Building Bridges – Mentorship Opportunity

Today, I am writing a special post – addressed to my female family members, friends and professional colleagues to let you know about a wonderful event that is taking place on Thursday, March 31st, in Toronto. This event was brought to my attention by Kirsti Stephenson, Director of Special Events & PR with The Mint Agency.

Building Bridges is a non-profit organization that is “committed to promoting inclusion and diversity within society”. The working mandate of this Toronto-based organization is to “connect people, create opportunities and achieve positive results through innovative events and activities.” Building Bridges is supported by the Opportunities Fund for Persons With Disabilities (Human Resources Skills Development Canada (HRSDC)).

This Thursday, March 31st, Building Bridges will be hosting their 2nd annual networking event for women with disabilities (click on the image above for a larger view of the invitation). This year, the event funding was very late in arriving from the HRSDC. As such, planners are now scrambling to find professional women to attend this event and act as a mentor for a few hours. Mentorship involves sharing one table with attendees, at either the breakfast or lunchtime session. You will be required to offer support and advice to women who are either recent graduates or in a career transition. The women attending will have various disabilities, ranging from mild to moderate, and would greatly benefit from receiving help as they navigate their professional aspirations. Building Bridges hopes to have women mentors from a variety of industries – whether from the corporate world, the non-profit sector, self-employed professionals or retired women. Women helping women creates opportunities for empowerment and results in dreams being realized.

If you are able to dedicate a few hours to give your support to this event, in the role of a mentor, I would be greatly appreciative. On Thursday, there are two sessions running – breakfast (beginning at 8:00am) and lunch (beginning at 12:30pm). Each session will have a wonderful group of mentors and attendees along with speakers, activities and an excellent catered meal. Certificates will be issued to each mentor, in appreciation of their support. (If you work in a corporate environment that might be a bit sticky about you taking a few hours away from your work day, the certificate could be made out to the organization, rather than to an individual.)

Should you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me. Also, if you are aware of a professional woman who would be a great fit for this event, please feel free to contact them with the details. (Just remember to let me know, so I can keep event organizers up-to-date with information.)

If you are able to attend, please e-mail me (dawson(dot)oakes(at)gmail(dot)com) with the following details:

Your Full Name
Your Company & Position
Full Contact (Mailing) Information
Which Session You Will Attend

I recognize this is a very last-minute request but I certainly appreciate you taking the time to read about this opportunity and consider whether you are able to become involved in this wonderful and fulfilling event.

Book Launch – “Finding the Words” Edited by Jared Bland

On the 17th of February, Walrus Magazine hosted the launch of this wonderful new Canadian book, Finding the Words: Writers on Inspiration, Desire, War, Celebrity, Exile and breaking the Rules. Bland works at the magazine, as an editor, and was also the editor responsible for pulling this new anthology together.

There was a real hodge-podge of Canadian literati on-hand for the launch, which was held at Duggan’s Brewery. Being newly returned to the city, I haven’t yet met all of the great writers, bloggers and journalists in the Toronto market, so hitting these events solo is a bit daunting. I really should not have worried, though, as writer Guy Gavriel Kay introduced himself to me, thinking I looked familiar. We established very quickly that we had not previously met, but then went on to have an extremely in-depth conversation about the role of the internet in the lives of today’s authors, while also discussing The New Yorker’s David Denby. During our conversation, Kay mentioned he was waiting on his friend “Martin” to arrive. Well, “Martin” turned out to be none other that the Globe and Mail‘s Books Editor, Martin Levin. (I was sort of dying inside over my profound good luck in meeting both gentlemen! With hope, this was undetectable to my good-natured raconteurs.)

My only disappointment of the evening was the lack of a reading from the book – maybe this is standard operating procedure when it comes to anthologies?? I somehow doubt it, though. There are so many wonderful essays contained within the volume that to have a portion of one essay brought to life through wonderful oration would have been a great treat. Bland conceived the idea for this book as a look at the importance of language to writers. He brain-stormed some really crazy ideas with Ellen Seligman, a publisher (fiction) at McClelland and Stewart, as well as the President of PEN Canada.
Bland knew he wanted to keep the subject for the anthology broad in subject to allow participating authors some leeway with their essays. That the book would be anchored by this idea of the importance of language was always prominent though. “Language exists for us as something sublime as well as something incredibly banal.” writes Bland, in the introduction of the book Finding the Words. He goes on to write that this idea is “more complicated still for writers who are, after all, the artists whose raw material is most omnipresent in their lives.” Language, Bland concludes, “is an extremely rich subject for an anthology”.

