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Ready to rumble: Flannery dishes on launch day at Canada Reads

Hello again, readers!

What can I say about the lauch-day blitz for this year's Canada Reads other than wow and whew! The official kickoff on Tuesday for Canada Reads 2010 (can I get a whoop, whoop?) left me exhausted and exhilarated. And after having the chance to hang out with this year's panelists, I'm more than a little excited too.

Take it from me, readers. This group is ready to rumble! Rest assured that each of this year's panelists is bringing their "A" game to the task at hand. They're also bringing no end of heart to the proceedings. In fact, I didn't meet one among our literary advocates who wasn't passionate about their respective book. I even met one or two who were just plain gaga over their picks. Simi Sara is such a fan of Marina Endicott's Good to a Fault she's been hand-selling it at her local bookstore! (FYI: Simi's volunteer work on behalf of Endicott took place before her Canada Reads selection. How's that for devotion?)

The action began early in the Q studio. I've never sat in on a live taping of Jian's show before -- or any other show for that matter -- so it was kind of a double treat for me. I got to sit in the control room (another first; so many buttons I wanted to press!), hear the big announcement in real time, and even more fun, sit back and watch the panelists fire their opening salvos.

It didn't take long for the group to start marking their territory. Simi Sara was the first panelist to throw down the gauntlet with her declaration that she "could take everyone here" (in a debate, of course). Dr. Samantha Nutt didn't take the slight lying down. Her quick retort: "I may be short, but I can punch above my weight," electrified the other panelists. The good doctor is going to be a tough Nutt to crack (sorry, that lame joke had to be made).

Perdita Felicien offered my favourite revelation of the hour, however. No, I'm not talking about her letting the other panelists know that she's well versed in the art of the "stare down," or that she's got "jock prowess" on her side. It was her modest and candid confession of her childhood ambition. Apparently, young Perdita always thought she'd grow up to be a writer (there's still time, Perdita!). She even went to far as to "dress up like a writer" for career day in public school. This little tidbit so intrigued me that I made a note to ask her about it later. I needed to know what a young Perdita Felicien wore the day she was a "writer." Her answer: "I wore a skirt, put my hair in a bun, and carried a book and some pencils." I have to say I was impressed. Trade the skirt for sweatpants and the bun for a ponytail, Perdita, and you've got the "writer" look down. (In my experience, a writer in a skirt is about as rare as a two-time Olympian hurdler in a skirt on race day.)

Next it was off to the CBC atrium for the public event, where Jian unveiled this year's books, bringing the panelists and the authors onstage. Lucky us, we've got wildcard panelists who aren't afraid to go off-script and say what's on their mind -- Roland Pemberton, a.k.a. Cadence Weapon, and Dr. Samantha "I-wear-combat-boots-and-I-take-no-prisoners" Nutt, I'm talking about you.

This year's authors weren't shy either. Douglas Coupland's impromptu onstage conversation with Cadence Weapon added an unexpected twist to the proceedings. What did the Generation X author want to know so desperately? Answer: How often the 23-year-old poet laureate of Edmonton performed his poems and if he got paid (entre nous: that last concern is uppermost in every writer's mind. No one thinks about payment more than a writer -- and no one needs to, sadly.) Marina Endicott's use of the term "game show" to describe Canada Reads also got a big laugh from the crowd. We had a giggle about it later in the green room. Endicott later told me that what makes this "game show" different from all others, however, is the prize. "People get to read fantastic books," she offered. I couldn't agree more. Now, I've got $100 for the first reader who can pull an egg out of their purse. (I jest! I don't have $100 to spare. But you hang onto that egg.)

Come back tomorrow please. I'll have more inside scoop and the first week wrap-up!

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