“Don’t you want to meet Wayne Johnston? He’s just standing there, looking all lonely.”
“No…no no no no no. No.”
I had anticipated getting my favourite author’s autograph the moment I found out I’d be attending the Writers at Woody Point festival. I tweeted about it. I posted it on Facebook. And there I was, no more than 10 feet away from him, and I couldn’t budge.
“Well, I’m going to talk to him,” said Sarah, a new friend. “And you have to come.”
I dutifully followed behind her as she struck up a casual conversation while I stood there clutching my newly purchased copy of A World Elsewhere and grinning like an idiot. I punctuated their conversation with head nods and laughter. His eyes darted to my book and he began reaching for his pen inside his blazer as I broke out into a nervous sweat. Mother of god it was hot. Ten minutes earlier I was wrapped in my jacket against the breeze flowing through the open windows of the Heritage Theatre, and suddenly there I was standing with weak knees and sweat pooling on my chin as I melted inside a piece of nylon.
Finally he turned to me. “Did you want me to sign your book?”
“Actually,” I said. “I want you to sign this one.” I hauled out my 6000-page Colony of Unrequited Dreams and thrust it at him. He was amused. “This thing has taken a beating,” he said. My pages were crinkled with water spillage, the cover creased and hard to open. I found it last year in an old take-out food joint in Cape Breton, an eerily fitting symbol of my sudden loss of direction. One specific page dog-eared to mark a mantra I had poured over time and time again throughout the past year. Funny, for I am no fan of Joey Smallwood.
Out poured the verbal diarrhea.
“There’s a part, in this book, where Joey Smallwood is on the train in Cape Breton, and like, he’s seeing everything for the first time and realizing how different Newfoundland is, you know? And I’m like, a travel writer! And this is exactly how I feel every time I leave Newfoundland!!! Omg I’m sorry for being such a fan girl!!”
Yeah, I said that. Fan girl. I could barely fucking breathe.
He laughed and signed my book, and then my new one, and then I leaped away like a deer in a meadow. Oh glorious week! Oh magical Woody Point!
“Magical.” Surreal. How strange to be in my own homeland, just eight hours away from my city, and feel in a different world. My heart aches for Gros Morne and Woody Point. There’s a story in all this, but I haven’t teased it out yet. To be part of this festival and community and its lack of formalities, reclined on the water taxi breathing in the salt air with the chatter of voices and the chords of fiddle music and the starry sky wrapped around my head. To cruise through fjords with heart hammering in excitement over what’s around the next bend. To sit in an art gallery with a bunch of strangers for an impromptu jam session until sunrise, with guitars and handsome musicians and the beating of an ugly stick. How have I only unearthed such a small part of this island? How lucky I am to be born where I belong.
There’s a story in all this.