Some context is needed, for those who may not know who Godfrey was. Martyn Godfrey was born in Birmingham, England in 1949. He moved to Canada at the age of eight, worked as a teacher, and had a successful career writing childrens' books, largely fantasy and science fiction. In 1989, he was the Edmonton Public Library’s writer-in-residence.
|Old Strathcona branch of the Edmonton Public Library.
Godfrey passed away in 2000. He was only fifty-one years old; he would be sixty-six now. He left us tragically young, but he gave joy and inspiration to a great many people. A copy of his eulogy is here.
The eulogy mentions the dedication in Godfrey's book The Last War, and just that dedication line brought a lot of the story back to me. Most of all though, I remember Godfrey not for anything he wrote, but for something he did.
I very clearly remember Godfrey making a visit to my school class in Edmonton. When he was writer-in-residence, I was eleven years old and in sixth grade. I was beginning to grasp that writing books was something people did for a living. Authors weren't just names on the book covers; they were flesh-and-blood people who made up stories and wrote them down.
Now this funny, cool grown-up was sitting in front of us, explaining how he wrote books and fielding questions.
It made a powerful impression on the eleven-year-old me. I vividly remembered this man with a moustache and long, dark curly hair, and I was gratified to learn my memory was accurate:
I also thank the Edmonton Public Library, which is very much still with us. I haven't lived in Edmonton for many years, but I cannot overstate how important the EPL was in my childhood. I have always been a voracious reader, and the library enabled me to read more, and more widely, than I possibly could have done otherwise. It's not just a place to borrow books, important though that is; supporting projects like a writer-in-residence makes a real difference to the readers.
I'm delighted to see the program is still going, and the 2016 incumbents are taking up their places. I hope they can inspire today's readers in Edmonton as much as Godfrey inspired me.