Markin-Flanagan presents…

By Alan Cho

Robert Finley is unstoppable.

His first and current book, Accidental Indies, was so well received it won the Cunnard First Book Award and placed on the short list for the Thomas Head Raddall Award for Fiction. Soon, armies of the dead shall rise at his beckon to crush civilizations and Finley will use his powers of telekinesis to sink Australia. Until that darkness comes to pass, the Nova Scotia native places plans for tyranny on hold to become the writer in residence at the University of Calgary.

“I’ve had a fantastic welcome, people here are so warm and interested,” he says. “Just being part of this literary community in Calgary is a great thing and it’s a gift to be part of this incredible program that’s been running for 10 years.”

What program is that, you ask? The University of Calgary’s English department and Alberta philanthropists Allan Markin and Jackie Flanagan have set up the Markin-Flanagan Distinguished Writers Programme to help writers of all kinds.

“The way it’s set up, I’m supposed to devote at least half of the time to my writing and then the other half of the time gets devoted to other things,” Finley explains. “Manuscript consultations is one of my other duties. Not just students, but anybody writing in the community can make an appointment and I’ll sit down and talk with them about their work. People don’t necessarily have the opportunity to be able to workshop their work, so sometimes it’s helpful to talk to somebody who’s objective. There’s also a certain amount of community stuff I have to do, like public appearances and readings.”

And Finley should be out in force, not only in the glorious name of the Markin-Flanagan program, but for his critically acclaimed Accidental Indies, the lyrical retelling of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. Not only is it account of the explorer’s journey, but an examinatino of the power he had in the ability to name these new lands.

“Columbus has become this myth and, as with any myth, it’s retold to serve present circumstances,” the author explains. “Still, you can’t say he wasn’t a good navigator, because it was navigational magic what he did. He was also a gifted storyteller. He was able to go back, tell the stories of the Indies, and convince all of Europe.”

The book has been well-received by the public and critics alike, but this doesn’t mean Finley’s gone off and bought a Ferrari full of whores. Still, the circumstances and the newly minted attention, has changed something in Finley’s writing process.

“When you’re writing, you think you have this direct mind-link with the reader. You think the reader is just going to draw out of it what you want them to,” he says. “It doesn’t happen that way and, once you’ve accepted that as a good thing, you get your privacy back.”

Not that Finley will have time to enjoy that privacy, between working on his new book on Halifax and all the manuscript consultations, he’s got a full time job on his hands.

So grab that great Canadian novel or screenplay you’ve been working on and make an appointment. How about all that poetry you keep under your bed, the ones you pretend are pornography? Bring in anything, before it’s too late and Finley regains his mad thirst for power and destroys us all!

To book a manuscript consultation call 220-8177 for an appointment. Thu., Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m., Finley will read his book at the Artspace Gallery (1235- 26 Ave. SE).

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