25th Trillium Award

Five Things Literary: Eden Mills, with Janet Wilson

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Janet Wilson

Janet Wilson is a writer and illustrator whose most recent book is Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World (Second Story Press). In her book, Janet provides a collection of inspirational stories in which children around the world are making a difference, and she pairs them with her beautiful artwork. Currently living in the small hamlet of Eden Mills, which is located between Rockwood and Guelph, she witnesses the community?s own form of activism in their heritage preservation, environmental focus and aim to go carbon neutral. It?s not just these things that make Eden Mills so unique, however; home to the Eden Mills Writers? Festival, this community is, as Janet describes, "culturally mighty." In today?s edition of Five Things Literary, Janet tells us about the high concentration of literary talent in Eden Mills, the literary events that combine visual arts, dance and music, and the above-average children living in the village.


Five Things Literary: Eden Mills

  1. Eden Mills may be small, a heritage hamlet of 300 residents, but we're culturally mighty. Tucked away between Rockwood and Guelph in south-central Ontario, Eden Mills first emerged as a literary enclave when Leon and Connie Rooke invited guests to celebrate their friend Michael Ondaatje's new book. Over the next 25 years, hundreds of stellar authors of all genres were invited to the Eden Mills Writers' Festival to read to contented folks sprawled on lawns banking the Eramosa River.

  3. It is my firm, but unsubstantiated, belief that at one time Eden Mills boasted the highest per capita number of published authors in the world. The Rookes, Janice Kulyk Keefer and Linda Hendry have all won the GG Award. (Linda and I have over 50 books each, and Don Kilby has several, as well.) There have been cookbooks, historical novels, non-fiction books, scholarly publications and poetry anthologies produced by recognized publishing houses and, in addition, many self-published books of local history, edible plants and biographies. (My dear neighbour wrote eight volumes on Lady Jane Grey before her passing.) Eden Mills Going Carbon Neutral, an account of our grassroots environmental initiative, was written by Linda Sword and illustrated by Linda Hendry to be a resource to other eco-minded communities. When CBC host Shelagh Rogers lived here, we could also claim to have the best of all garage sale book tables.

  5. Several women in the village and I belong to a writing group called the Callithumpians, which means ?to make a joyful noise.? To raise money for the volunteer-run Community Hall, we wrote a murder mystery, Dinner to Die For. Internationally renowned impresario John Cripton added his magic in production and direction. This was followed by two even more elaborate song and dance productions. Call' gal Dale Hamilton is our country's foremost champion of community-based theatre. Her collaboratively written play, Take Me to the River, had participants numbering over 100 (reminder — we are only 300 residents). The audience followed the actors down the main street, past infant ice cream cones, toddler turtles and singing cat-ladies of the night, to a spectacular finale in canoes upon the millpond.

  7. Literary events in Eden Mills are often complemented with visual arts, dance and music. Each year, we celebrate winter's end and Earth Hour with Spring Miscellany, an eclectic evening of poetry and prose readings from local authors, plus singer-songwriters. One memorable evening featured the frenzied recitation of Leon Rooke and spoken word poets accompanied by improvisational jazz — the inspiration of the late, great Dave McMurdo.

  9. In Eden Mills, all the children are well "above average" and several are wonderful writers. Two-time EMWF poetry contest winner Ari Zimmerman contributed a poem to my book, One Peace: True Stories of Young Activists. The last line reads, "But then I remember, that two wrongs aren't right, and playing is smarter than having a fight. It takes me a while, but I eventually see, that peace must always begin with me." Ari was seven! Over the years, budding young Eden Millitants have contributed passionate writings in support of political campaigns such as the efforts to save our heritage bridge and eloquent protests against a proposed industrial park. Having been nurtured in such a rich literary environment, perhaps they will one day read from their own published work at the Eden Mills Writers? Festival.

Janet Wilson is an author and fine artist whose picture book Our Earth: How Kids are Saving the Planet was the winner of the Science in Society Book Award and named a Smithsonian Notable Book for 2010. It is also the finalist for the Silver Birch Express award from the Ontario Library Association. Her book One Peace: True Stories of Young Activists won the Children's Roundtable 2009 Information Book Award. She is the author/illustrator of Imagine That!, and the illustrator of In Flanders Fields, Out of Slavery and Jasper's Day, among many others. Janet lives in Eden Mills, Ontario, a community with a strong environmental focus that includes an initiative to be the first village in North America to go carbon neutral. Click here to visit Janet?s website.

For more information about Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World please visit the Second Story Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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