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Day Two: Interview with Sandra O'Connell

Conversations via 2013 Vancouver International Wine Festival.

Photo: Sandra O'Connell.

Sandra O'Connell is a writer and a storyteller.
She writes for her blog “Tales From a Bar Stool

She poses the question, “...why don’t people talk to each other anymore? Strangers don’t equal danger. Too often we surround ourselves with friends yet fail to meet the unknown. We put up barriers to the very people we can learn from and be inspired by. People enrich our lives. It’d be silly not to meet more.”

Taking her words to heart, I contacted Sandra for an interview before I arrived in Vancouver for the International Wine Festival. She agreed. Sandra shared a lot of information with me, especially her favorite places to eat. At the bottom of this article you will find a list of the places she mentioned.

Last week, at 10 am Tuesday morning, I met Sandra at BLENZ Coffee on the corner of Robson and Bute. We talked for an hour. BLENZ coffee had a good selection of coffee, chai, tea and other infused drinks; as well as samosas, tasty sweets and croissants. I settled in for our conversation with a mug of Matcha latte.

Note: Sandra had been writing incognito for “Tales From a Bar Stool.” She has recently “come out” so her persona is now public. That has changed things for her and was the first topic we discussed.
Our Conversation:

Sandra, how has coming out impacted your life? Before you were very discreet.
Sandra: I feel it has impacted my writing. I'm not as open to share some stories as I used to be. And I'm meeting a lot of really amazing people. Now that I'm actually more open about who I am. I'm going out there as me, as opposed to under a veil. Or under a fake name. I'm meeting really incredible people now, that I never had access to before.

Is writing your full time job?
Sandra: Yes, I write, copy-writing for friends and editorial work.

I'm interested in Vancouver from a local perspective. What are the places you like to visit?
Sandra: I have my circuit. I eat a lot at Coast and Black and Blue. They're both Glowbal Collection Restaurants. That's about the only time I'll venture out of Gastown. Which is where I live. Gastown has Alibi Room, Pourhouse, Keefer, Lily Mae's and Boneta, and there's such, such worldly restaurants. Fantastic.

I remember Gastown back in the 1980's as very touristy. It wasn't really a place for locals. It seems a big change.
Sandra: Yes, it is. It's where people live now. There are still tourists there. And the kitschy tourist shops. And all that stuff. But it also has that influx of restaurants and bars. It's definitely changed. I've lived in that area for seven years. I've lived in the Chinatown, Gastown area for seven years. It's peaceful. I never feel threatened or scared.

For someone new to Vancouver, you would say that Chinatown and Gastown are safe at night?
Sandra: It is fairly safe. As long as you have your wits about you and you look around, and you know what's going on around you. I'm absolutely fine.  People don't bother anybody. At least in my experience. Knock on wood. Which I don't see anywhere. (laughs.)

I'm in Vancouver for the Vancouver International Wine Festival. I'm wondering, do you have a favorite BC wine?
Sandra: Definitely Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris...and I drink, I drink a lot of New Zealand wine. (laughs.)

Quails Gate is really good. If I'm going red, it's an Italian Barolo or Australian red or a Cab Sav.

I love Asian food. Do you have any recommendations for Asian food?
Sandra: For Asian food? There's a new place in Gastown that just opened, it's called PiDGiN. It's amazing. It's excellent Korean food.

Any other places you like to eat at?
Sandra: The Flying Pig in Yaletown is very good. They have a split pea and ham soup that warms every piece of your body. It's just great.

Photo: Sandra O'Connell.

(Sandra turned the table at this point and started asking about my writing. I think I chew on my words when I talk. Back to Sandra.)

Sandra: I used to work in Commercial Real Estate. So I haven't been a writer for all that long. Maybe two years. A year really seriously. I find it odd to sell myself. It's a fine line between arrogance and selling yourself as a writer, as a commodity. That's what I'm finding.

Photo: Sandra O'Connell.
Vancouver has an active television and movie industry. Do you ever get into the movie world in Vancouver? Or in film production?
Sandra: I've seriously thought about it, it's something that I'd love to get into. Because I love the whole art of storytelling. I'm writing a screen play right now. I'm on my third draft. I'm getting closer to the end. And yeah. I hope. I don't know if it's any good. I think it's good. (laughs)

If that works out, then I'd... it's my dream. I'd definitely like to write stories for television.

You just the hit the nail on the head! That's exactly what I want. That's what I want.

I always meet someone. A camera guy, or sound guy or a producer.

I've been told that Vancouver is not always a warm friendly place for meeting people. Your thoughts?
Sandra: (laughs) There's an air of pretentiousness in Vancouver. An unfounded air of pretentiousness. People are not as friendly as they could be. People are closed off here. It's very cliquey. If you don't put in the effort to meet people, then you're just trapped. A lot of people are complacent with the friends they already have. They are not used to meeting new people. And I think that's sad.

I've met people who talk about their group of friends they've had for decades. Since they were young. Who are puzzled by their friends who do want to go out and meet other people. They don't understand. Why would you want to make new friends when you have such a great group of friends already?

Which is bizarre to me. I think people are enriching.
Photo: Sandra O'Connell.

How does social media tie into your self publicity and making connections?
Sandra: Twitter has been a really important part of my growth, with my blog and career. And personally as well. Some of my closest friends I've met with twitter. Meeting in person, I call them my closest friends. It's played a huge part with my life. I can't imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn't gone on twitter.

Yeah, primarily twitter. The friendships I have now, I don't know what I'd do without them.

People you thought would never be accessible are accessible. It blows my mind the people I interact with on twitter. It's a crazy platform. Peoples lives are open.

(When I'm doing these interviews, I have to remember to not talk about myself so much. Stick to the interview William...I shut off the recorder at this point, while we continued to chat.)

“Talk to everybody… It’s often the seemingly ordinary who are quite extraordinary.”
~ Sandra O’Connell

That evening, alone in my hotel room, I transferred the photos I took of Sandra to my laptop. I had an unexpected moment of “déjà vu” looking at her images. It felt as if I'd known those photos for years. They were instantly familiar, like discovering a box of photographs stored away and forgotten. That surprised me.

Thank you Sandra for visiting with me and sharing. You made my trip to Vancouver that much more memorable and enriching.

Recommendations by Sandra O'Connell:
  • Coffee:

BLENZ Coffee
1201 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC

  • Restaurants/Bars:

Coast Restaurant
1054 Alberni Street
Vancouver, BC

Black and Blue
1032 Alberni St
Vancouver, BC

The Global Collection

Alibi Room
157 Alexander St

Pourhouse Restaurant
162 Water St

Keefer Bar
135 Keefer Street

Lily Mae's Comfort Cafe
12 Powell Street

12 Water St

350 Carrall St

The Flying Pig
1168 Hamilton St

  • BC Wines:

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
500 Burrowing Owl Place
Oliver, British Columbia, V0H 1T1
Toll Free: 877.498.0620
Local: 250.498.0620

Quail's Gate Okanagan Winery
3303 Boucherie Road
West Kelowna, BC
Phone: 250-769-4451
Toll Free: 1-800-420-9463

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I hope you take time to create your own adventures and strike up conversations with strangers.


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