On Tuesday, Feb. 10th, UNBSJ’s Lorenzo Society hosted Canadian writer Craig Davidson as a part of the Lorenzo Reading Series.
Davidson’s reading took place in the Ganong Hall Lecture Theatre at 7 p.m. The author was met in the lecture theatre by over 100 admirers, all of whom came out to hear Davidson read from his most recent book Cataract City.
The audience was instead treated to an unexpected excerpt of Davidson’s current book-in-the-making titled Precious Cargo. The writer explained that he had read from Cataract City so often that he was going to share something new.
Davidson has written four books of literary fiction, but the origin of Precious Cargo is somewhat different. Originally written as an 8,000 word magazine piece, the work is expected to be expanded about ten times to make a full non-fiction book.
Precious Cargo is about Davidson’s experience as a special needs bus driver in Calgary. Davidson noted that the children interacted not only with each other, but also with him. The autobiographical work follows Davidson and the children that took bus 3077.
Though all of the children are mentioned, a boy named Josh appears to be the main character. Josh suffers from cerebral palsy and was 16 when the original article was written. He had a tendency to tell stories, and each tale had two things in common: they always ended with the explorer safely home, and there was always a male character with telekinesis.
Davidson explained that though he was only 16 years old, Josh had realized something that many storytellers hadn’t yet. You tell the stories nearest and dearest to your heart, because that way they aren’t all fabrication. The majority of the work-in-progress thus far is about Davidson and Josh’s relationship, and how they got each other through tough times.
For those wondering where the name came from, Davidson explained that while he was undergoing training his in class instructor stated, “We’re not transporting potatoes here people, the technical term for what we carry is precious cargo.”
When asked if his characters were completely fictional or if they are based on people that he knows, Davidson stated, “They often come from people I know, or elements of myself that have been repurposed into characters. In Cataract City, my friend Matt is the character of Duncan. It’s good for me to close my eyes and really put him in that character, it allows me to write more convincingly.”
Davidson was asked how working on the special needs bus changed him, and had this to say about the experience, “I’m a father now, so I empathize not only with them but also with their parents. Our son Nicholas has not exhibited any special needs requirements, but if he would, it’s been tough enough raising him up to this point just as parents. I have a deep admiration for the parents who deal with the specific kinds of needs that the children need access to… it’s changed the way that I look as my own role as a parent.”
Upon being asked how his son has influenced him and his writing, Davidson commented, “There’s never been as profound a subject of my emotions… especially in the horror side of my work. You know because having a child introduces a whole new set of fears that I’ve never ever felt before… but in my job as a writer I kind of work with those fears, kind of be ok with those fears. Some of my later books have been about a father or parent losing a child, and it’s not very difficult to go to those places in my head because they’re already there.”
Davidson offered the following advice to aspiring writers, “There’s no magic trick, you’ve just got to work hard… you will never have success with the idealized sense of what it is to be a writer… there’s not a lot of glamor to it. If you can embrace that and still want to tell the story then you’ve got a shot.”