25th Trillium Award

Five Things Literary: Perth, with Jennifer Jilks

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Jennifer Jilks

As part of our mapping of literary Ontario, we're highlighting five things about literary life in communities throughout the province. What do our cities, towns and villages have to offer writers, readers and the curious? Follow Five Things Literary to find out.

Today's feature on literary life in Perth — home to many great writers, including this year's Trillium Book Award–winner Phil Hall — was contributed by Jennifer Jilks. Jennifer's book, Living and Dying with Dignity, chronicles her experience caring for her ailing parents. Part memoir, part exploration of Ontario's Health Care options, it was recently published by General Store Publishing House.


Five Things Literary: Perth

1. Perth, established in 1816, is a delightful town. Just out of town, I go to the forest for inspiration for my blogs — where the birds, the bears and the bees provide much for my photography and writing.

2. We live in a community which embraces authors, artisans, actors, artists, agriculture and those who enjoy rural life. We have many festivals to celebrate, such as the Perth Garlic Festival, the Stewart Park Music Festival, the Festival of the Maples, the Perth Studio Tour, the Perth Fair and the Classic Theatre Festival.

3. The local library has many great programs, including children's programs to encourage readers. They are most supportive of all ages, and allowed me to host a "How to Get Published" workshop!

4. I've been working on a list of Ottawa Valley authors. Living in the Ottawa Valley, we have a strong community with many close ties. Only an hour from Ottawa, many have cottages here, where shallow lakes host much wildlife. I call it Cottage Country Southeastern Ontario!

Local bookstores have been good to local authors such as James Bartleman (pictured here), author of Raisin Wine: A Boyhood in a Different Muskoka (2007), Out of Muskoka (2006) and Rollercoaster : my hectic years as Jean Chr├ętien's diplomatic advisor, 1994-1998 (2005).

5. We have many strong women in Perth. Kay Devlin, 95, a resident of PCCC, is one of the wisest women in this community. Retired nurse, farmer, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, she has the wisdom and strength that life experience has granted to those who embrace it. About being in long-term care, she says, "You have to realize it's not the end of your life; it's a part of it."

She was getting extra home support, but caring for her husband began to be too much. They had Meals on Wheels for awhile, but the demands of caring for loved ones with dementia, as we all know, can be overwhelming. She is quick to let you know that her poetry is inspired by her current life situation, but she doesn't let that limit her mind. Her body has been limited in many ways, with aging. She recognizes her health issues, and her vision challenges, but doesn't let that stop her. She learned to paint at age 75. She writes and recites fabulous poems.

Jennifer Jilks is a retired teacher and educational writer. Her work with the young has been transferred to working with older adults as a Peer Health Educator with the Cardiovascular Health Awareness Program and as a Consultant with the Provincial Aging at Home Strategy. She blogs at ontarioseniors.blogspot.ca and at mymuskoka.blogspot.ca.

For more information about Living and Dying with Dignity please visit the General Store Publishing House website.

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

Would you like to contribute five things about literary life in your community? Send an email with your ideas to [email protected]

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