Eventually (as you will note from the subtitle of the book), the topics of: inspiration; desire; war; celebrity; exile and breaking the rules were decided upon for the essay topics that would be solicited from novelists, journalists, songwriters, memoirists, philosophers and essayists. If you have a favourite Canadian wordsmith, they very likely have an essay in Finding the Words. This is a book that offers so much insight, grit and life within its pages. And, as an impressive aside, I would be remiss if I did not mention that proceeds from this volume of work will go to PEN Canada in support of its vital work in defense of freedom of expression on behalf of writers around tho world who have been silenced. A very noble cause and a very worthwhile project from Jared Bland.

(Apologies for my less than regular posting. I have been dealing with an illness, so have had some challenges keeping to a regular schedule.)

Book Lover’s Ball 2011 – Part Two

I had a great feed-back to part one of my Book Lover’s Ball post; thanks to everyone for reading about the wonderful evening. I received quite a few questions by email, so in part two of my coverage, I will try to answer all of your questions, while sharing some more pictures and details of the evening.

Question #1:

What was served during the cocktail reception?


Celebrity Chef, Marc Thuet orchestrated the luscious cocktail reception. Guests were treated to several different hors d’oeurves, including: savoury crepe with smoked salmon and creme fraiche, steak tartare on a potato gaufrette and an amuse-bouche risotto with wild mushroom and aged parmesan . Everything was delicious and looked gorgeous too.

Question #2:

What did you have for dinner?


Dinner was created by the Royal York Hotel‘s executive chef David Garcelon. Our menu for the evening began with a twice-baked goat cheese souffle with wild and cultivated greens, cilantro chutney in an herb buttermilk dressing. Next, we were treated to some amazingly tender, melt-in-your-mouth roasted Alberta beef loin with maple sweet potato Charlotte and tart huckleberry jus. This was served along side olive oil glazed, roasted winter vegetables that were really lovely. For dessert, our sweet spots were tamed by espresso chocolate truffle almond dacquoise pine nut crunch with amaretto anglaise and tiramisu espresso crepe zabaglione mascarpone cream with espresso soaked lady fingers and dark sweet cherry compote. Garcelon managed to create a meal that was wonderful while eschewing typical banquet fare. It is also impressive to note that Garcelon, as Executive Chef at the prestigious Royal York Hotel, juggles 6 restaurants, massive banquets and room service. Complete with a walkie talkie, he oversees 12 sous chefs and in the course of a typical day, he walks 8 kms. Garcelon manages a budget of $30-million, and a staff of 200. He earned his first gig as an executive chef at the age of 28. At the Royal York, he’s also become an advocate for local produce – even keeping an herb garden and 10,000 bees on the roof so that the hotel can take advantage of fresh herbs. At 42, David Garcelon is a decade younger than most chefs in such a high-profile position.

Question #3:

How does a fashion show tie in with a book event?


This is a question I was asked, not only by readers of Literal Life, but also by people I was talking with, in person, following The Book Lover’s Ball. The fashion show was a great way for guests to be entertained after dinner. Staged in six scenes, one book was paired with one or two fashion designers. The creations presented brought the designer’s feel for the story they were representing to life in a way that was appreciated by the audience. The books that were used for inspiration were: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert; Mystify by Artist Arthur; Midnight at the Dragon Cafe by Judy Fong Bates; Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda; 007 Carte Blanche : The New James Bond Novel by Jeffrey Deaver; and The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg. The fashions ranged from fun and playful to elegant and ethereal. In particular, the designs of Romona Kaveza, paired with Läckberg’s winter-y novel were stunning. Introducing the fashion show was Lisa Tant, editor-in-chief of Flare magazine. Designers showcasing their fashions included: Nadya Toto, Shan, 2 Second, Samuel Dong, Yves Jean Lacasse, and Hugo Boss.

Question #4:

Where are the pictures of you, Jennifer??


