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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Re-cap: Our Carrie Brownstein event!

This was our last event of a stellar season. We were especially happy for Carrie Brownstein to be our last major guest, because she had to cancel her initial date with us due to a canceled flight! These things happen, but she assured us that it was a top priority to make it Montreal. And, true to her word, she made it last week—shoehorned 'tween two Sleater-Kinney performances!

Just FYI, before each event I show the author the view from the balcony and, without fail, they're always impressed. I think it's evident why:

Because of the rescheduling, our original interviewer, Jessica Hopper, couldn't make it but we were very fortunate that ex-Hairpin editor Haley Mlotek agreed to fill in. She was terrific!

Haley hopped right in on questions about the mechanics of memoir-writing and Carrie's answers were illuminating. No music while writing (too distracting) and--besides Patti Smith's classic Just Kids--her writing inspirations for Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl were Steve Martin's 2007 memoir Born Standing Up because of how ably it focused on the more off-stage aspects of the job, and Vivian Gornick's Situation and Story because of Gornick's philosophy behind writing autobiography: if we know who is writing, we know why they are writing.

Haley remarked on the prominence of honesty as a theme in the book and Carrie explained that she wanted to share her journey towards feeling embodied and and empowered, guided by community and partnership. She said writing the book wasn't painful and she wanted to give an overarching vulnerability to the book. She was interested in how conversations were mediated and she brought up how she was a bit worried about her father's reaction to her writing about his coming out in the book. Turns out he took it in stride and was more concerned that she may have been using his credit card while she was in Australia. Pretty typical dad behaviour, she felt.

Carrie also spoke of her television roles in the acclaimed programs Portlandia and Transparent. On Portlandia: it has a very traditional writer's room with a defined collaborative process, compared to Sleater-Kinney's process, which is also collaborative but less structured. Carrie relates most to her character "Cath." On Transparent: she feels very fortunate to work with the writers and creators on a show that contributes so greatly to fleshing out ideas of family outside of the binary definitions.

As this was one of the last stops on Carrie's book tour, she told us about how positive the experience has been, not least because she finds it easier to tour alone than with her band. In contrast, touring with a band is fertile and invigorating, but also difficult and insular.

There were some great questions from the audience following the conversation, more than a few of which were of the "I'm a creative, should I keep at it?" variety. To these Carrie responded that she refused to acknowledge a "plan B" in life. She suggested just diving in and devote yourself. If you need to change lanes a bunch of times, go for it! It's worth giving it a real try until something feels truly out of balance. We only have one life, after all.

Here's to hoping this isn't our last chance to host a book launch event for Carrie. I can tell you she was as friendly and gracious backstage before the event as she was on stage to the 800+ people in attendance. If you've not yet read Hunger Is A Modern Girl, I urge you to grab a copy from the shop, There are signed copies remaining, There's a reason it's popping up on all the year-end best of lists! If you don't know much about Carrie's work in indie rock powerhouse Sleater-Kinney and her television career, then you're in luck, because as Carrie put it: anyone who isn't familiar with her work and/or persona is her imagined ideal reader.

Thank you to Carrie Brownstein for making it to Montreal! Thank you to Emma Ingram from Penguin/Random House for help making it all happen and thank you to Haley Mlotek for doing such great work as interviewer. And thank you, loyal readers...see you at the shop!

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