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Voices From the Workshops: Melissa Allen-Anderson

December 5, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (0)

The Toronto Reference Library – A Love Story of Sorts
By Melissa Allen-Anderson

     That silly little girl from my writers’ group – apparently there’s two at Toronto Reference Library – is cornering me in the Manulife Indigo bookstore. Some playwright-in-residence has specially chosen her and a select few to write about the everyday Torontotonian’s experience at the Toronto Reference Library.

    “Why don’t you go there and ask someone?” I say to her.

     “I did. It’s closed now, I forgot to check the hours,” she replies.

     “I’m in a rush, I have to go,” I try and side step her, but for a little girl, she is quick and swiftly blocks my path.

     Then, she does this thing where she shuffles her feet and collapses her knees like she had to use the ladies room. “Please,” she says. I couldn’t refuse anymore, so I just agree.

     “Great,” she says and jumps right into her first question: “Why do you come to the TRL?”

     “To use the interent, go to the events and of course, attend the Toronto Writers’ Co-op Workshops.”

     “Cool.” She continues, “Where do you see yourself in the future, in relation to the TRL?”

     What kind of stupid questions are these, I think.

     “What kind of stupid questions are these,” I ask and she just shrugs her slumped shoulders up and down. I press on.“Who came up with these questions? You?”

     “Nah, the mentor-slash-playwright-in-residence dude made us ask these questions,” she says, quickly adding, “but they’re probably just a guideline,” defending this so-called playwright-in-residence’s poorly thought out questioning.

     “Listen,” I tell her, checking my watch, “these questions you ask are pointless. What your audience is going to want is a strong interview with detail, not some vague, generic questions that don’t mean anything.”

      The little girl nods, agreeing with me. Maybe she’s brighter than I thought after all, so I continue. “Write something that the audience will love, like…” I pause and reflect, “…a day in the life of someone at the TRL. Someone like me, a newcomer, a Syrian-Canadian man. For example: It is morning and I enter the library right when it opens, it is already filling up with people and it’s noisy. I ask the librarian if the book I put on hold has come in yet, and she says no.
     “The librarian with the Russian accent?” the little girl says.

     “No, the one with the Canadian accent,” I say. “Anyway, she says no, it’s not back yet, and I am disappointed but she has the most beautiful smile, one that lights up the entire library, so I’m cheerful again, thinking to myself, ‘her smile is what the Toronto Reference Library is all about.’ I go to a free computer to check my email. When I leave, the security also gives me a big smile and asks to check my bag on the way out, so I open my bag and there’s a fish inside!”

     “A fish?” The little girl raises her left eyebrow. I’m losing her.

     “Yes, a fish. But it doesn’t have to be a fish, it can be anything,. The point is to make the story interesting and funny. Secure must find something bizarre in the bag.”

     Little girl nods. I’ve got her back.

     “Give security a funny reason for having a fish in the bag.” I say.

     “Like for example, I went to the farmer’s market to rescue the cod they were going to chop into fillets?” she says.

     “Sure, whatever,” I say.

     By now she is writing furiously in a little notebook. The ink of pen is purple. What a strange little girl.

     “You’ve been a big help,” she says.

     “Yes, I have,” I tell her. “One last bit of advice. You must end with a love story.”

     “A love story?” she says.

     “Yes. Everyone loves a love story. Now imagine one that happens at a library. Two people meet at TRL and fall in love.” I clap my hands together, “wouldn’t that be fantastic?”

     “At Toronto Reference Library?” Little girl and her freaking left eyebrow. “I dunno…meeting some random guy at the library? That’s kind of creepy.”

     I throw my hands in the air, she tries my patience.

     “There is nothing creepy about falling in love at the Toronto Reference Library,” I say.

     “What if I just end it by saying, ‘no matter where we come from, how we found our way to Toronto, or what’s in our bags, we will always love the Toronto Reference Library?’”

     “Perfect,” I say. I couldn’t have said it better myself.


This monologue is reprinted with permission from the author. It was performed at the Toronto Reference Library as part of David Young's Writer-in-Residence workshop program, on November 30, 2011.


Playwright David Young will be blogging in this space from October - November, 2011 as Toronto Reference Library's Playwright-in-Residence.