BY JOY STRUTHERS
Festival Sunday in Eden Mills showcases Canada’s writers and publishers and the topics they care most about.
Nestled in the Eramosa River Valley just outside of Guelph, the picturesque village provides a perfect backdrop for spoken word, storytelling and song.
The publishers and booksellers line the main street of Eden Mills with tables full of books, magazines and art and many of the authors read from their recent works to audiences at six different stages throughout the small town.
This year, on Sept. 18, the weather was sunny and beautiful after the rain cleared up in the early morning. This was much appreciated because some years have not been so inviting.
The warm smiles and easy conversations made this festival very different from many academic gatherings and authors were pleased to discuss their work and sign copies of their books for fans.
Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke laughed loudly and recited lyrics spontaneously at the book signing table after his powerful and fun reading at the mill stage. He was joined by beloved author and performer Leon Rooke, and novelist and storyteller Nicholas Ruddock to the delight of the onlookers.
Clarke’s newest work, a novel called The Motorcyclist, was inspired by a journal of his late father’s, written in 1959. His protagonist Carl Black must decide between the free lifestyle of a biker and the more secure occupation of being a railway worker. Clarke’s father was also a railway worker who sought escape from his lifestyle.
Clarke’s academic focus is on perspectives of African descendants in Canada, specifically African-American slaves who settled in the East Coast. He calls this culture ‘Africadian.’ He addresses racism and the ongoing struggles of these descendants.
Author and historian Zig Misiak commented on the positivity of the festival.
“It is a gathering of like minds,” he said.
Misiak is the co-author of a teacher’s resource guide which focuses on Six Nations Iroquois and includes stories and music for different age groups.
He speaks about Native nations and aims to share real history he has gathered from oral and written accounts.
The stories and art come from Raymond Skye, from the Grand River Six Nations.
Justicia for Migrant Workers handed out information by the book tables about their campaign and pilgrimage across Ontario which started in Leamington and will end in Ottawa.
They are a volunteer- run group of educators, researchers, students, labourers and organizers based in Toronto who hope to bring awareness about the treatment of migrant farm workers.
Author Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour donated a portion of the sales of two of her books of poetry to the Brantford Women in Crisis Centre.
In Picking up the Pieces she writes:
“Weep with me …
Let your moments of desperation be but a
Stepping stone to a new world
Let the river of words within these pages heal your soul …
The book is dedicated ‘to all my sisters.’”
Amnesty International also had a stand at the festival and fundraising director Rosemary Oliver promoted a book club program for Canadians to read great books and fight for human rights.
Each book is related to current human rights cases and is partnered with writing by an acclaimed guest and discussion questions.
Libraries and groups support Canadian authors by sharing their work and discussing it.
“We are trying to find new ways to get people talking about human rights issues,” Oliver said.
Powerful voices and strong feelings about issues resonated in the peaceful town of Eden Mills during the annual Writer’s Festival in the best possible way.