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reading in Kingston, read in Hamilton, had two readings in Toronto, and two in London. On a tour you may have several venues attain League of Canadian Poets funding (if you’re a poet, perhaps The Writers’ Union of Canada, if you write prose), or get some Canada Council-funded readings. That way your accommodation and flight could be covered. If your publisher gets travel funding too, you’ll be in good shape. For the Ontario tour there were months of back and forth emails between me and my publisher, my publisher and different venues in Ontario, and those venues and me. There were emails between friends in Kingston, Ottawa, Toronto and London. jiggling dates to make it all work out so I was away for the shortest amount of time with the highest number of readings at a manageable cost.

Ask your publisher to apply for ‘Travel Grants for Authors’ through the Canada Council Funds are available from the Canada Council that publishers can apply for, allowing for about $1500 in travel for a single author. Not many publishers take advantage of this grant, but it is so worth it. It can fully cover a single extended tour to a different province. Though I had reading fees from the LCP and the Canada Council, my publisher was able to cover travel costs for flights, taxis and hotels. I sent my publisher an invoice for the remaining balance after the venues had paid me. I sold books (which I bought at a discounted rate) and I also traded books. I sometimes stayed with friends, or in Airbnb or hotels, depending. I made money on As if a Raven, which was selling out by November of last year.

Perform Find out how long you will have for a reading, select the poems/stories/excerpt you want to read, practice and performance those pieces. Fall 2015 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Page 22

Your audience is there not only to hear new work, but also to be entertained. With As if a Raven I decided to memorize a couple of poems so I could start the readings with a dramatic recitation, this always captures the audience. Even if you forget half way through (which is embarrassing) you gain the audiences sympathy. Part of the trick is to not take yourself too seriously. Other ways to add performance to a reading is to co-read, offering the audience two voices. When I toured with Victoria poet Cynthia Woodman Kerkham with my second book, in Saskatchewan, we worked on a few of each other’s poems adding lyric echoes. This way, when Cynthia read, I could echo a line or part of a line after her. This added a bit of flare and fun to the poems, and allowed the audience to hear really strong and important lines a second time. In the Yukon I read with Jamella Hagen and we interwove our reading, so chose poems that bounced off the last poem our co-reader read.

Space out tour dates Just to be honest, most writers don’t just write. Many also have day jobs, teach, have families and by the time a book comes out are working on the next book. This past year I felt like I was off reading somewhere every week. I did the longer Ontario tour and I did three days with two readings in Saskatchewan. I travelled up and down Vancouver Island and back and forth to Vancouver as well as up to Whistler. Down to Seattle I went and up to the Yukon. I loved every event, but I did eventually burn out. If I were to throw myself behind a book again, I’d do two or three really focused tours in different parts of the country and temper the more local events. I’d try not to book return-trips to far-flung provinces but focus all the dates in one go.

Take one hat off; don’t try to wear two hats at once I sat sipping red wine on a leather sofa in a small room at the Fairmont Whistler hotel chatting with fellow poetry panelists

Sue Goyette and Katherena Vermette. Sue Goyette leaned toward me and said, “Sometimes it is okay to not be writing. To do other things for a while.” I’d probably been talking about new projects I was starting, the memoir I was hoping to finish. The classes I’d get back to on the Monday. I think her advice is invaluable. Writing and editing new work is just one of the hats writers wear. Another hat is sending work out to magazines and publishers. A third hat is touring a new book. To try to attempt touring while working on new writing, well, I mean, it is doable but it may lend itself to exhaustion, and possibly less well-rendered new work. Thanks Sue Goyette for that one.

Be kind to yourself Truth be told, touring is hard. You remember the work of door to door salesmen. You may have watched a few episodes of Seinfeld where he goes to the comedy shows night after night. Maybe you teach as well, so you know exactly what it is to be an entertainer/stand-up comedian/on the ball/ on your toes/ ready to adjust in the moment/ ready for the crazy in the back/ the over eager “fan” (or “teacher’s pet”) in the front, all at once. Touring is one of many ways to get your work out to audiences. Books do not just sell, they need their writers and publishers to get behind them. I have an amazing publisher in Palimpsest. She has been a huge support. I think most of all this job is not about commerce but communication. Create an atmosphere of engagement around your work, open yourself up to discussions, practice what you will read and read well. For me, I want people to read the book because the poems are an act of communication. If someone comes to a reading and speaks to me afterward but does not buy a book, that engagement has still occurred. For more on the writing life, I suggest checking out Catherine Owen’s most recent book, The Other 24 1/2 Hours (Wolsak and Wynn, 2015).

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Wordworks Fall 2015  

WordWorks Fall 2015 issue was devoted to the ideas of retreats and readings, with many thoughtful and engaging articles, and a whole new des...

Wordworks Fall 2015  

WordWorks Fall 2015 issue was devoted to the ideas of retreats and readings, with many thoughtful and engaging articles, and a whole new des...

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