Do our authors love us? Does a bear…

What our authors had to say after we brought them to Thessalon for love, home baking and the undivided attention of readers and writers throughout the region.

From JamJamie-Zeppaie Zeppa:
Thank you for bringing me to your excellent literary festival.
Thank you for the warm hospitality, enthusiasm, and attention to detail which made it so excellent.
Thank you for picking me up and dropping me off, for making sure I was comfortable, for feeding me delicious stories and exquisite food.
Thank you for a place to stay, a place to read, a visit home.

Participating in Stories in the North was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had as a writer.
Warm regards and best wishes, and happy national novel writing month,

Jamie

From Jamie’s blog (You may want to click here and read the whole entry. She captures how so many of we Northern Ontario writers feel about where we come from.)
 

I left Northern Ontario almost thirty years ago, and have lived away ever since. But I went back to Thessalon last weekend as part of Stories in the North Literary Festival and when we passed the entrance to the summer camp I once attended, I felt a surge of excitement, not at the idea of leaving home, but at the idea of returning. The northern landscape, after so many years in a city, now seems like elsewhere: the long lines of hills, old stones emerging out of cold water, narrow farms, white pines against a dark sky.

 

Stories in the North was created four or five years ago by serious writers and readers.  A serious writer is someone who writes. These people write. They meet to share what they’ve written; they reach out to writing groups in other communities; they publish and host open mike nights. Their schedule for National Novel Writing Month is full (go to the cafe, the funeral home, the library, write for three hours, six hours, twelve hours). And of course, they created this literary festival, and found funding (through the Ontario Arts Council), and it runs smoothly and beautifully.

 

Writers with a connection to the north are invited (and paid) to lead workshops and to read, and the writer who accepts this invitation is rewarded by serious enthusiasm (along with music and home baking). This is a place where stories get told. Disappearing lakewater, pioneer grandparents, a woman on fire, a ghost sheep in the middle of the road. Stories that light up the windows against the coming dark.

 

Yes, you can leave home and seek out a community of writers elsewhere, or you can make one where you are. Elsewhere, like home, is a state of mind. The physical journey is not necessary. But community? Writers write to be read. Community is essential. Therefore meaningful. Therefore story-worthy.

 
 
Elizabeth CreithFrom Elizabeth Creith:
Please thank the entire committee of Stories in the North for inviting me to be your guest author in May. I was thrilled to be able to launch “Shepherd in Residence” in Thessalon, so close to where the events of the book took place.

Stories in the North took such good care of me – I didn’t have to think of anything except the workshops and the reading. The food was wonderful, and I particularly enjoyed the author dinner on Friday night, and the opportunity to socialize with the committee.

The workshop participants were so willing and eager! It was a delight to hear what they came up with in the humour workshop, and a pleasure to teach them.

As for the evening, your choice of Tradition Continued as a musical partner complemented “Shepherd” beautifully. The audience was everything I could wish for. I can’t imagine any way the evening could have been better.

I wish Stories in the North every continued success. Bringing authors to Thessalon does wonderful things for everyone: the audience, the workshop participants and, of course, the author!

Akiwenzie-Damm, KateriFrom Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm:

I think back on my time in Thessalon fondly. It truly was one of the most thoughtful festivals I’ve ever had the fortune to attend.

As a single mom, I was especially impressed by the way you not only accommodated my son but welcomed him. Although, like you, I believe this is the way children ought to be treated, it is rare in my experience.

Beyond that, I must say that I enjoyed the workshop – the group was enthusiastic and did great work.

The performance that night was fun and again, everyone from the MC to the volunteers at the door to the audience members was very warm and generous.

Though your festival is still growing, I’d say it is small, but mighty. Keep up the fantastic work and best wishes in your future endeavours.

From Shane Belcourt:Shane Belcourt

What makes the Stories in the North festival so special to me is that it is a community festival.  Who doesn’t love the hoopla-festivals with bright lights in a big city and an inflated feeling that you and the art are so damn special that you, the individual, transcend the community? The buzz!

But ultimately, that’s fleeting and pointless, and it’s these community-based festivals that really ground the art and artist.

You live amongst everyone, you spend time with them shoulder to shoulder, and you share your selves with each other. I cherish these kinds of festivals and hope that they, and Stories in the North, can continue forward.  Seems to me, the exchange between the artist and the community is mutually beneficial.  An experience I am still grateful for.

Jake MacDonaldFrom Jake MacDonald

I just wanted to let you know that I have just returned home to Winnipeg
from Thessalon, Ontario after doing a workshop and reading there. It was
organized by Angie Gallop and Heather Blois (among others) and they did a
fabulous job.

On my arrival on Friday night I was greeted by Angie, who had driven 90 km
in falling snow to pick me up. I was given a picnic basket full of goodies,
and taken back to Thessalon where I settled into a nice motel room
overlooking the lake. Then I was spirited off to Dr. Heather’s house where
two dozen people had gathered for a welcome dinner. It was very friendly and
convivial.

On Saturday I gave a day-long workshop for a good crowd of local
writers at the local church, and was joined in the afternoon by the
playwright Dan Needles, who happened to be in town. We answered questions
for the attendees and had a good time. Then it was off to the Masons Lodge
that evening where there was a great buffet dinner and a good crowd of
perhaps 60 people. I read stories, interspersed with songs performed by an
incredible local singer named JC. In my view he was slumming by being my
warm up act and livening up the audience with his songs.

I sold a pile of books (I ran out, actually) and made some long term
connections with the local writers.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. Exceptional in every way. I would
recommend these folks highly for OAC support. I have rarely seen such a warm
community so enthusiastic about Canadian literature.

Charlie_WilkinsFrom Charlie Wilkins

Dear Friends;

I am writing in support of the Thessalon Writers Festival, where I had the pleasure and honour of being the inaugural guest writer during the last weekend

of August, 2009. Over the years I have attended a significant array of writers’ events, both big and small, all over Canada, and need no urging to report that I have never been better treated or enjoyed myself more than I did in Thessalon. At every turn, from Friday evening to Sunday closing, I was hosted with generosity and dignity by people who clearly care about writing and Canadian literature, and who possess a genuine desire to bring an expanded awareness of these to their community along the north shore of Lake Huron.

The festival’s director, Heather Blois, is a most genial and courteous host, and she and her team of planners had clearly put in weeks of effort promoting the event, and on the event itself, which included two Saturday writing workshops, a Saturday night reading, and several social gatherings. The workshops were filled to capacity (more than 20 people in each), and drew participants from as far away as Sault Ste. Marie, where the festival had been pitched in a full-page newspaper feature several weeks earlier.

The Saturday night reading in the community hall was unlike anything I had ever attended. Expecting an audience of perhaps a dozen or so, I walked into a hall crowded with elegantly set tables, at which seventy or eighty curious and fascinated residents of the area (many of whom had never attended a literary event) had gathered to eat, drink and socialize, and to listen to my readings.

At the end of the event, I sat for a very satisfying hour signing books for the many people who bought them on site and wanted to comment or chat, or otherwise show their appreciation. One of the satisfying elements of that inaugural festival was that it was aimed at writers and readers specifically from the north, giving them added impetus to participate. The northern focus will undoubtedly deepen as the festival matures.

Meanwhile, I can say with certainty that this is an event any “northern” writer – any writer, period – would be happy to attend, and that it is all but certain to grow in significance and reputation. I’d be most happy to return anytime – indeed have kept in regular touch with those who treated me so well on that fine and fateful weekend last summer. I urge generous support for this unusual and exemplary little festival. Warm wishes.

Sincerely,
Charles Wilkins

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