Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The other side of the coin

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Yesterday was spent completely in that other sphere in my life: music. This doesn't happen often anymore, and my life is probably poorer for it. After all, I've been a musician far longer than I've been an author.

I taught in Toronto schools and at the Royal Conservatory of Music for 23 years. Now, maybe once or twice a year, I get asked to teach. Yesterday was one of those days.

In many ways it was enjoyable. The afternoon group were a terrific bunch of older high school students who seemed really engaged and ready to listen and try very hard. The morning group were younger, and of the five, two of them obviously didn't want to be there, two really didn't care (all four of these showed up late) and one boy seemed really committed. So I had a microcosm of what I very much enjoyed about teaching and also what drove me crazy. It is all about commitment. One of the best things a teacher ever told me was said in judgement on a French horn piece I was learning: "Rick, you're playing this very well, but truthfully, it sounds as if you don't really mean it." I have spent the past thirty years of my life trying to avoid hearing that comment again. The only defence is always a good offense.

In the evening, I saw a performance _Rigoletto_ by the Brampton Lyric Opera and that served to remind me why I'm so passionate about music. This Verdi opera (his masterwork in my opinion) has to reach out and touch you. You have to care about the characters in the play, or in my opinion, you have no soul. The fact that they sing their lines to glorious music is just an added benefit. I desperately wanted to get my French horn out of the trunk of my car and join in.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that yesterday made me thoughtful about what I'm trying to do with my writing, the other important aspect of my life, the part that's now gained the ascendancy in my life.

My next book, _A Case of You_, was a struggle to write. That struggle only lasted 11 weeks, a ridiculous time to write a 300-page novel, especially when I was having such a hard time with it. Why? Because I was fighting the inevitable conclusion of the book, one that I had not foreseen.

My conception of the arc of the book, back when I was on a book tour in the fall of 2006, was far different from the reality that faced me as I looked over the final galleys of the novel last week. This is part of the joy of writing fiction. I had sketched the bare bones of a "world", set certain things in motion, and then it just started creating itself. More than any other novel I've written, my job changed to one of just observing what was taking place and trying to keep up so I could get it all down on the page.

As always, by the end of the writing process, I have no idea whether the book is good, bad or indifferent. All objectivity has been lost -- at least for the moment. I do know that I will certainly be told whether it's any good, first by reviewers, then by the general public. What is comforting is that everyone who has read it so far has had a very strong reaction to it. I try to take that as a Good Thing.

So how does this little essay all tie together? I have been passionate about music all my life. This is what I try to inject into my writing. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.

I'm desperately hoping that this time I may have caught lightning in a bottle.

Time will tell.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Rick Blechta

Rick Blechta is the author of the novels Knock On Wood, The Lark Ascending, Shooting Straight in the Dark, Cemetery of the Nameless, and When Hell Freezes Over. A Case of You, his latest novel, will be published in the spring of 2008 with Rendezvous Press.

Go to Rick Blechta’s Author Page