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One of the reasons for my trip to Canada was the 11th International Conference on the Short Story in English. This is a biennial conference organised by the Society for the Study of the Short Story. As I am doing my PhD thesis on Margaret Atwood’s short stories and fictions, this was a dream occasion for me. I was even more excited at the idea of presenting there. For the occasion, the Margaret Atwood Society had also organised two panels dedicated to Atwood, which meant that I would be able to meet and hear the scholars whose work I read and use in my research.
The conference programme was intense and it was sometimes difficult to choose which panel to go to see. On top of that, events were organised in the evening , which enable the participants to meet in an unformal way.
On the first day, I went to see a couple of panels and heard papers about Raymond Carver, Stephen Millhauser and Stephen Dixon. I had never heard of Dixon before, but Susan Rochette’s paper, which focused on 14 Stories (a collection of thirteen stories), really made me want to read the collection. I also went to see the panel on Atwood and loved it, particularly the papers by Shuli Barzilai (she is so funny) and Reingard Nischik (I admire her work so much).
I went to introduce myself to a few Atwoodians, which was not easy as I am a bit shy. I had actually met Sharon Wilson (any of you with an interest in criticism on Atwood will probably recognise the name) the day before in the library. As I arrived to my desk, the woman sitting behind me called me over to apologise for having borrowed a folder from my trolley. I told her it was not a problem and asked her about her research on Atwood. When she told me who she was, my jaws dropped! It was a bit strange to meet this person I read the work of. I knew I would, but I was still impressed.
I also went to a reading by Christine Sneed, who read a story she had recently written, and Mark Anthony Jarman. Both readings were enjoyable, unfortunately, the accoustic in the room was terrible, which ruined my pleasure.
I also met with some of the delegation of British publishers (smoking can be a very social habit): Ian Daley (who offered me a collection I will soon be reviewing from) and Isabel Galan from Route Publishing, Jim Hinks from Comma Press, who gave me so many suggestions I do not know when I will get time to read all those authors, and Joanne Brandon from Cadaverine Magazine, which is specialised in under 25 authors. There was a big group of them from companies specialising mostly in short stories and they had come to discuss publishing aspects, etc. I had great fun with them as they did not take themselves too seriously. I encourage you to follow the links and check what they do, who might find something interesting!
In the evening, we were invited to a reception at Ben McNally bookshop, a perfect venue for people who love literature. It was difficult to resist spending all my money in the books of authors I was talking to (and yes, they would tempt you). I enjoyed the cheese and wine while chatting to academics and writers; the two worlds are apart, yet, they connect in their love for literature and it is interesting to hear both perspectives. I had a nice conversation with John Calabro, author of short stories and two novellas, from Quattro Books, a publishing company dedicated to the novella. We were the last two leaving the place and as we were walking in the section, John kindly gave me a mini guided visit of the area.
It was an enjoyable first day. It was amazing to meet so many interesting people. I had fun and heard fascinating papers, but was exhausted by the end of it and did not have the courage to revise my own paper!