It’s been just over a year since we began Paris Lectures and this event marked our tenth talk. Mark warmed up the crowd by sharing a small history lesson, recounting the Paris Mutual Improvement Society of the 1800s, a collective who ran their own “Paris Lectures” series. We began our talks without that historical context, but knowing we have historic precedence makes our modern-day undertaking all the more exciting for us.
The Paris Mutual Improvement Society group used to meet at a building on Grand River Street (which now houses the Grand River Taxi company), just down the street from where we meet now at Stillwaters. Eventually, they disbanded their Paris Lectures initiative due to low attendance. Although when we began we were never sure if enough people would show up to fill our allocated space, we find ourselves now in the opposite situation having more people on our waitlist than will fit into the venue. It’s a problem to be solved, for sure, but how times have changed in Paris hasn’t escaped us.
We also thought it interesting that the historic building where the lectures group met sits next door to the previous head office of the Paris Star. And we consider the journalistic tie to a legitimate community important. So we were excited to celebrate Megan’s accomplishments as a journalist and health reporter with this lecture – such important work.
For our creative warmup, we continued with the theme of words and writing and had attendees pair up and race to see who could draw the alphabet in the air the fastest. Much frantic motion and finger-air-writing ensued, but there’s nothing like laughter and friendly competition to put our speaker and crowd at ease. We’re grateful to the crowd every time for being willing participants in our shenanigans.
Finally, we let Megan speak for herself to convince us why she has the best job in the world. She relayed the early days of her career, graduating from school and beginning as an intern at the Toronto Star. She worked her way through the ranks of unlikely assignments to carve out her own niche as a health reporter, one who has influenced documentary filmmakers and inspired vitriol amongst readers.
As writers and content creators, we loved hearing the depth of Megan’s writing and journalistic process. And we definitely learned things. Here are some highlights:
Every story counts
You never know where a story will lead. Even an unappealing trip (in Megan’s case, to the Playboy Mansion, of which she says, “I would rather be watching open heart surgery”) will matter to someone. So take the assignment, do it justice, and be open to possibilities.
Done is better than perfect
In one of Megan’s editors’ words, “I don’t care if it’s shit, I care if it’s done.” We imagine this editorial approach could be immensely helpful in all kinds of situations (we’re certainly going to apply it to parenting our toddler).
Sometimes you don’t want to know the end of the story
Megan recounted several heartfelt stories she’d written over the course of her career. A man donating part of his liver to a stranger, women overcoming rough pasts to reclaim their bodies and families, and doctors making tough decisions and learning huge lessons in palliative care. Megan mentioned that there were some interview subjects she kept in touch with and others she intentionally didn’t. It seems important to balance that fine line between 100% transparency and your own sanity. Knowing yourself and your limits helps.
Finally, Megan also blessed us with the inside scoop on vegan date muffins (an unexpected whopping 1000 calories), a small plate of fried wings (more calories than a three course meal at the Keg), Super Bowl snacks and Cineplex popcorn (more calories than you want to know). While the topic is entertaining and engaging, the serious goal of her column is in educating the public on how to make healthier decisions about food where the real contents are disguised in good marketing.
True to the Star’s mission as a social justice enterprise, Megan gladly gave up her speaker’s gift and we held a 50/50 raffle in lieu. Megan selected the McMaster Children’s Hospital NICU volunteer group that ensures premature babies have the clothes and bedding they need as a recipient of half the proceeds. We raffled off a beautiful leaf pendant necklace from Found Studio, a generous one hour interior and landscape design consultation from Rooms & Blooms, and a 10% coupon for everything Studio50 including their large custom pieces. Three happy winners walked away with the prizes, and we raised just over $50 for McMasters. Thanks again to Megan and our donors for making that possible!
We always wish we had more time to talk to attendees during the event, but the chaos of set-up, tear-down and other logistics – including this time taking care that our two-year-old didn’t disrupt the event – frequently makes this difficult. We are so grateful that everyone comes out and enjoys each other’s company despite our scattered brains, and of course we are incredibly grateful to our speakers like Megan, who are the main attraction, and to our friends, like Jennifer Budd, who volunteer their help and service at every corner. ♥
That’s a wrap. We are taking a small hiatus for Paris Lectures over May 2016 (and possibly June) to settle into our family life as we anticipate the birth of our newest little girl (due late May). Keep in touch on Facebook for the latest Paris Lectures plans and/or via the Paris Lectures email mailing list. See you all again soon in a new season!