The Best Part

Everything’s due, and everyone’s sick. What better time for a grant deadline? In this case, it’s the Toronto Arts Council’s Project grants for literary events, which we hope to continue to access to pay the authors who appear at the Draft Reading Series.

Last Sunday was the first edition of Draft for 2016, and we held it at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, a long, narrow black box in Leslieville which plays host to so much creativity that spending an hour there acts like a shot of good espresso.

Grant-writing for Draft is not onerous. It’s a matter of copying and pasting “Mandate” and “Artistic Goals” from our previous forms. Nothing has really changed. I started Draft because I love all things rough and imperfect, love sketches more than finished paintings, scales and scraps of melody more than virtuoso performances, workshops more than polished productions. I like to encounter people in moments of grappling, fumbling, engaging dynamically with craft, more than I like to see them selling their finished product. Draft is a way of lingering in with what — for me — is the best part.

Back to last week: Red Sandcastle was a new venue for us, and I was half-hoping we didn’t get too many people so we could iron out the wrinkles of setting up there. But when I arrived — slightly late — the place was already filling up with what became a standing-room-only crowd. After a few months’ break, I had forgotten about the raw excitement of hearing new and unpublished work read out loud. (April L. Ford, Sharon Kirsch, Sheila Murray and Jason Paradiso read this month.)

As usual, we commemmorated the event in a publication, also rough and ready, deliberately created at the last minute with all its irregularities that implies. Our designer, Ron Edding, consistently comes up with a new concept every month. To get the publication you have to be at the reading. It’s the only documentation we do, and it’s not a video or audio recording. It’s a compilation of what each participant — at this moment in time — means by “work-in-progress.” We don’t forbid recording; occasionally someone wants to take pictures or make a video, but a mostly our audiences wholeheartedly enter the spirit of Draft: being there. Lending attention.

Some people read polished manuscripts, and that’s also good, but I’m most excited to be there the first time an author has her work received by a live audience, the moment when the piece tips over from being something private to something shared. This can be more informative than hours of discussion, and it’s a privilege to be part of it. Sometimes, the work is rough, sometimes bad, sometimes boring; what’s exciting is to be part of the process of learning that. Last week, we actually had house lights to turn down, and — once we figured out how to do it — I thought, as I have many times: this is the best part.

And this is the best part, too. Setting the alarm early, imbibing some caffeine finding the words for something I still care about after all these years. Knowing that with everything that’s going on, there is still space for process.

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