Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

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Focus on: Thunder Bay
A Guide to Thunder Bay ’s Literary Scene
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Tucked cozily against the north shore of Lake Superior, Thunder Bay provides its writers with both solitude and community. The writers who make their homes here are never far from the awe-inspiring boreal forest, and it's this proximity to wilderness that encourages not only spectacular writing but also a supportive and involved writing community. Thunder Bay's writers connect through the Northern Woman's Bookstore, the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop, the bustling Thunder Bay Public Library and through numerous literary events throughout the year. Follow Focus On: Thunder Bay this June to meet the local authors and to find out why Thunder Bay is the best-kept secret on Ontario's literary map.

Thunder Bay News

The Proust Questionnaire, with Bonnie Ferrante

Thunder Bay novelist Bonnie Ferrante has published three novels with Noble Romance Publishing (Young Adult division). She has won several writing contests and has published poetry, short fiction, newspaper columns, children’s stories, accounts and lectures in periodicals, anthologies, magazines, newspapers and on-line for CBC. In 2014, Tradewind Books will publish her first Canadian novel.

In her answers to Proust Questionnaire, Bonnie tells us about her dream of happiness, her favourite flower, her greatest extravagance and more.

The Dirty Dozen, with Darryl Blazino

Thunder Bay author Darryl Blazino finds that wilderness camping distills life into two beautiful essentials: food in one's belly and a warm dry place to sleep. This simplicity, however, can only be fully enjoyed if it's shared with someone else.

A Brief Time in Heaven (Dundurn Press) is Darryl's unforgettable book of essays and photographs that shares stories gathered over 12 years of experience exploring northwestern Ontario's lakes.

Darryl is courageous enough not only to paddle into the great beyond, he's also taken on the challenge accompanied by young children — so for him, the Open Book Dirty Dozen was a piece of cake. Today he tells us about coaching Eric Staal, splashing cherry brandy into the fish-fry pan and tying the only three kinds of knots you'll ever need.

On Writing & Photography, with Mark Schacter

Photographer and journalist Mark Schacter views diverse aspects of our world through the lens of his camera. However far he may travel, he remains aware that Thunder Bay, the city of his birth, lingers at the corner of his mind's eye. "Thunder Bay still has the feeling of a temporary outpost perched on the edge of vast wilderness," says Mark. "That sense of being isolated, alone, vulnerable and ephemeral informs every photograph I take."

Mark recently had the opportunity to spend more time along the shores of the Great Lakes of his youth. His most recent book is Sweet Seas: Portraits of the Great Lakes (Fitzhenry & Whiteside), a stunning collection of photographs and essays about these awe-inspiring bodies of water. Today, Mark tells us how and why he undertook the challenge of representing the complexity of the Great Lakes with photography.

Etiology of a Writer’s Life

By Joan Skelton

As I finished my private anthology of stories about the Barrick (not Gold) family, entitled The Barn’s on Fire and Kay’s Down the Well, I saw multiple threads woven through it. One was the land. Many of the anecdotes involved farms in England and Ontario, homesteads in Saskatchewan, and cottages on Lakes Simcoe, Huron and Superior. Can a propensity, a behavioral trait, be inherited? The dog world is based on inheritability, not just with conformation, but with retrieving, herding and protecting. In the human world, though, there is antipathy to recognizing behavioral traits for fear of racial stereotyping.

I certainly saw the land-loving trait in me. When I arrived in northern Ontario, I felt as if I had come home. I was a person of the universe, not a city. Having been born, raised and educated in Toronto, I was never comfortable there. Although appreciative of art, music and academia, the developing gridlock of people and vehicles and buildings made me claustrophobic. At university, I escaped to Lake Huron, the Rockies and the Atlantic Ocean via summer employment. On the glacier-scoured rocks of Georgian Bay, my eyes absorbing bonsai trees leaning leeward towards retreating waves skirting away from shore, I was absorbed into the windswept scene. I flung out my first half-decent literary declaration to a would-be suitor sitting uncomfortably close beside me.

Focus On: Thunder Bay - The Recommended Reads

By Erin Knight and Megan Philipp

A writer who is drawn to Thunder Bay is a writer who thrives in the peace that the encroaching wilderness can offer. Ontario's northern forests and lakes have inspired writers across the province, but the ones who call Northwestern Ontario home will never be lacking in the sense of wonder necessary to the art. If you're looking for a book or two to pack with you on your canoe trip or if you need something to set your mind free, then look no farther. Poetry, memoir, children's picture books, novels and photography are all well-represented by the great minds of Thunder Bay.

At the Desk: Duncan Weller

For each book we readers eagerly open, there's a writer who's spent countless hours researching, organizing, writing and rewriting. The place where all this happens is unique to every writer, and we love nothing more than to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the site where it all happens. In Open Book’s At The Desk series, writers tell us about their creative processes and the workspaces that inspire them.

