On Saturday, April 30, 2016, I attended four sessions of an excellent literary festival in Gananoque, a small town in South-East Ontario, on the St. Lawrence River. I have lived in the area for ten years full time, plus five years part time, plus sailed here during summer holidays for more than thirty years, but did not know that Gananoque once had (I have been unable to confirm this) an opera house on the premises where the TD bank is located now. Apparently it burned down and was never rebuilt, which is sad as François and I are opera lovers and would have delighted in attending a performance of La Traviata by performers from the New York Met Opera. But back to the books!
Twelve authors presented in an eclectic mixture of venues: library, brewery, living room, coffee shop, church, curling club, our local book shop and, at the end of all sessions, authors and the public met for a Literary Quiz in the pub of the Gananoque Inn & Spa.
I attended Terry Fallis’ workshop “Building an audience for your Writing” which was well attended by over twenty aspiring writers. Terry talked about how he became the well-known writer he is today by doing a Podcast of his first book, with a new chapter read each week. When that resulted in many inquiries for the book, he self-published it. The books sold like hotcakes, and he was offered a contract by McClellan and Stewart… the rest is history, e.g. translations into different languages, a CBC TV series, a Vancouver-based Musical that may be seen in other Canadian cities in the future.
Terry Fallis at Pub Quiz
I remember seeing Terry for the first time (he was at least 30 lbs. heavier than he is now), after he received his first Leacock Medal for Humour (he’s won a second one since). At that time, he gave us a sample of his humour by talking about adventures during his early childhood and young adult years and by reading from his books that are often quite hilarious, having us rolling on the floor with laughter… so to say!
On Saturday, Terry showed us the more serious (business) side of his: he provided us with an insight into the workings of Facebook, I-Tune, U-Tube, Podcasts, Blogs, etc. By explaining how each of them works, he removed the fear of the unknown in the almost all middle-age and plus female participants. There was one male present who didn’t think Facebook was for him.
In the afternoon I attended sessions with other authors at the Presbyterian Church. A moderator asked prepared questions, and the authors answered them in turn. There was ample time left for a Q & A period which the public made good use of. The following authors were present:
Denise Chong, The Concubine’s Children
Allison Pick, Between Gods
Carolyn Abraham, The Juggler’s children
Shane Peacock, The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim
Elly Mackay, Butterfly Park
Frances Itani, Tell
Craig Davidson, Precious Cargo
The last three authors, apart from Frances Itani, write and illustrate children’s books only. Frances writes novels for adults as well. Elly talked about the difficulty of having to keep the text of her books to a maximum of 500 words, as per her publisher’s request. She said that she does the illustrations before she writes the text in some cases.
Craig Davidson uses pen names (Patrick Lestewka and Nick Cutter) when he writes horrors and mysteries. His agent and publisher requested it. He talked about his experience driving a school bus, in Calgary, transporting mentally and physically challenged children for one year. During that time he collected enough material, just by listening to the children, to use as basis for his much acclaimed memoir Precious Cargo from which he read to us. The small sample of his writing was enough to make me want to read the book. I don’t know if I have the stomach for horror stories, but I may give it a try as Craig really impressed me (he also reminded me of one of our sons… also a writer of scary things… whose often gory drawings in Grade 4 and 5 scared the living daylights out of me and worried me—unnecessarily, as it turned out—about his emotional stability).
Craig at the Pub Quiz
Saturday night was fun time at the Gananoque Inn and Pub. Authors and the public joined in a Literary Quiz over a glass of wine, beer, and/or food while wracking their tired brains finding answer about Shakespeare, Dickens, Tiny Tim, Anne of Green Gables, Stephen King, dogs owned by U.S. Presidents’ wives, Musicals based on a books, and so many more tough subjects!
All in all, it was a great success, this 2nd Gananoque Literary Festival. It reminded me of the little engine that said: I think I can, I think I can and made it over the mountain top. Gananoque has certainly succeeded in creating a little jewel of a festival that did not pretend to compete with those held in big cities. The organizers as well as all the sponsors must be congratulated for having succeeded in a big way to bring readers and aspiring writers together with twelve Canadian Authors in a charming surrounding at an affordable fee.
Thank you to everyone!