I posted a plea: “Tweeting as an #IFOA35 Delegate…with a raging toothache. Take me outa my pain, poets! Root canal is Monday.” From somewhere in the room, blogger Vicki Zeigler (@bookgaga) picked up the signal, sending condolences—which alerted me to the chance to retweet her play-by-play while my nerve endings went into high buzz.
And then, suddenly, I was okay. The poets’ voices took hold of me. Their bold, beautiful, mesmerizing words sent me out of myself, made me forget about pain, made me think about possibilities—for writing, for living, for learning. Sitting in the dark, ears alert and thumbs poised, I savoured the gifts I’d been given: a kaleidoscope glimpse into other worlds and other minds. Inspiration. The pain-busting thrill of connection.
In 2014, CBC called Ania Szado one of “Ten Canadian Women You Need to Read.” Her short fiction has been nominated for the Journey Prize and the National Magazine Awards, and her bestselling novel Studio Saint-Ex has received international acclaim. Szado’s debut novel, Beginning of Was, was regionally shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Szado is an IFOA Delegate.