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I’m so pleased that this announcement upgrades GRTTWaK’s frequency from “seldom” to “occasional.” I hope you’re pleased, too. We all need laughter in our lives, and who better to laugh at than our former selves?
If, like me, you happen to find yourself in your childhood home over the holidays, please take a few minutes to peek in the attic or basement. Find your old journal. Track down that classic creative writing assignment. Ask your folks about those letters from camp.
We’re hoping to do another GRTTWaK sometime in this spring, and in order to pull it off, we need material. So, get digging!
Wherever you are, I hope this note finds you well, and surrounded by people you love.
Thanks for listening, and please, let me know what you think. Or better yet, let CBC know what you think. Call CBC Audience Relations (1-866-306-4636), or fill out this form. Make sure you mention the show name (“Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids”) and the airdate: 4:06-4:30 PM on April 1, 2012.
Way back in 2009, I got a call from Sandy Nicholson, who wanted to talk about doing a GRTTWaK-style event in PEI. The resulting show was called The Hilroy Diaries (name courtesy of GRTTWaK reader Andrea Ledwell), which took place November 21, 2009.
Todd McLean reviewed the show for The Guardian, and though the review isn’t online anywhere, Sandy sent me a copy this past weekend. It’s pasted below, for posterity.
Andrea tells me they’re planning another event for this spring.
A Roomful of Islanders Read Their Childhood Works
What: The Hilroy Diaries.
Who: Over a dozen different readers, with music provided by The Fresh Air Inspectors, and Teresa Doyle with Andrew MacIsaac.
When: Last Saturday, November 21.
Where: Fishbones, Victoria Row, Charlottetown.
Why: Because we’ve all got some gems in our closets…
In 2007, the Halifax-born now Toronto-based CBC radio contributor Dan Misener made a new year’s resolution: To start a live public reading series wherein adults read their own pieces of writing from their childhood.
Calling it Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids, its first incarnation was on February 17, 2007 at The Victory Cafe in Toronto.
And the well-attended night went over so brilliantly, complete with a CBC podcast, that the next one followed fairly soon after on its heels.
What was evident for everyone right from the get-go was that there is a certain pleasurable, communally-connective, and interestingly therapeutic phenomenon that unfolds when we all get together and unleash the written outpourings of our youth.
As passionate and sensitive as they can be downright hysterical, these writings offer up the insights into who we were then, how we’ve changed, and how, in certain ways, we’ve stayed exactly the same. And then in some cases, they’re just absolutely certifiably absurd.
Whatever the case might be, the best part is that we all can relate to this. Maybe by this point in reading this article, even now you’re thinking of that one journal, or that one piece that (God forbid if you actually did read it in public now) you would be humiliated beyond belief on one level – yet on another level would be so happy to be releasing it to a roomful of people in that same boat, who all know where you’re coming from ‘cause they’ve been there too, and who all have aches in their sides from laughing their guts out with you.
Surely this was in Dan Misener’s original hopeful vision for the series. And as GRTTWAK 8 just took place this past September at Toronto’s Tranzac club, surely the next one will be taking place soon enough.
But meanwhile, in hearing these inspiringly hilarious recordings on CBC radio, Islander Sandy Nicholson struck upon the idea to bring the series here – particularly to hold as a fun fundraiser for Women’s Network PEI.
And so after putting in a request to Misener to allow an Island version of the series, to which he responded, “Of course! Please do! Just call it something else,” Nicholson in turn and appropriately called it: The Hilroy Diaries – Sharing the moving, the odd, and the awesomely funny writings from our childhood. (Yep. Hilroy scribblers. The multi-coloured casket-like page-containers of so many of our closet skeletons…)
Taking place at Fishbones last Saturday evening, on a night where once again Charlottetown was afire with weekend activity, organizers were worried that the turnout might not be the best. But, walking into a well-crowded Fishbones just before 8pm, where not a seat was left unfilled, it was clear that a certain cross section of Islanders were raring to both unveil their secrets, and indulge in the secrets of others.
“Remember, we’re laughing WITH the person on stage, not AT them,” Nicholson emphasized in her introduction to the night, at about 8:15pm.
“Please feel free to laugh AT me if you want,” the first reader of the night then said in response after he was called up on stage – none other than Mr. Hugh MacDonald. “Wouldn’t be the first time,” he added, laughter erupting around.
And it could not have been a more perfect piece to begin the night: A dramatic poem from when MacDonald was 14 years old, written with ‘the weight of the world on his shoulders,’ as he described, about a girl he was in love with (who never had any idea that he was). A poem which, as well, his sister found a number of years ago in his room, and which she’s used to ridicule him with at family gatherings any chance she can get.
“Pain! You heartless beast,” it began. Gleeful chortles echoed around the room even at these first four words, as MacDonald tried his best to get out the whole poem without losing it himself – until finally bringing it to its epic closing climax of, “Unforgiving pain, please let me be…”
What a priceless way to start things off.
The readings rolled on as over a dozen volunteers got up to read their gems, including people like Diane Morrow, Yvette Doucette, Sean Wiebe, Laurie Brinklow, Orysia Dawydiak, Ghislaine O’Hanley, and even yours truly (I read an embarrassing violently disturbing 1991 grade seven poem to the tune of Leader of the Pack called I’d Like to Blow Up the Leader of Iraq); but the incomparable supremo hit of the show was Dale Sorensen, who read an epic adventure piece written in grade 5 about Adventure People going to the moon.
It was breathtaking.
No, in all seriousness, it was one of the funniest things I’ve heard in a long while – and judging by the non-stop roars of laughter, everyone else was on the exact same page.
The evening finished off with some wonderful music provided by The Fresh Air Inspectors, and Teresa Doyle with Andrew MacIsaac.
With the success of this very first Hilroy Diaries, Nicholson says that Women’s Network PEI will be hoping to hold another one this spring – so get diggin’ in your trunks to unearth that lingering juicy stuff of your own..