How I (Unknowingly) Met Steven Heighton

I’m sure you’ve heard stories about people running into celebrities without realizing it, only to clue in when they recognize the person’s face later. That situation had never happened to me before, until I attended the Joe Burke Literary Festival at Brophy’s Point almost two weeks ago.

The Joe Burke Literary Festival is an annual event hosted at Brophy’s Point on Wolfe Island, within Kingston’s immediate vicinity. I attended the event with my fiancée and a good friend of mine, even though we didn’t really know how we were going to get there. Brophy’s Point is somewhat remote, and while we knew to take the ferry to the island, from that point we had the choice of walking for an hour-and-a-half or bumming a ride off someone else who was heading to the festival. I took it upon myself to try to find that ride. Just as I was starting to wander the ferry searching for possibilities, I heard someone mention Brophy’s Point, and like a bloodhound I descended. The man in question was wearing a dark leather jacket and a brimmed hat, and looked like the kind of person who would attend a remote literary festival, so I thought my chances were good. I asked if he and his two female companions were going to the festival, and when they said that they were, I hesitantly asked how they were getting there. When they said they weren’t sure, I told them my group was in the same boat, and we agreed to give each other a shout if we found transportation. Then I thanked them and left, eager to find a ride.

Given my introduction, you can imagine where this story is going. I will admit that I didn’t give the man or his companions a second thought as I scoured the ferry for rides. I eventually found a mother and son who, while they weren’t going to the festival, knew exactly where it was and were willing to give us a lift there for free (and I’m still very grateful to them). By that time I had lost track of the others I had met, but hoped that they had found rides as well.

When we finally arrived at the festival, I spotted the man I had met and his companions chatting together across the pavilion. I contemplated striking up a conversation, until my fiancée told me that she recognized the man in the group. I didn’t believe her until we compared his face to the picture on the back of one of his books, and realized that it was none other than renowned Canadian writer Steven Heighton.

Yes, I tried to bum a ride off of Steven Heighton. And yes, I quickly lost interest in Steven Heighton after realizing that bumming a ride wasn’t possible.

(I also realized during the festival that one of Heighton’s companions was another writer presenting work that day, Angie Abdou.)

In retrospect, I should’ve struck up a conversation anyway. I think Heighton’s short fiction is excellent, and by the end of the summer we’ll have appeared together in two anthologies (though I’m sure he has no idea who I am). But somehow I felt awkward introducing myself to him after our encounter on the ferry, and having not recognized him. Nonetheless, I can say that I have met him, and from our brief conversation he seems like a pretty nice guy.

On a related note, the Joe Burke Literary Festival was a blast. The festival’s organizers dedicated it to a friend of theirs who loved writing, so there’s a heartfelt aspect to the proceeding that was actually quite touching. The seven writers presenting in attendance were all enjoyable – I plan on picking up Shaugnessy Bishop-Stall’s novel Ghosted in the near future – and it was a really nice afternoon altogether.

Mr. Heighton, I hope you enjoyed yourself as well, and sorry for not recognizing you. Though for all I know it happens all the time.

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