(Gananoque, ON) Once upon a time there was a little town in southeastern Ontario called Gananoque. One beautiful day, a tiny seed of an idea was planted in the minds of some literary minded folks. Before too long, that seed sprouted, took root and grew into the 1,000 Islands Writers Festival.
“Established in 2015 as the Gananoque Literary Festival and renamed in 2017 as it evolved to encompass the wider 1000 Island region, the event is a celebration of books, the literary arts and the creative process that aims to foster the discovery and enjoyment of reading and writing by bringing leading Canadian authors and their audiences together in relaxed and intimate conversational settings,” said Pam Hudson, Artistic Director of the festival.
From April 27-29, writers and communicators descended on Gananoque to share in the fourth annual 1,000 Islands Writers Festival, also known as Reading by the River. They came to teach, to sell their works, but also to mix and mingle with those of like and curious minds, inspiring some to step beyond their shy little corners to ask questions and learn more, perhaps to even put their dabbling out for others to see. Poets and song writers, novelists and writers of non-fiction, playwrights, illustrators and so many others were all there for the taking.
The festival has been getting better and better received with each passing year. For the price of a $65 festival pass all was available to any who wished to come out, or people could indulge in pay-by-the-segment tickets at $15-$20 apiece and attend only the sessions that interested them most. This year’s opening featured an intensive evening look at “Stories – A Matter of Life and Death” as festival patron Terry Fallis presented a humorous look at murder and mayhem with the guest writers and local singer/songwriter Kevin Head. It was a perfect way to start a weekend that was chock full of fun and knowledge for people of all ages and interests.
From a free session for kids and parents at the Firehall Theatre on Saturday morning featuring two stories read aloud by author Vikki VanSickle (“If I Had a Gryphon”) and illustrator Matt James (“The Pirate’s Bed”) as well as a first chance to see the Young Company’s play for this season, “The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate”, to hands on writing ideas and advice from a number of well respected Canadian writers, there was something for everyone.
Heather Smith (“Agony of Bun O’Keefe”), Terry Fallis (“One Brother Shy”), Kelly Armstrong (the Rockton series), Maureen Jennings (The Murdoch Mysteries), Barbara Fradkin (“Fifth Son”), Ken Cuthbertson (“The Dirt “The Halifax Explosion: Canada’s Worst Disaster”), Katherine Ashenburg (on Clean: An Unsanitized History”), Marissa Stapley (“Mating for Life”); singer songwriters Cliff Edwards, Kevin Head and Jenica Rayne; and fine artist Heather Haynes (known for the stories she tells through her paintings) – all had their own area of expertise and were eager to share all they could with their audiences. You could go from a presentation on the history of the Halifax Explosion by Cuthbertson to lunch with fun ways to find ideas presented by Jennings and Fradkin – everyone had a chance to enjoy something geared to personal interests.
Readings from Thousand Island related literature “Chess with Violence” by Hal McCarney, “The Island” by Robert Russell and “Of Time and an Island” by John Keats were presented on Saturday night with lots of live music by local artists. The event wrapped up with a breakfast with the authors held at the Old English Pub.
Venues for the weekend were chosen for their comfort as well as easy proximity to other sessions. Whether the Stonewater, the Heather Haynes Gallery, Sleepy Hollow B&B or the Firehall Theatre, all were ideally suited for the sessions they hosted.
“Our 1,000 Islands Writers Festival in 2018 is a celebration of our deep rooted love of stories, whether in a book, in song, or in art,” said Pam Hudson, Festival artistic director. “It is a celebration of writers and songwriters whose plots, characters and settings capture our thoughts and minds and allow us to escape – to walk life in a different set of shoes for a time.
“To our festival sponsors, our generous donors, our community partners, our avid supporters, and our treasured volunteers – thank you for all that you give. You have brought us into our fourth year as a festival and we are so very grateful to you all.”