Vancouver International Writers Festival

Performance Works, Granville Island, Vancouver BC

Saturday, 21 October 2000

"By a show of hands," Maeve Binchey asked her predominantly middle-aged female fans, "who has heard me speak before?" Half the audience raised hands. "Shame on you," Maeve regaled them jokingly. "Where are those novels? And where are those acknowledgements to me?"

As though talking to friends, the best selling author of "Evening Class", "Tara Road" and her latest, "Scarlet Feather" told hilarious stories about her writing life in a stream of consciousness for over an hour.

Maeve told of her small town Irish background (she and her husband continue to live in the town where she was born) and of her days as a law student, then teacher of history, Latin, and French before becoming a journalist with the Irish Times. She told how she had fallen in love with "mad, undesirable men... a series of rats" before she met, pursued and married writer and broadcaster, Gordon Snell. (He was also at the Writers festival promoting his book, "Yes, Even More Canadians! II".)

Each morning at 7:30, after their "seven minutes of housework", Maeve and Gordon sit down to write in the same room at the top of their house. This may change.

"It's an amazing relief to be 60," Maeve said as she told of a wild, liquid lunch birthday party shared with her high profile friends in May. She is retiring from writing novels and promotional touring. Instead, she is writing "The Night of Rain and Stars", a novella due to be published next year and will reprise characters from her previous novels to be written into short stories. She plans to travel only with Gordon to help promote his books and to take holiday cruises.

Maeve then told three life experience travel stories. In the first, she was waiting for an elevator on a cruise ship and eavesdropping on three generations of a family. Finally, the non-stop talking cruel matriarch allowed the daughter to speak only one sentenced. She used it to tell her mother-in no uncertain terms--to shut up. The second story was of portly Maeve's embarrassing experience getting out of a tiny sightseeing plane after visiting a glacier in Alaska. Eventually, she made it out of the exit. In her final story of this trilogy, Maeve told of her appearance on Oprah's Book Club. Unable to alter her age or size, for a touch of glamour, she decided to wear false nails. Looking like "Edward Scissorhands" she concentrated on her nails so hard she had no time to feel nervous about millions of viewers.

About the talk show host Maeve said, "Oprah has reclaimed books for the people. We owe her a huge debt of gratitude."

Everybody has a story in them Maeve told her audience. "Once a teacher, always a teacher," she said as she encouraged would-be writers with these five rules:

1. Write about what you know. 2. Write as you speak. 3. Use your ears as a tape recorder. 4. Use your eyes as a camera. 5. Write 10 pages a week for 30 weeks and send your work to a publisher.

Maeve enjoys reading, especially thrillers. In her retirement, she plans to read more of her favourite authors including Kathy Reichs and Colum McCann. She also enjoys acknowledgements, applause, and mail. She replies to letters and lives in Dalkey, Ireland. Writer, raconteur, and all round Irish charmer, Maeve Binchey, received a full house standing ovation. It was a delight to hear her speak and to be part of this landmark occasion.--JH