Last Thursday night at Traill College, the English Department hosted Kate Cayley as a part of their Writers Reading series. The concept is simple. Bring an acclaimed writer in to read passages, stories, poems, and so on from their praised works. After the reading, the writer answers any questions that the audience may have about the reading itself, or writing in general.
The night was preceded by many frantic emails by Professor Macleod (sorry, Lewis) stating the importance and necessity for attending. It is easy for many students to overlook events like this, as it seems, on paper, to be kind of boring.
However, the night proved different. Lewis Macleod, the host and organizer of the event, started off with a few opening remarks. In his customary joking tone, Lewis introduced himself (a few people called out, “hi, Lewis” before he even got to the stage). He then thanked various sources of funding and support before going on to introduce Kate Cayley herself.
“Her work in its various manifestations,” said Lewis, “makes you think whether you need to learn things; is it referential, or is it speculative? Did that really happen?”
The event commenced with a book signing, and a reception hosted at The Trend, with delicious (free!) food, and a chance to meet the author.
Kate is the winner of the Trillium book award for her collection of short stories How You Were Born beating out, yes, Margaret Atwood. She has also been nominated for many other awards which I will not list here at the risk of being monotonous. However, it is important to say that her accolades, by themselves, speak to the quality of her work, and the importance of the event.
The real treat of the night, however, wasn’t the author’s resumé, or the pretense of being ‘intellectual’, but the fact that one was being read to, and in the presence of one of Canada’s supreme writers. Reading her stuff on the page is beautiful, heartbreaking, and powerful, but hearing the work read aloud, at the author’s own pace and cadence, is all the more beautiful.
The short story that Kate read was called Fetch. This is not a story about mean girls, but rather about the myth in Irish folklore of a doppelganger that one sees close to their imminent death. Kate Cayley stated that she read this in “honour of Halloween.” The story begins, “Everyone believes in ghosts”. It goes on to tell the story of a man that believes the neighbor next door is his ‘fetch’. Of course, things go awry from there. The story is written with an ingrained sense of observational and sarcastic humour, while at the same time painting a picture of inner doubt and decay.
Next, Kate read two poems from her new collection, entitled The Pied Piper and Chance The Rats, and Pied Piper 2: The children leaving to sing to their parents. These two poems follow the same folklore theme and are written with a heartbreaking certainty.
Finally, Kate took questions from the audience. The first question asked was, “Do you have any advice for young writers?” Kate responded with the tried and true answer, “Write every day. Even though that’s cliché, it is really like a muscle you develop.” She continued answering questions regarding her work, the specific pieces that she read, and the writing and publishing process itself.
The Writers Reading series is truly a treat for aspiring writers, English students, fans of reading. Really, anyone could benefit from attending one of these events, and would leave feeling thoroughly entertained, and at the very least, well fed.