Once a month for 25 years, Ottawa’s Tree Reading Series has hosted an evening of reading, often including a nationally known writer. A lot of talent has been heard under its banner since six Ottawa writers started a writing club in May, 1980.
That talent, which has included its share of queer writers in recent years, has now been collected into an anthology of 25 authors, one for each year. It’s called, naturally enough, Twenty-Five Years Of Tree.
“We had to chose a different author from every year,” says co-editor James Moran. (Jennifer Mulligan also co-edited and co-organized readings in recent years.) “We have short fiction, we have excerpts from novels and we have poetry. We also have some introductions from three different organizers who have run Tree from the early ’80s, the late ’80s and the mid-’90s, and I’ve also got a brief history of Tree in there – a list of all of the organizers and a list of all the award winners.”
Moran tells of the difficulty in choosing just one author per year, considering that Tree hosts two different authors per month, every month of the year except December. “We looked at people who kind of reflected the style of Tree at the times.”
Since its inception, the series has changed hands several times and changed venues dozens of times. Since December of 1999, when Moran took up the reins, it has resided at the Royal Oak II on Laurier. Now, after six years, he is stepping down.
Moran, a long-time Capital Xtra writer who identifies as bisexual, has also taken it upon himself to ensure that queer writers have been well represented in the series.
“During the time I’ve been running it, I’ve intentionally made at least one grant application to the Canada Council yearly and tried to get a batch of queer writers, and consciously made an effort to get the voices that I wanted to have in this series. We got them all but one.”
Moran ensured that these queer voices made it into the anthology. Three of the 25 authors are queer and local: Blaine Marchand’s poetry, Gabriella Goliger’s excerpt from a forthcoming novel and John Barton’s collected poetry. (Barton has since moved to Victoria, BC.)
Moran insists, however, that they were chosen for their talent, not their sexuality. “It’s about the work – whether you’re straight or you’re queer, it’s the quality of the work that we’re looking for.”