BC Book Prizes Soiree is a friendly, casual but exciting literary event

It was fun to host the 2010 BC Book Awards Soiree on Wednesday night.  It is indeed one of my favorite events because I get to meet new writers, greet writer friends, buy some new books, pick up some great silent auction prizes… and the organizers are always so friendly!

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Todd Wong hosts the 2010 BC Book Prize Soiree, making announcements with Selina Rajani, vice-president of the West Coast Book Prize Society – photo Nagai/Wong

This time as host, it was much busier.  Before going over the evening's script, the first thing I had to do was find my girlfriend Deb, to borrow her credit card to pay for the parking downstairs.  At past events you could always put money into the meters for 2 hours, and not worry.  But with extended meters until 10pm on busy Robson St. I don't take chances anymore.

Event producer Fernanda Vivieros had the updated scripts ready, and I acquainted myself with the room and who was there.  A good cross-section of BC's literary community of authors, publishers and organizers.  I said hello to publisher Scott McIntyre, organizer Linda Johnston, greeted author Larissa Lai who we featured at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner this year, and waved to David Chariandy – author of Soucouyant (2008 nominee).

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Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, nominated for his Haida-Manga book “Red” wears an Asian-inspired jacket with frog buttons, while I wear a dragon themed waist-coat and Ancient Hunting Fraser tartan kilt. – photo Wong

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Some of the 2010 BC Book Prize nominees stand at the front as we give a toast to them – photo Nagai/Wong

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Todd Wong and Rolf Maurer toast to Stan Persky – photo Nagai/Wong

The best literary moment of the evening was Rolf Maurer's speech about Stan Persky.  He recounted the importance of Stan to our BC Literary community.  The jury stated that:

“We have chosen Stan Persky as the recipient of the 2010 Lieutenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence because of the intellectual and moral integrity he brings to his work as a writer who engages with some of the most difficult questions facing society, and because of the great contributions he has made to the literary canon of Canada and British Columbia.

His numerous books and his trial-blazing efforts in creating literary journals and a forum for public engagement – not least New Star Books and the Georgia Straight – have helped develop British Columbia's literary community into what it is today.

Stan's bravery as a philosopher, a polemicist and a story-teller, leap from the pages of his twenty books.  Stan Persky is our Socrates.”

And indeed Persky has touched my life – first as my instructors for Political Science and Philosophy at Capilano College (now Capilano University) in the 1980's.  Stan became the original editor of The Solidarity Times, during the Operation Solidarity movement protesting the Socred government's restraint program. It was natural since Persky had written the book “Son of Socred” about Premier Bill Bennett.  During 2007, I found myself at the forefront of the historic Vancouver library strike when I organized a writer's series, inviting Vancouver writers to speak to the striking library workers. Stan came and stated he came to speak at the library because his “books are locked up and unavailable to the public.”

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Ricepaper managing editor Patricia Lim, Todd Wong, author Charles Demers – nominated for Vancouver Special (an essay collection about Vancouver's neighborhoods which features 2 paragraphs about Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner and Todd Wong) – photo Wong

And books!  I always walk away with new books in my hands.  This year I purchased Charles Demers' Vancouver Special, Spirit of the Nikkei Fleet: BC's Japanese Canadian Fishermen by Masako Fukawa with Stanley Fukawa, and Red by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas.  And Larissa Lai also signed my copies of her nominated poetry collection Automaton Biographies.

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