Governor General's Award-winning writer and visual artist Duncan Weller lives in Thunder Bay in a former drug house he calls "Disgraceland." But if you can look past the black ceilings and the holes in the walls, its actually a pretty great place to make art. In our first Focus On: Thunder Bay feature, Duncan describes why Disgraceland was the perfect place to compose his recent children's books The Love Ant and Big Electric Cat — even if it did lose him the girl.

The Last of its Kind

By Ashliegh Gehl

If you ask Margaret Phillips, a cofounder of the Northern Woman’s Bookstore, why she opened the quaint shop in Thunder Bay, she’ll let you in on a running jest. 
 “We joke, and say it was because we were tired of having to travel 1,000 miles to be able to get our books,” she said.

Photos from the Thunder Bay Festival of Trees

The Ontario Library Association's Festival of Trees™ went on the road for the first time this year, with celebrations of the Forest of Reading program in both Thunder Bay and Ottawa.

The road trip was a huge success, as you'll see from these photos of the sold-out Thunder Bay Festival. Thanks to the OLA for sharing these great images with Open Book.

For more details about the decision to take the Festival on the road, read our interview with Meredith Tutching.

Dorothy Parker Society Chapter Opens in Thunder Bay with an Anthology in the Works

Book reviewer and newspaper columnist Hubert O'Hearn is bringing the Dorothy Parker Society to Thunder Bay.

Dorothy Parker (August 22, 2023 – June 7, 2023) was known for her witticisms and wisecracks. She was a "quintessential New Yorker." Aside from her charm, she was an American poet, short story writer, critic and satirist. The Dorothy Parker Society took root in New York in 1998 and later branched to Los Angeles.

"I'd gotten to know Kevin Fitzpatrick, the head of the New York group, through reviewing his travel book on Dorothy Parker's New York - which is excellent by the way. So I asked him in an email if he had any objection to my forming a similar club, the Dorothy Parker of Society of Thunder Bay. He said to go right ahead, that there were no constitutional barriers, so I did. Essentially right now it is a Facebook page with an open invitation to join," he said.

Thunder Bay and Ottawa Prepare to Celebrate the OLA's Festival of Trees

by Erin Knight

If you think today's youth can only be inspired by the likes of Justin Bieber, then you've never been at the Ontario Library Association's Festival of Trees™ awards ceremony. Some 4,500 children, parents and teachers erupt with screams and applause every time the winning book in each category is announced. The Festival of Trees™, which is the culmination of the OLA's annual Forest of Reading® program, takes place all this week. It's a reading event like no other — the audience of cheering young readers have voted for the winning authors themselves.

The Festival of Trees™ has previously been held exclusively in Toronto, with over 9,000 students from the GTA and neighbouring regions attending. For years, communities in other parts of the province have been asking to host the festival. Logistically (and financially) this hasn't been possible in the past. However, inspired by the success of IFOA Ontario and thanks to a grant from the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund (OCAF), the Festival is going "on the road" for the first time, holding events this week in both Thunder Bay and Ottawa.

GRADE 7 & 8 ONTARIO STUDENTS HAVE THE WRITE STUFF: Write Across Ontario Winners Announced

Open Book: Ontario loves nothing more than discovering young talent, and we were honoured to partner with Planet IndigenUs and IFOA Ontario for the 2013 Write Across Ontario contest. This year's winners are Tamara Fuller (Grade 7) of Poplar Bank Public School in Newmarket and Sydney Kondreska (Grade 8) of Ecole Gron Morgan in Thunder Bay. Tamara and Sydney will each be awarded $500 and have their stories published in Open Book Magazine.

On Writing, with Shane Peacock

The Dragon Turn: The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His 5th Case is the newest installment in Shane Peacock's popular Boy Sherlock Holmes series (McClelland & Stewart).

Shane Peacock talks to Open Book about Davies, Dickens and disappearing dragons.

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book.

Get to Know Literary Ontario, with Vincent Ponka of Emmerson Street Press

Emmerson Street Press is an exciting new small literary publishing house in Thunder Bay. Readers will be drawn to their books by both the outstanding quality of the content and by the beauty of the books themselves. We had the opportunity to talk to the Emmerson Street Press publisher Vincent Ponka about how he started his press, what he's looking for in a manuscript and about Emmerson Street Press's first line of books, which will be published this year.

Five Things Literary: Thunder Bay, with Joan Baril

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 Thunder Bay was contributed by Thunder Bay writer and blogger Joan Baril.

Local History Comes Alive in Thunder Bay

Open Book: Ontario thanks Thunder Bay blogger Joan Baril for championing the achievements of her community's historical writers.

The Thunder Bay Museum is home to a small but lively book shop where residents and tourists alike can find a wealth of local memoirs and history books. The Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society's Publications Awards have been established to recognize the excellence of local writers and encourage new authors to delve into the rich history of Northwestern Ontario.

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