A word to burgeoning bards from BC writer Christopher Gudgeon: if you’ve hit a wall with your story or poem, don’t throw it away. You might find the words you need to finish it a year or two (or more) down the road.
Gudgeon offers this advice from a position of experience. Some of the short stories in his newest release, The Encyclopedia of Lies, were almost two decades in the making.
“Sometimes short stories take a long time. They seem short, but they can be a real pain in the ass,” says Gudgeon. Case in point: “Slumped in the Armchair of the Gods”, a standout in the collection, was written over 15 years – a process Gudgeon likens to a carpenter not throwing away a piece of wood just because it doesn’t fit anything they’re building at that particular moment. “You put it aside because it might fit something later,” he says. “I love the process of writing. That’s why I do it. Sometimes you learn you just can’t force it. If it’s not working yet, maybe it’ll work later.”
The Encyclopedia of Lies is the latest from the prolific local author, who has more than 20 novels, and poetry and short story collections to his name, including Song of Kosovo and Greetings from the Vodka Sea. He was recently nominated for a 2017 Gerald Lampert Award for his 2016 poetry collection, Assdeep in Wonder.
All of the stories in The Encyclopedia of Lies – which is published by Vancouver’s Anvil Press – are about “the importance of the lies we create to sustain ourselves,” says Gudgeon. “It’s not, All lies are bad. It’s exploring how people use lies to sustain their sanity. You’re reading a collection of fiction, so right off the bat, that tells you that lies are important to me.”
Gudgeon and Anvil Press have eschewed a traditional wine-and-cheese party to launch the book. Instead, the collection will debut at a full-throttle music and spoken-word performance event entitled Night of 1000 (or less) Stars.
Gudgeon has gathered an impressive line-up of writers and musicians – Craig Northey of Vancouver’s legendary pop band Odds, Nathan Rogers, 2016 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Winner Yasuko Thanh, singer-songwriter Dante Hadden, current Vancouver Community College Students, and a multi-Juno Award-winning “surprise headliner” – to help celebrate the launch. The event serves a dual purpose, though: Night of 1000 (or less) Stars is also a fundraiser for VCC scholarship funds, set up in memory of Gudgeon's son and foster son, Keating Gudgeon and Jess Nichol, to support young people in the arts. (Nichol committed suicide in 2011, in his early 30s, after suffering from depression and other mental health issues for most of his adult life, while Keating Gudgeon died from a previously undiagnosed medical condition last October. He had just turned 20.)
“Jess and Keating were both really committed to the arts,” says Gudgeon. “Jess was a DJ and poet, and Keating was a marvelous poet, and they both loved people.” The event, says Gudgeon, is “a way of celebrating and honouring their memory and taking what is a painful, terrible tragedy and doing some good with it.”
Night of 1000 (or less) Stars takes place on May 13 at Vancouver Community College. Tickets are by charitable donation to the VCC foundation and available at eventbrite.ca.