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Empress Theatre hosts inaugural literary festival

Fernie, B.C.-based writer Angie Abdou will take part in the Get Lit! Festival on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Empress Theatre.

Angie Abdou has loved books since she was a young girl, inspired in great part by her mother’s own love of reading.
On Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Abdou gets to share her passion for books — and Canadian literature — on the Empress Theatre stage with four other Canadian writers.
Abdou, Fran Kimmel, Ali Bryan, Kevin Allen and Sid Marty are featured in the inaugural Get Lit! Festival at the Empress Theatre.
Abdou promised the panel, moderated by Russell Bowers of CBC Daybreak Alberta, will give the audience an inside look at writing.
“For part of it, they’ll feel like they’re eavesdropping on an intimate conversation between writers — about why we write and what we attempt to accomplish and why writing matters,” Abdou said in an interview.
The authors will also read from their books, and Marty is likely to sing a few songs.
Inspiration for the Get Lit! Festival began when Abdou and Bowers were at the Empress Theatre to record an episode of Daybreak Alberta.
Abdou fell in love with the Empress and told staff and board members they had to have a literary festival. The theatre is beautiful, Abdou raved, and the intimate setting is perfect.
“The theatre offers the perfect mix of an intimate space with an engaged audience on one hand and a gorgeous setting with a sense of occasion and glamour on the other hand. Writers will love it — and when you get a bunch of happy, appreciated, inspired writers on stage, they’re bound to engage in a conversation that readers and audiences will love too.”
Abdou is confident people who read books, as well as anyone who enjoys exploring ideas and engaging in authentic, deep conversation will enjoy the Get Lit! Festival.
Abdou has been a book lover since the age of four when she discovered Dr. Seuss’s classic One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
There was plenty of support at home for a young reader.
“My mother has always loved reading. I know books got her through the loneliest, most challenging times in her life. Even now, she usually has about six books on the go. Being surrounded by books through my childhood made reading a natural and obvious pastime.”
When Abdou declared she wanted to be a writer, her mother was quick to support and encourage the idea. That declaration came as early as Grade 1 when a teacher asked her students what they wanted to be when they grew up.
Abdou favoured the work of women prairie authors such as Margaret Laurence, Lorna Crozier, Sandra Birdsell and Bonnie Burnard, from whom she learned the value of writing about her own places and people.
Recently she has embraced the work of writers such as Sally Rooney and Rachel Cusk who are doing new things” with the novel form as they write about human relationships.
“Though I decided that very young (around age four), I had a crisis of confidence as a teenager. I don’t know if I didn’t believe I had the talent to be a writer or I didn’t think an interest in books was cool enough or what exactly, but I stopped writing creatively or thinking of ‘author’ as a likely profession.”
A month before her 30th birthday in April 1999, Abdou was in a head-on collision on Highway 22 between Calgary and Fernie — which proved to be a life-altering experience.
“I thought I’d die. I didn’t, but I did break my back. During recovery, I started reading ‘how to write’ books again and pursuing that earliest dream. That glimpse of death reminded me that life is not a thing to be wasted. I’d rather chase my dream and fail than be too chicken to try at all.”
Abdou published her first book in 2006, another in 2007, and four more in 2011, 2014, 2017, 2018. The titles are Anything Boys Can Do, The Bone Cage, The Canterbury Trail, Between, In Case I Go, Writing the Body in Motion: A Critical Anthology on Canadian Sport, and Home Ice.
The Bone Cage was a CBC Canada Reads finalist in 2011, and Chatelaine magazine named In Case I Go one of the most riveting mysteries of 2017.
Abdou received support in her writing career from the University of Calgary English department, particularly mentors Suzette Mayr and Aritha van Herk. She finds inspiration on the literary festival circuit, especially the Saskatchewan Festival of Words in her home town of Moose Jaw.
Athabasca University, where Abdou teaches creative writing, is also supportive.
“I have wonderful, enthusiastic, kind colleagues there. I’m grateful for all of these sources of support. My husband too — when I have doubts, he reminds me who I am and what I do and why.”
When she is ready to write, Abdou puts pen to paper — writing at a computer feels too much like work — in a coffee shop or in nature.
“Ideally, I write in the morning, but with kids and a job and two crazy dogs, that’s not always possible. But when I’m really deep into a project, I do have to find a few hours a day, ideally at the same time. That momentum is key to my writing process. When my kids were really little, I used to get up at 4 a.m. so I could write for a couple hours before they woke. That seems impossible now, but I got two books written that way. Morning is best.”
At present Abdou is working on a follow-up to Home Ice, which was a mother-son memoir, which offered a critique of excess in youth sports.
“This new one focuses more on the advantages of getting outside together as a family. It follows a hiking season where my 10-year-old daughter and I set ourselves the challenge of hiking a peak a week. The working title is This One Wild Life: What I Talk about When I Talk about Hiking with My Daughter.”

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