Culture | A bizarre bazaar

Quebec Writers’ Federation raises funds with an unconventional literary salon and auction

On Monday, October 5, the Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF) held an event called “‘Tequila Mockingbird’: A Literary Salon and Auction of Curiosities,” in the hopes of raising funds for the organization and gathering locals with a penchant for literature-themed mixers.

The QWF is a registered charity comprised of Quebec’s English-language writers and literature enthusiasts. The federation’s goals, according to the event’s literature, include “providing tangible community support for the promotion and encouragement of English language literary arts” and “undertaking activities which will increase public awareness of the literary arts and of literary institutions within the province.” The federation is involved in a wide range of activities, publications, and programs in Quebec.

As I had never been either to a “literary salon” or an “auction of curiosities,” I had no way of anticipating the bizarre happenings which would ensue that night, events which ranged in oddness from “okay, this makes me sort of uncomfortable” to “I have my phone pre-dialed to 911.” Immediately upon entering the reception area of the Mainline Ballroom on St. Laurent, two cheerful bespectacled women greeted me warmly, gave me a tag with my name written on it, and handed me a sheet of “topics and ideas [I] may be inclined to discuss (at length) with the other people at this lovely event,” a list which included such common discussion starters as “If you went evil tomorrow, what would be your villainous plan?” or “If you were a serial killer, what kind of people would you target?” and the ever-popular “If you and your partner switched bodies, could you have sex with yourself?” I was then told to go enjoy myself and speak with the 20 forty-or fifty-somethings in the room. Um, okay.

And so, I set off to explore and mingle.

My eye immediately caught the auction table upon which many exotic items were displayed. Had you been there, you could have realized your dream of owning Yann Martel’s glow-in-the-dark inflatable globe of the night sky, a (slightly creepy) wax bust of author Joel Yanofsky’s face entitled “Yanofsky or Bust,” or a CD from Montreal-based poet and painter Sherwin Tija adorned with snapshots of cats which includes “over an hour of hi-def purring!!!” Most of these items sold for somewhere between $10 and $30.

As I couldn’t end the night without trying the event’s signature “Tequila Mockingbird”, I was directed to the bar, where I was simultaneously handed a drink and greeted by an Asian dude in stilettos and a black sequined dress. It was the charmingly quirky “Madame À Bientôt,” the “salonnière” whose function was to “introduce newcomers & gently pluck wallflowers out of their seats and into the flow of conversation.” I had quite an interesting conversation with them about various fascinating topics, like the other unusual fundraisers hosted by the QWF (think along the lines of “Strip Spelling Bee”), how they themself became involved in the QWF, and how much money a member of the Beatles’ bowel movements sold for after being discovered in a hotel by a chamber maid.

Although it may seem as if my time at “Tequila Mockingbird” was an awkward social experiment, I truly enjoyed myself. I had a chance to speak with local professors, poets, fiction writers, and profoundly and delightfully strange people. And if you’re wondering what’s in a “Tequila Mockingbird” – it’s just tequila, orange juice, and Southern Comfort.

To find out more about the QWF, visit their web site at qwf.org.


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