Tag Archives: Passion
A couple of days ago, Michael Fay wrote this guest blog post on his experience at the Bread Loaf Writing Conference in 1978. Here’s Michael for a return visit and more reminiscing about writing during the 70s, this time in the Literary Arts Program at the Banff Centre, Alberta.
Bill Mitchell and the Banff Centre 1976
I was tingling with excitement in the spring of 1976 when I found out I had been accepted into the Creative Writing program at the Banff Centre. It was early in the history of that venerable institution, but not too early to attract participants from across North America. And what a lively gang they proved to be.
I was young and struggling and couldn’t really afford six weeks at the Centre, so I managed to cobble together a job as the ID checker in the cafeteria and a spot at the nearby campground to pitch my tent.
W. O Mitchell was the titular head of the program. But he was really raconteur-in-chief. He sat in on all the seminar sessions, regaled us with tales of boyhood summers, and became the steady beam keeping us on his writing methodology.
Freefall was designed to shut out the ‘critical self’ and let the ‘creative self’ out to play, by getting the writer to write swiftly, checking consciousness for sights, smells, sounds, tastes and touches, which would bring concrete substance to the writing. I spent mornings in a hut on the periphery of the campus banging out Freefall on my electric typewriter and afternoons in the seminar sharing it with my fellow students, W. O., and the brilliant seminar leaders, Ruth Fraser and Sandra Jones. And, as you might have guessed, nights were filled with talk, pints, and camaraderie with the most brilliant folks I had ever encountered.
I managed to bang out over two hundred pages of Freefall that summer. And believe me, that wasn’t out of the ordinary in the writing huts. I also learned to listen carefully to what made writing sing and soar and reach for the wonder of dreams that seemed more real than reality.
I still have those pages with me, yellowing sure, but with me every day as I revisit some of the magical people and places that appeared in the writing hut that special summer. And I continue to write about them every day.
The very smart directors of the Centre assembled leading artists, playwrights, writers, dancers, and musicians in a wild celebration of the best in the arts. Big Miller belted the blues, Alice Munro shared her inner self, Aaron Copeland led the orchestra through his magnificent Appalachian Spring. I saw him alone one evening, rushed up to him and took his hand, and thanked him for the wonder of his music. He was shy and embarrassed by this bold young guy, but he still seemed to beam.
All of this made the hours checking IDs in the cafeteria and the nights snuggled deeply into my sleeping bag seem incredibly romantic, something a struggling young writer should be doing. And, by golly, it’s what I did! Hemingway had his Paris and I had my Banff…
by J. Michael Fay
Published by IslandShorts
(Michael Fay has been promoted on Reading Recommendations.)
I discovered a couple of videos from the 70s posted online of interviews with W.O. Mitchell (who really was quite the character in real life …) and Alice Munro.
Here’s Big Miller and his big blues sound.
This is a complete recording of Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw this article online, A 26-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Mid-August, 1977, and immediately remembered that author, J. Michael Fay, had talked about his time at the Bread Loaf Conference. When I asked, he told me he was there the year following and that he remembered his time fondly. So I asked if he would write about that time …
Bread Loaf 1978
by Michael Fay
I was thrilled to attend the prestigious Bread Loaf Writers’ Program in 1978 with financial support from Alberta Culture. There were 850 applicants that year and only 230 were accepted. The buzz in Vermont that summer was all about two key presenters, John Gardner and John Irving.
Gardner was a key theoretician in the literary community with his classic On Moral Fiction. Irving was on the verge of entering the super-star stratosphere with The World According to Garp. And for two weeks in the mountains of Vermont, those two icons seemed to have permanent circles of supporters surrounding them, day and night.
As presenters, they each soared in his own way: Gardner, the philosopher, and Irving, the raconteur.
It was all magic for me, thousands of miles away from my home in Camrose, Alberta, taking it all in with thirsty relish.
Gardner was all about the head, the structural issues that built strong stories and novels. Irving was all about the heart, the beating centre of a tale that enraptured the reader.
And there were more than these two and others who made formal presentations in the theatre.
Oh my! My fellow students and the carefully selected young writers, working as assistants and fellows, were on their way to successful careers. I only mention two; both had a profound impact on my writing.
Meredith Sue Willis was an amazing novelist who dug deep into the soil of Appalachia to weave tales of intensity and resonance. Richard Ford was a spare and cerebral stylist who examined American life with a probing scalpel.
And thirty-three years later I carry their words as inspiration as I settle in front of a blank white screen and dare to create people and places and events which lurk inside of me and clamor to come to life.
Here’s a photo of Michael taken around this time …
J. Michael Fay has published three long-form short stories under my IslandShorts imprint and I’m pleased to announce that his most recent publication, Passion, will be released very soon!
Me? Funny you should ask … I finished gathering together the necessary materials, checked one last time to see that everything was as correct as it could be, assigned two ISBNs for ePub and mobi editions, and sent off all the files via email to Human Powered Design in Calgary for formatting. I received an immediate reply from Gina telling me that, not only had she received our submission, but the job was already in the queue and will likely be seen to within this next week. Which means we will have a finished eBook all ready and listed for sale well before the projected date of March 1st I had originally suggested would be the case. Hooray!!
So here’s our first announcement for this new publication, folks!
As with Michael’s other publications, once again the original cover art was provided by Karen Sloan of Wallflower Studio Art in Minden, ON.
The indomitable Rachel Small, Faultless Finish Editing, provided the final editing and proofing services.
And here’s a little peek at what all the excitement is about … the synopsis and a few blurbs from advance readers of Passion!
1963 is a pivotal year for Dan James. Believing his destiny was set at the age of eleven when he stood next to his father’s coffin, he enters the seminary at seventeen to become a priest. A well-read fellow seminarian and the world-shaking event later that year cause Dan to question his true passion in life.
Passion is the next in Michael Fay’s series of long-form short stories, following The Whirlabout and The Healer. Along with Tenderness, all have been published by IslandShorts.
Michael Fay studied creative writing with W. O. Mitchell, Alice Munro, and Richard Ford and was also the founder of the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society in Calgary. Michael lives in Minden, Ontario, with his wife, Dr. Fay Martin.
This is a thoroughly engaging story about a young man’s coming of age and discovering while enrolled in a seminary that his calling is not for the priesthood but for literature and writing. One can smell the incense in the chapel and hear footsteps echoing in the stone hallways while young Dan James wrestles with his decision before walking out into a world with much to relish, treasure and describe.
~ Dennis Gruending, journalist and author of Pulpit and Politics
What a vivid evocation. Detail, precision, clarity, and echoes of Joyce: the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. Youth discovers vocation. Nice!
— Ken McGoogan, author of Celtic Lightning: How the Scots and the Irish Created a Canadian Nation
In the story of Dan James and his time in the seminary, Michael Fay explores the moment a young man steps into adulthood, and captures with grace and insight the realization that a vocation needn’t be holy to be true.
— Kim Pittaway, award-winning journalist and editor
So, there you have it! It’s not just every day that we at IslandShorts get to press “send” on a new publication! If you’re interested in this new eBook by Michael Fay, please stay tuned and check back to this blog where we’ll be announcing the exact publishing date and availability online, once we have all the links and information.
And if anyone is interested in previous publications from IslandShorts just click here for the list of eBooks and where to purchase. As we like to say …
For a Great Read, Slip Into Our Shorts!
(Anyone interested in reading to review any of our publications please contact me directly: susanmtoy (at) gmail.com)