The word on Words in the Woods

By Basil Guinane
September 23, 2016 

A rainy day could not dampen the festivities of the first Dunedin Literary Festival. Almost 150 attendees braved the, at times, heavy rain to take part in author interviews, readings, music, food and games.

The festival, organized by Curiosity House Books owner Rina Barone, author Simon Heath and librarian Jenn Hubbs, took place in Dunedin on Sept. 17 and was held in the town hall and under tents in the Dunedin park.

According to Barone, “the Dunedin Literary Festival was started as a way to celebrate community and literature”. Barone also said that Dunedin was the perfect setting for a literary festival because of “the great community and the natural beauty of the area”.

The festival took over a year to plan and 20 volunteers were needed to get it up and running. In the words of Barone, “the festival would not have happened without them”.

Authors were interviewed about their most recent books and writing in general, and audience members were able to ask questions.

The festival featured two performances by author and poet Anne Michaels.

The first performance featured a reading from Michael’s recently published children’s book The Adventures of Miss Petitfour. Michaels was accompanied by musicians David GrayDavid Sereda and Colleen Allen who performed a number of tunes including a rousing sea shanty.

At the final event of the festival, Michaels was interviewed by local author Cecily Ross in the Dunedin Hall. The interview focused on Michael’s book Fugitive Pieces. This year is the 20th anniversary of book’s publication, which was an international bestseller and made into a movie in 2007. Michaels ended the session with a reading of recently written prose.

Attendees were also able to hear about local poet and translator Paul Eprile’s work on translating noted French author Jean Giono.  Eprile has translated one work, Hill, which was published by the New York Review of Books. Another Giono book, Melville, will be published and Eprile is working on a third Giono translation.

The New Farm’s Brent Preston talked about the forthcoming book he has authored with his wife Gillian Flies, The New Farm: Our 10 Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Movement. Preston talked passionately about sustainable farming as being viable and shared some of the challenges of starting a farming business.

Preston was enthusiastic about the festival, saying that it would help to build the community and bring attention to local authors. In the words of Preston, “the festival will get bigger and better known over time”.

This sentiment was echoed by Paul Eprile who said, “We are all in favour of enriching our culture and what could be better than doing that locally”.

Local mystery writer John Brooke talked about the publication of his seventh novel which features French detective Aliette Nouvelle. Brooke read from his most recent novel While the Music Lasts and talked about the challenges of writing mysteries set in France.

Brooke saw the festival as being important in helping local authors get better known.

The festival also featured activities for kids including face painting and digging for dinosaurs.  Sheep, a crowd favourite, were on site courtesy of Kennedy Metheral. According to Creemore resident and parent Tanya Rentsch, “The kids events were fantastic”.

Vendors were also present to promote local businesses, these included Creemore’s  O’Shea’s  family restaurant, the Clearview Tea Company, From The Blue House (With Love) and Angie’s Place in Stayner.

Janette Morrison, who was selling apples at the festival, described the event as “terrific and said that she, “was happy to see parents taking their kids to a literary event”.

Dunedin resident and event volunteer Steve Lucas said, “that it was great to see the park get used and fun to share our bit of paradise”.

The event received financial support from the Clearview Assistance Grant Program and an Ontario Arts Council grant.

Barone said, “These grants were very important as festivals are very expensive to put on and we wanted to make sure the festival could be a free event”.

When asked, both Barone and Heath said that they thought the festival had been a success and that they were excited about next year’s festival.  According to Heath, “We are already thinking about the authors for next year”.