I’m out in Calgary right now for WordFest, a very awesome and impressively organized book festival that I was excited to be invited to present at. Shane Peacock and I talked with a great group of teens this afternoon, and I’m looking forward to visiting Lord Beaverbrook High School tomorrow morning.
Now, I love traveling down to the States and getting to meet my American readers, especially since those of you down there can’t make it to my smaller local events around Toronto. And there are some definite benefits to leaving Canada — for example, if I was in Texas again right now, I wouldn’t be seeing weather anything like this:
(The view from my hotel room here in Calgary — yes, all that white stuff is snow.)
Even my flight here was no longer than a direct flight from Toronto to most major cities in the US (Canada is a big country). But this is the first time I’ve participated in an event in Canada outside my province, and I’ve found myself appreciating some small but striking benefits of staying on home turf:
1) No customs interrogation. Not that I usually get interrogated that thoroughly, but my conversations with customs officers have tended to go like this…
CO: Why are you traveling to the US today?
Me: I’m a writer going to a book convention.
CO: Oh, what kind of books do you write?
Me: Young adult — so, for teens.
CO: What’s your most recent book?
Me: The Way We Fall.
CO: Oh. I’ve never heard of it.
Me: Yeah… It’s so great to hear that! (The second part, of course, stays in my head. Though the last time it happened, I was really tempted to say, “Head on over to the airport bookstore when your shift’s over — it’s right there!” Obviously customs officers are not big readers of YA literature.)
There was also the time a customs officer came close to accusing me of bribery when I offered him one of my promotional bookmarks as proof that I really am an author with published books, but we won’t get into that.
2) No changing money, no extra bank fees. It’s really nice to be able to walk into a branch of my home bank and take out cash without having to worry about service fees or conversion charges or exactly how much I should take out so I don’t have to convert it back when I get home.
3) Familiar store and restaurant chains. It can be a real relief, when you’ve just arrived in town and you’re hungry but also tired, to see a name like the The Keg and know, yeah, I usually like the food there, no problem. Most specifically, I love love love having access to Tim Hortons. I’m sorry, but Starbucks does not compare, especially for breakfast edibles.
4) No comments on my “cute” Canadian accent. I don’t actually mind it when people notice this, but sometimes the excitement over it can be a little much, especially when I myself can’t hear any difference between how the people in Toronto and people from the eastern US speak. After a certain point, you do get a tiny bit tired of hearing, “OMG, you just said “a-boot!”"
5) Feeling like a local no matter where I go. I’ve said to writer friends before that the great thing about living in Canada is that, while in the US, you’re embraced by your state as a “local author,” here I get embraced by my entire country. It doesn’t matter that I live a four-hour plane ride away — I’m here among my people, and they’re enthusiastic about books and authors from all across Canada.
With luck, I’ll be able to see a bunch more readers in both Canada and the US next year. Keep your fingers crossed!