Students had the opportunity to talk to human books on Wednesday evening for the third annual Living Library.

A conversation with a “human book”—an alum or significant person in the community—is a chance to learn more about their journey after university. Students registered up to a week before the event. Chartwells catered the evening; the popcorn in a bag was a quaint and appropriate option.

For the first time in its history, before the one-on-one conversations, the human books were available in facilitated group conversations to give students an opportunity to talk to several people at once on topics such as publishing and education.

The Medium rounded up highlights and nuggets of knowledge from a selection of the event’s books.



The Medium: Do you have any advice for how to get past the query stage or the proposal stage of publishing? How to make your work stand out when you’re asking for representation or asking a publisher to publish?

Bobby Del Rio: I think that there’s two perceptions. There’s what everyone thinks you should do and the way it actually works. I think personally that querying and knocking on doors and all that stuff—I mean it’s like sure, one in a million times that will happen—but the reality is it’s who you know and how good you are. To be honest, if you’re really good, the doors fly open, right? It’s like I had a lot of things happen to me right away. I was winning competitions and competing across North America when I was 23 years old. But I had been really focused and worked really hard at it. When you’re really good at stuff, you can be amazed at how many people will accommodate you.

Kate Lines: Networking is really huge as well. So the opportunities that you get can be just from someone you met here […] You know, there’s a lot of festivals, book festivals, there’s a lot of writers there, there’s a lot of publishers at those functions as well, just getting to know people, like going to social events and that kind of thing, just networking in those circles.

Anna Yin: In my own experience, you always submit a lot of poetry and poems to a poetry contest. So for my experience I won some contests and won some awards. Then the publishers started to notice me. But still, like everyone said, it’s a community.



TM: What would say is your greatest inspiration that led you to where you are now in the film industry? Was there a certain person or event that inspired you to take this path?

David Vella: For the film industry, not specifically, no. For me, my role in the film industry is the not-for-profit side of things (TIFF is a not-for-profit organization). My side is on the administrative side—I manage our board of directors and our senior team and try to guide them in that process. So a lot of what my inspiration came from was not-for-profit and fundraising and what I ended up finding out was that arts is where my true passion lies. So being able to use my expertise with the arts, with fundraising to the arts, was exactly what I found I loved so much. […] I never really thought when I was going to school and looking for work that I could do the arts, and do not-for-profit fundraising and film, and combine those two things and find a job and make my living.



TM: How did you know what you wanted to do?

BDR: I did first year at the St. George campus for economics. […] I was cast in a couple of plays at the same time. I would skip an entire week of school but I would show up 10 minutes early for my play rehearsals, and then I became the star of the play. And then I was like, “Okay, there’s something here.” [… In reference to a playwriting festival he won at UTM while a drama student:] I remounted that play and it became one of the hits of the year at the Toronto theatre. That all happened before I graduated from school. I never looked back.

TM: What challenges did you face?

BDR: You know society hates artists. I find the relationship with society and the artist very intriguing. Society both loves the artist and is in awe of the artist, but is also jealous and seeks to destroy the artist. I’ve met so many people who make so much more money than I do who are incredibly jealous of me, because I’m pursuing a passion where they maybe wanted to be an artist. To me it’s not about the challenges; it’s about continually improving every day to become a better artist. And I don’t care if I make a million dollars or 10 dollars. I’ve written for Hollywood and I’ve gotten a lot of publicity, but I don’t do this for the publicity. I do it to get better at my art every day. I think if you’re focused on the right things, you’ll have a really rewarding career.



TM: What challenges did you face becoming a police officer?

KL: One thing that I did when I was learning to be an undercover officer is they put me on the street to panhandle, and I got about $50. This guy comes along, and he says, “Do you want to go up the alley and I’ll give you more than change?” And I always thought, “Oh man, if you only knew that you’re actually talking to a cop!”

TM: Can you talk about your book, Crime Seen?

KL: I felt very strongly that enough had already been written about the bad guys, and now it was time to tell the good guys’ stories—the police officers, families, victims. Stories that don’t usually get written.

Everybody usually has a keen interest in the bad guy and knowing all about what their crimes were. It always troubled me that you can name a serial killer and people are like, “Oh, I’ve heard of them.”—“Do you know who their victims were?”—“No, I don’t remember any of the names.” You know, I feel kind of bad. That’s why I wrote this book.

I tried to tell real-life stories, how investigations impacted me. […] The book ends with “There is life after policing”—very cathartic for me. I didn’t allow myself to get close to victims while I was working on the cases. Number one, it wasn’t my job to interact with victims, [and you] try not to think about them. So in writing my book, I tried to be thoughtful in writing about them, and find out who they are and how they are, and let myself become emotional about their stories. It really helped round out my career, because now I’ve taken everyone into consideration.

TM: Can you share an anecdote about overcoming your challenges?

KL: Sometimes, particularly for police officers, it’s hard to know when you want to retire. I had a fantastic career and I was really struggling with, “When am I going to go? When is it going to be enough?” I could never find that right time. I passed when I could have retired at 30 years. […]

One day I got a call from my cousin. He’d gotten hired by the OPP and he wanted to come and thank me. He lived up in northern Ontario and for about five years—it was mostly email—we’d talk back and forth, mostly suggestions. Like we’re doing tonight at the Living Library. He decided he wanted to be an officer and [it was] just [a] bonus that he got on the OPP.  So he came into my office. […] At the end before he left, he said, “I’m going to graduate in a couple of months. Would you give [me] my badge?” And I said, “Sure.” Then when he walked out I walked down the hall to my financial assistance and said, “I just found my right time to leave.”

I thought if I’m going to pass the torch to someone, that’s the guy I want to pass it to. Not only did I find my right time, but it ended up being a family member. My last assignment on my last day was giving him his badge. That was a very cool experience for me. I thought it might be some big case, yet it was something—in the big scheme of things—something very small that was the most important.

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