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Twelve local authors unite for a Calgary Extravaganza

Calgary is many things — a bastion of cowboy culture an oil town a poster child for suburban sprawl. But when we look at our city how often do we see it as a dynamic hub for Canadian literature? This week Calgarians celebrate themselves in the Calgary Extravaganza in which 12 local authors unite to launch 11 wildly diverse books.

Claire Huot for starters is launching her debut novel a murder mystery titled The Prison Tangram . When two women die in a campus-style reform prison a rookie detective bilingual in English and Mandarin Chinese is sent to write a preliminary report but quickly uncovers a cross-cultural conspiracy. “I’ve written two books on Chinese contemporary culture; I figured maybe I’ll try fiction and see how that works” Huot laughs. “I love detective stories because it seems to me that every novel is basically a detective story: you have to find something out.”

Huot came to Calgary just over a year ago after lengthy stints in Beijing and Montreal. “I find it cute that I’m being coined as a local author because I’m quite new here. People say I have the ‘hockey player accent’ which I’ve never heard before” she says. “I’ve noticed a great effervescence in Calgary. I’ve never been to so many readings in my life!”

Riley Rossmo never expected to participate in a public reading and as a comic book artist he’s a bit stumped about how to perform his work. “I’m thinking about blowing up some comic panels or acting out the characters” he shrugs. Rossmo alongside writer Alex Grecian is the co-creator of Proof a new monthly series from Image Comics that features Bigfoot as a CIA agent who hunts down cryptozoological creatures and conserves them in a top-secret Rocky Mountain zoo. “We wanted to do an ongoing TV-style episodic book. Alex was like: ‘how about Bigfoot: CIA agent?’ Heck yeah!” The Calgary artist had a major success story when Proof was first published and it immediately received a B+ from Entertainment Weekly . “It was the best-ranked comic of the week — it even beat all the Marvel and DC books.”

Rossmo’s link to Calgary’s literary community is derek beaulieu a lifetime comic fan not to mention one of Calgary’s most tireless experimental poets. He comes to the Extravaganza with his latest book Flatland a page-by-page visual translation of the Victorian science fiction novel of the same name. That book describes a two-dimensional world inhabited by polygons that’s thrown into chaos with the arrival of a three-dimensional sphere. In beaulieu’s translation he turned the novel’s pages into a polygon-strewn surface by tracing the reoccurrence of letters on each page.

“It was a year-long process of tracing all 110 pages by hand with a ruler and pen over a light-table” says beaulieu. “It ends up being this strange kind of EKG readout and it’s really interesting to watch people pick up the book. They try to search for meaning and start to question their engrained habits — reading from left to right from top to bottom. I want readers to find a creative space where they can meet me in the middle create their own meaning and feel OK about that.

“I think this event is indicative of the strength of Calgary’s writing community — it has more breadth than even many of its own participants realized” he adds. “To see comic books novels and poetry all those various things interweaved is the most exciting thing about the Extravaganza. I hope through events like this that Calgary can become more aware of itself. So often we seem to define ourselves from the outside looking to Toronto Vancouver Dallas and Seattle. But what’s going on here ? How do the writers the dancers the musicians see our city? This is something unique and worth celebrating.”

The Calgary Extravaganza features beaulieu Huot and Rossmo alongside Brea Burton Glen Dresser ryan fitzpatrick Diane Guichon Jill Hartman Cara Hedley Robert Majzels William Neil Scott and Natalie Zina Walschots launching their respective books at Lunchbox Theatre (second level of Bow Valley Square 229-205 5 Ave. S.W.) on December 8 7 p.m.

If you can’t make it to the Extravaganza you can still catch Huot and her partner Robert Majzels at their dual launch at which Majzels will present his murder mystery The Humbugs Diet . When a nursing home death is dismissed as suicide a troublemaking resident starts to stir up dissent. Join them at Pages Books (1135 Kensington Rd. N.W.) on December 6 7:30 p.m.

This month’s flywheel reading ventures into multi-lingual literature presenting three writers who work in English or French and in another language. Carmen Poon Frank Pun and Hong Wang turn the spotlight onto Calgary’s increasingly diverse cultural communities in an evening of poetry and storytelling at McNally Robinson (120 8 Ave. S.W.) on December 6 7 p.m.

On this and every Sunday playwright and local celebrity Eugene Stickland hosts Works in Progress at which a guest author reads from their freshest work and local writers discuss their craft. Join the conversation at the Juilliard Restaurant and Lounge (105-237 8 Ave. S.E.) on December 8 at 7 p.m.

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