Release of first book launches local writer to centre stage
Growing up in the small Alberta farming community of Castor, Rosemary Griebel remembers the frustration of learning how to read "Dick and Jane" – the iconic series of books from which millions of school children learned to read.
"I didn't understand their lives. Dick and Jane were two kids who always had clean hands and faces. They had a father that went to work every day in a suit and tie. They lived behind a white picket fence. I felt sorry for them," said Griebel.
"As a child I did not have access to a library so the land became my primary place of imagination," she recalls. "I would spend hours walking through fields making up stories set in Castor, the place I knew best."
"In my mind, I imagined a happier, more carefree place for Dick and Jane – one with gophers in the backyard, kids running wild and dirty on the open prairie, and a barn that was full of cats and smelled like mice and hay."
While Dick and Jane didn't represent life as Griebel knew it, she eventually found a book that did. She was given a copy of W.O. Mitchell's "Who Has Seen the Wind", the much loved Canadian classic about a boy's life on the prairies.
"It was the first book that spoke to me about a having connection with the world I knew," Griebel says.
The novel's impact would prove fruitful. Raised in a literary-minded family, Griebel's love of reading eventually led to an interest in writing. Poetry became her chosen genre.
"Although I have lived in a variety of places, including England and the (Canadian) west coast, it is the prairies that influenced most of my poetry. It's where I grew up and where I have lived for the past 20 years," Griebel says.
"As an Alberta author, I say to my readers, look at this world — look at its beauty and mystery, and look at how exotic and familiar it is compared to your world."
An award winning poet and long-time fixture on the Calgary literary scene, Griebel's poetry has been published in a variety of anthologies, chapbooks, and literary journals. In addition, her work has been read on CBC Radio and displayed as part of the Edmonton Transit System's Poetry in Motion program.
In March, "Yes" – her first full-length book of poetry — was published. Sales of the book were so successful that six months later, the book is now in its second printing.
Containing poems that touch on everything from Helen Keller, a hotel room in Paris, to her father, in Griebel's own words "Yes" is "an intimate journey through love and loss and an affirmation of the importance of curiosity, passion and vision."
On Oct. 15, Griebel will appear as a featured author at the 16th annual WordFest. Along with four other poets, she will read from her work at the popular Poetry Cabaret – an event mixing poetry and live music.
Griebel says she is both "excited and honoured" to be a part of WordFest.
Jo Steffens, WordFest director, says local author participation is an integral part of the annual event.
"It could not be more perfect to have someone like Rosemary Griebel appear at the Festival," Steffens stated. "She is incredibly well regarded in Calgary and beyond where she has been a fixture in the writing scene, and where her reputation keeps growing."
"WordFest invites local and Albertan writers each year and they make up a good proportion of the festival. WordFest gives local writers broad exposure and, in turn, the best international writers in any given year are introduced to our local talent," she said.
Another best-selling author and Calgarian, Will Ferguson, will be reading excerpts from his new book of essays entitled "Canadian Pie." He says WordFest provides a valuable opportunity to local authors.
"We really are lucky to have a world class event for authors in southern Alberta."
"The organizers bring in top international authors and top Canadians authors, but they are also good about promoting local and regional authors and giving them the same stage as the international authors."
This year will mark Ferguson's sixth appearance at WordFest, but for Griebel, it will be her first appearance as a featured author.
Readers are often unaware of how long the process to bring a book to print can be. Griebel says the publication of "Yes" was the culmination of 10 years of work.
Steffens adds that, "Writers often go unrecognized for the painstaking work that goes into producing a creative work of art. WordFest has a responsibility to recognize this and to offer its stages as a platform for local writers to shine."
The 16th annual WordFest takes place from Oct. 11 - 16. More than 70 authors, artists and poets will take part in public events held both in Calgary and Banff.
This year's festival is the first held under Steffen's direction. Part of her role as director is looking towards the future of WordFest.
Steffens says her vision for WordFest is one that "will incorporate new technologies to create a rich immersive experience for audiences." She adds, "I would like Calgary to be a city that the big names cannot afford to skip on their author tours."
- By Karry Taylor