Fair enough! Since I attended the event on a media pass, I was flying solo for the night. I didn’t want to appear like a total goofball by doing the classic “don’t mind me, I’m taking a picture of myself” manoeuver. You know the one: you shoot your hand way, way out, holding your camera, and stretching your arm as long as it will go then hope you are in the viewfinder and snap off a photo of yourself. Somehow, trying that while one is unaccompanied seems mucho el-lame-o. I was snapped, with two lovely ladies by another media photographer but as of yet I have not been able to track that picture down. I did do something oddly fun, in an attempt to capture one photo of me dressed up all girly-like. Hello Magazine had a “cover shoot” opportunity set-up for guests. I stood, gamely, for their photographer in front of a green screen. He was great about helping me pose and took a couple of different shots. Then, his assistant would do her computer magic and…voila! I was on the cover of the magazine. “Voila!” took about 15 minutes to process and be ready for pick-up and, in that time, I became distracted by all of the beautiful people, the happy bartenders and, oh yeah!!, talking with some of the best writers in Canada. By the time dinner began, the memory of my cover shoot was distant and, unfortunately, forgotten at the end of the night. So, note to self: next time, don’t be a doofus! Ask someone to take a picture of you with your own camera, would you??

Question #5:

Who else did you meet?


Who else did I meet?? Well, I thought I had done very well showing you some of the great authors I had a chance to chat with but, apparently, you want more!! Heck, I don’t blame you, really. I was so thrilled with how open and gracious the writers I had a chance to speak with were with their time. I tried to be respectful and not take up too much of any one author’s time but, truth be told, there were several writers I was lucky enough to meet with whom I could have chatted for hours. Okay, so along with the terrific novelists I told you about in my previous blog posting, here are some great photos of additional authors (a singer and a CBC radio host too) I also had the chance to meet (even if just ever so briefly): Greg Levey, Gill Deacon, Cathy Marie Buchanan, Terry Fallis (standing with the CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi), Kate Taylor, Tish Cohen, James Bartleman, Betsy Powell and Matt Dusk (again with Jian Ghomeshi). Here they are:

Question #6:

Was there anyone you didn’t get to meet that you wish you could have?


Absolutely!! I would have loved to have had the opportunity to meet Zoe Whittall and Micah Toub. I recently read Toub’s memoir Growing Up Jung and thought it would be cool to meet the man behind the interesting upbringing. Whittall has been a Toronto writer I have long admired. As well as being a gifted novelist and poet, Whittall has been a strong voice for furthering and promoting gay rights. That her day-job is with Quill & Quire magazine, makes me ever so slightly envious, I will admit.

So, clearly, the idea I am left with is this: I must ensure to be on the media list for next year so I can pester even more writers with my, with hope, less than inane questions.

Question #7:

How much did it cost for you to attend?


Well, I was very fortunate to receive an invitation (as a member of the media) from Kirsti Stephenson, the Director of Special Events & PR, at The Mint Agency. Kirsti and her team were responsible for creating the PR strategy and promoting this event for the Toronto Public Library Foundation. If I factor in the haircut, manicure, pedicure and other necessities to get ready for The Ball, it came to a grand total of…none of your business!! 😀 It was for a good cause: the libraries of Toronto!

I can tell you that tickets to the 2011 event were $600 each. Yes, this is very pricey but if you are a book lover I would really urge you to start saving some money, today, for the 2012 Ball. It is such a tremendous opportunity to mingle with so many talented authors in such a posh setting. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be gorgeous for an evening while hanging with some of Canada’s finest literati! I will remind you again that money from the event goes to help Toronto’s public library system.

Question #8:

What the heck is the Toronto Public Library Foundation??


From the library website: Toronto Public Library Foundation believes in the social benefits of a strong and healthy public library system. As a registered charity, we foster relationships with people of vision to enhance the impact Toronto’s Library can have on individual lives, above and beyond the core services that municipal funding provides.

Through its fundraising efforts, the Foundation provides enhanced support to the Library in three broad areas:

* Improved and expanded collections
* Enhanced programs and services
* Revitalized community spaces

[Toronto Public Library] believes that the character and quality of a city depends on the resources available to its people. We believe that a great library is a fundamental requirement for any city to achieve its full social and economic potential. Toronto’s Libraries are vital to the city, and vital to support.

For more information on the Toronto Public Library Foundation, you can visit their web site.

Question #9:

How many books do you read in a year, anyway?


A lot! Oh, wait, is that not specific enough?? Okay, in 2010 I read 92 books. Some were for work, some were to share on this blog and some were just because I am a total bibliophile and can get a little twitchy if my TBR (to be read) pile gets too low. I will also admit a slight addiction to the web site, Bookshelf Porn. Check it out; you know you wanna!

So, this completes my coverage of The Book Lover’s Ball, 2011 edition. I hope you have enjoyed reading about this event. I have really loved sharing my experience with you!

Look for an upcoming post about Midnight at the Dragon Cafe by Judy Fong Bates.