So Melissa Steele was my mentor via the MWG Emerging Writer Mentor program in 2002, when I was working on a novel.
And we would meet at Sal's on Stafford to go over chapters. And the weeks when we weren't meeting, I'd furtively drop new chapters in her mailbox.
She's since published another book and, this past year, was selected as the Winnipeg Public Library's Writer-in-Residence.
But she's always been interested in what I was writing...and what I was thinking and feeling about that writing.
Since taking up her post, Melissa has been doing some travel to rural communities in Manitoba.
One of those trips, which included both an evening reading and a daytime workshop, was to Virden, MB.
Melissa invited me to accompany her, and, so, after wrangling childcare from my sister, I did.
I've driven as far as Regina, SK (i.e. 600 km each way) by myself three or four times over the last year. And really enjoyed the trip, the time alone, the opportunity to wail along to my favourite music.
This trip was only 300 km and I didn't even turn on the radio the whole time. But it was still lovely...
We left early enough on Friday to a) take into account the frozen highway between Winnipeg and Virden and b) to be able to stop for Indian buffet in Brandon.
And we even had time to dress for a nice dinner at T's restaurant in Virden before the reading.
The reading was small but fun. And beyond the fact that I got to hear some of Melissa's new work, including a brace of postcard stories, it was an honour to read with her.
Afterwards, Virden's mayor showed up. He's a colleague of Melissa's sister, Winnipeg city councilor Jenny Gerbasi, and so was there to offer us an after-hours tour of the Virden opera house.
The opera house was built in 1911. And is a wonder, especially considering it's adjacent to the courthouse/council chambers and the steel-plated holding cell.
The next day, Melissa led a fiction workshop. And I piped up every so often. And it was good.
And I even sold a few books!