Stuart McLean – TCU Place Main Theatre
The main theatre of the Teacher’s Credit Union Place is about 3/4 full. I always thought Stuart McLean was a bit like a Canadian version of Garrison Keillor, but he’s not nearly wierd looking enough. He started off by talking about his teaching experience (university prof and substitute teacher). Some highlights:
Why did we choose to be teachers? Because we were brought up wrong…
Earliest memory of school? Boys’ washroom of Elizabeth Ballantyne School c.1956 – alone in the bathroom for the first time ever. Flush all twelve toilets at once – one big cosmic flush… more engaged in the task than he ever had been in school previously. Ran into caretaker. “Ah, I see you’re doing my job for me.”
Essence of elementary school: Students feel like there is a judgemental eye staring down at them all the time during their schooling. Sometimes it’s a teacher, sometimes another student, but most often it’s their own internal voice comparing them to other students.
A story from the Vinyl Café. The rhythms of the story are a lot like Lake Wobegone. The story is about Sam, the son of the proprietors of the Vinyl Café, and his desire to be gifted so that he can leave the class that he’s in at school. He sends away a test to the Read Write Corp. and gets a letter back saying that he’s gifted, and that for only $6.99 a month, he’d get a 150-pg booklet each month to complete. He finally decides that being gifted is too much work.
Q&A with the audience
Someone asked about Stuart’s writing process. He says it’s called procrastination. Mainly he says he needs a deadline to make him write.
Is there a mentor who lead you to where you are today? CBC editors, firstly. W.O. Mitchell gave permission to commit to his own work. E.B. White – The elements of style – gave elegance and simplicity.
What was it like to be spoofed and what was it like to work with the spoofer? He doesn’t watch TV and didn’t know he was being spoofed. Someone sent him a tape and he thought it was funny, but didn’t think it was an accurate reflection of him. When he next sat down to write, he said “Holy fuck, that is me!” and everytime he wrote a clever phrase, he could see Gavin Crawford (THHTTM) rubbing his hands with glee.
What do you read? The Guardian Chronicle (?), The New Kings of Journalism, biography of John A. MacDonald. He says politics is the road not taken for him. He thinks that we have done well by our politicians (that we have come up with good ways of solving the problems in living together), of all parties.
Where do you get your ideas? Ideas are not the hard part – execution is. Mostly he gets his ideas from the deadline.