Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

Love and Fear: Rupert Thomson, Wayne Grady & David Gilmour

The room was packed by the time I made my way to the Writers Festival venue.  As a typical university student, I arrived five minutes before it started, but I should have known this would be a popular event.  I took the only seat available which happened to be next to our special guests for the evening. As I settled in, I heard the three authors talking and laughing together, no doubt bonding over their love of writing. 


It’s been said that all emotions stem from love and fear.  These two emotions, though vastly different, can be expressed strangely similar ways.  Rupert Thompson, Wayne Grady and David Gilmour are well acquainted with love and fear, and each drew from these emotions as they penned the works slated for the evening’s discussion.


Thompson, a first-timer to The Writers Festival, read from his book Secrecy .  The scene described the first meeting between a boy and girl in 1690s Italy.  It held all the emotions of first-time butterflies but held a hint of mystery.  His smooth English accent captivated the audience (myself included), and took us back in time.


Up next was Grady, a regular to the festival, who shared from his first novel Emancipation Day .  This short reading impressed me. It gave a small taste of Nova Scotia and provided a first encounter between unlikely lovers.  The excitement lingered in the air as Grady read about characters’ tension in meeting for the first time in a blues club.


Last, but certainly not least, David Gilmour approached the podium to share from his book Extraordinary .  The book focuses on the fear of death and the fear of lost relationships.  He shared the opening pages where a brother describes his estranged relationship with his sister and sets the stage for the night to come. 


The audience was filled with wonder as each author transported us to a new place and time.  The discussion gave us a glimpse into the mind of an author, something that has always been a mystery to me.  The main topic of discussion was the amount of background research involved in putting these characters and stories together.  From research, the conversation transitioned to focus on the life of each man, the personal connection to the characters they wrote. 


Gilmour especially intrigued me, and one thing he said has stayed with me since that night: “You can get over a woman by turning her into literature but I think the same can be said about trauma.”   His book was based on the death of his sister and this was a way for him to approach his feelings and work through them.  This got me thinking, what if we all began to write through our feelings?  How much would that change our perspective on a situation?


As the event came to a close, it was time for the audience to leave, but we were left with a gift: a small bit of the life of a writer and the inspiration to pursue what seems difficult.