Readings in Vancouver (Also: a Love Song to East Van)

I love Vancouver. I lived in this city for eleven years, eight of them in East Van. There is nothing quite like East Van anywhere, and for someone like me, that sense of community and belonging in a city half a world away from my home was not something to take for granted. My life in Vancouver was very contained: I worked on Commercial Drive (at Yogis, then at Clove), met Sean on the Drive (drinking coffee and smoking outside Napoli cafe), lived off the Drive (Charles Street, William Street, Napier Street, and Semlin Drive). My favourite coffee shop had a coffee after my name (single shot latte in a cappuccino cup, also known as the Ayelet); the guys at the corner store remembered what I smoked; Teresa knew how I liked my eggs; my regular bar had my name—spelled correctly—programmed into their computer so that it said table number: Ayelet on the bill (hmmm. Maybe this isn’t something to be proud of). Every time I walked down the street there was nodding and smiling and how are yous involved. It used to take me two hours just to go to the corner store for smokes (it’s a good thing I quit).

Vancouver is also where I started writing in English, and where I became a part of a writing community and a literary scene. In 2007 I got accepted into the Writer’s Studio. I walked into the first orientation day at SFU a nervous wreck, muttering something about being ESL, and how I wasn’t supposed to be there; it was all a mistake. My year at the Writer’s Studio was life changing. I was lucky to work with Wayde Compton as my mentor, and with the director of TWS, Betsy Warland, who believed in me and showed me endless support. During my year at the Writer’s studio, the impossible happened: I won Event’s creative non-fiction contest. Then, at the end of that year, we got to read at the Vancouver International Writers’ Festival, put up an anthology edited by Nancy Lee (also an amazing teacher). We formed writing groups (I’m still in touch with mine), friendships that lasted, not just from my cohort but from other cohorts as well.

I’m happy I live in Toronto now. By the time we moved, I needed a change and I love Toronto, my new home and my new writing community and friends. Still, coming back to Vancouver is always so great. I still miss it—the mountains, the sea, the fresh air—but mostly I miss the people: my East Van friends and my writing community, who welcome and embrace me every time I come back, making me feel as though I never left.

I have two readings coming up in Vancouver. Tonight, January 13th, I’m reading at the Writer’s Studio Reading Series at Take5 Cafe downtown (my very first public reading was in that series!) Then, on Tuesday, January 24th, I’m reading at an event I’m really excited about: the second anniversary of W2 Real Vancouver Writers’ Series, which was launched during the Vancouver winter Olympic in 2009. I was already in Toronto during the Olympics, and I was pissed off that I was missing out on all the great cultural events that were happening in the city, so I’m really pleased to be a part of this event. And the line-up—as Sean Cranbury, the curator, put it—is ridiculous. I’m reading alongside Angie Abdou, Zsuzsi Gartner, David Lester. Arley McNeney, Garry Thomas Morse, and Jen Neale. Humbled. It’s going to be a great night!

2 comments on Readings in Vancouver (Also: a Love Song to East Van)

  • Sean Cranbury

    Hi Ayelet

    What a great post. As someone who lives just off Commercial and 6th Ave I share your enthusiasm for east Van and the Drive specifically.

    Glad that Vancouver is treating you well. Looking forward to the event on the 24th!

    Also… Betsy Warland, Wayde Compton, Nancy Lee as mentors. There’s not a lot more that a young writer can ask for.

  • Ayelet

    Thanks, Sean! And you’re right about my mentors. I feel blessed!

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