Sunday, 10 May 2015

Birdman, The Karman Line and The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden

Michael Keaton in Birdman


It seems that stories and movies about floating are hot these days. Really hot. 

Back in February, I was delighted to see Birdman win the Oscar for Best Picture, since it's a wonderfully magical, playful and frankly pretty un-Hollywood take on creativity and the power of imagination. Don't want to spoil the movie if you haven't seen it (and you probably should see it, it's great), but floating takes a major front seat.
Actress Olivia Colman floats in The Karman Line
Then, I just stumbled across this lovely, sweet and very strange BAFTA-winning short, posted on the New Yorker Screening Room site yesterday, about a woman afflicted with a terminal case of floating. It's called The Karman Line, and is directed by Oscar Sharp. Watch it now, it's 24 minutes, then read the fascinating New Yorker interview with the director.
Of course, floating is a beautiful metaphor for change, life, death, and pretty perfectly captures human mutability and transition. Our fascination with flight and all things floating goes back to the story of Icarus, and likely well before that.
This week, on Tuesday May 12, I'll sit on stage at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto for the Ontario Library Association Festival of Trees, in front of an audience of 1000+ grade 7 and 8s, who have read my book and voted on it as one of 10 books shortlisted for the Forest of Reading Red Maple award. It's Canada's largest literary festival for children and teens, and it's sold out in Toronto this year.
I couldn't be more honoured to be part of it, and to bring my story about an adolescent girl who discovers she can float to the young readers of Ontario.

The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden is a gentle magic realism story about teenage change ... just as The Karman Line or Birdman are for adults, so my story explores all the potential in a young girl about to morph into an adult. The book has been well-received, although magic realism isn't for everyone, it really does require an extended case of what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called our "willing suspension of disbelief" and takes a deft touch to bring it off well. Whether Gwendolyn's story wins the Red Maple award on Tuesday or not, I couldn't be more pleased that she and I have been included with some fantastic Canadian writers, and her story is a young adult version among some great movies, too. It's been a wonderful winter visiting schools and talking to kids, a brilliant flight for sure. Wish us luck!

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