Thin Air Is a Thick Experience for Writers

Thin Air Is a Thick Experience for Writers

Posted on October 20 by John Conrad in News
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My memories of Winnipeg are always centred on its rivers. The mighty Assiniboine and Red Rivers shake hands in the City&;s downtown core. All around this famous junction are a storied blend of old and new buildings. A Union Station--smaller but every bit as regal as Toronto&;s railway masterpiece, the venerable Fort Garry Hotel, a state-of-the-art hockey arena for the City&;s NHL Jets plunked right where Timothy Eaton retail monolith used to stand. There is much to discovery in this jewel of the prairies--not the least of which is the famous Thin Air International Writers Festival. I was fortunate enough to be invited for the front end of the nine-day festival.

Thin Air is a stellar blend of passion, bibliomania and well-crafted logistics. Headquartered in the hospitality suite of the beautiful Inn at the Forks, an army of volunteers take care of every possible detail from driving the writers to interviews, confirming schedules and ensuring the Writers are fed and watered throughout their stay. I enjoyed spending time with the volunteers in the suite. They come from all walks of life but are united in their love of books. For my main day of events, I was given a first rate escort in the form of Bruce Symaka, a senior member of the Festival&;s brain trust, possessed of a keen literary eye. I loved meeting such esteemed writers as Beth Terrefe Gebreyohannes and hearing about her experiences as a 14-year old girl escaping from Ethiopia across the brutal Danakil Desert on foot (as told in her book Fire Walkers). I was also fortunate enough to meet Monica Mazigh author of &;Hope Has Two Daughters&; before I had to turn my sights toward home.

My stay in this bibliophile heaven went by in a blur. Arriving late Sunday evening, I was whisked downtown Monday morning at 7:30 for an interview on Among the Walking Wounded with CTV. Later that morning, I was escorted out to CBOJ Radio for an interview with Geoff Currier. Currier, is an engaging radio personality who by his own confession is interested in &;just about everything.&; He plays James Taylor&;s 2015 song, The Far Afghanistan to introduce our set: "No matter what they tell you, all soldiers talk to god." I like him immediately. There is just enough time to check in for a sandwich at the Festival suite before my afternoon reading at Winnipeg&;s impressive Millennium Library--the palatial centre of the City&;s public library system. I was delighted upon entering to see oversized mock-ups of Festival books, my own among them, on display in glass cabinets. 

Too soon, the whirlwind is over and it&;s time to depart. I can only imagine what this rich menu must be like for Winnipeg readers who can pick and chose events across the breadth of all nine days. I congratulate Charlene Diehl and her executive team of the Thin Air Festival as well as their legions of volunteers. This is something truly special they have built here and the festival is well worth attending. Thank you as well to Dundurn for sponsoring me at the event. 

John Conrad

Posted by Dundurn Guest on August 18, 2015
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John Conrad

John Conrad has served thirty-four years in the Canadian Army. A bestselling author and colonel in the Army Reserve, he has authored a number of books and articles on Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan, including What the Thunder Said, a Military Book of the Month club selection in 2009. Colonel Conrad currently resides near Cooking Lake, Alberta.