BY BILL YOUNG (Hudson Gazette)
Greenwood’s StoryFest continues on Monday, October 28th, at The Hudson Village Theatre, this time with a movie, Sarah Polley’s highly-praised Stories We Tell. Show-times are 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm.
“Stories We Tell.” is an absolute gem. Centered on an odyssey headed by Polley in search of a secret about her own family, the story-line ultimately shifts direction, to measure instead the reactions of family members to other secrets, as well as to secrets they each carry within themselves.
The National Film Board of Canada describes “Stories We Tell’ as a work that “excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.”
The New York Times calls it remarkable, the kind of film that must be seen to be believed. And frankly, it really is that good.
The story of “Stories…” is quite straight forward. Because Polley saw too many gaps in her knowledge of her mother Diane, who died when Sarah was only 11 years old, she set out not long ago to find answers.
Drawing on her film-maker persona, she decided to interview on camera those who knew Diane – from family members to her mother’s close friends to others who had come to know Diane in different ways.
Polley’s approach was to sit down with each one individually, almost always in settings comfortable for the interviewees, and begin by asking straight-up: “Can you tell me the story of my mother as though I were someone who never met her?”
The results themselves are extraordinary for the many and varied observations her not-so-simple question elicited. However, the genius of the film reaches further than that, to the way Polley draws on the richness of these observer comments to produce a complex, layered narrative, one layer resting on the next, that is as mystical as a pyramid.
As each interview produces new stories and new secrets, perspective constantly changes, challenging the very core of our assumptions, again and again.
By the time the film ends, the viewer is caught up as much in the complexity of the stories, their inherent inaccuracies within the act of storytelling and the amorphous nature of truth, as he is in the complicated revelations themselves.
Only the viewer can decide if Polley’s first question, “What can you tell me about my mother?” ever does get fully answered.
Critic David Thomson, writing in The New Republic describes ‘Stories We Tell” as a work of art that stays with the viewer long after you have seen it, even after repeated viewings. In fact, he suggests that the film is so well crafted and so wonderfully complex that the viewer will want to watch it again and again.
While ‘Stories We Tell’ is classified as a documentary, which is probably where it belongs, many critics, including Thomson, see it as something more, what Thomson has labeled “narrative magic.”
“Just when you think you know where [the movie] is heading and what it’s emphasising,” wrote one reviewer, “the film unexpectedly changes direction. It’s so beautifully done.”
It really is. But don’t just take our word for it. Come and see for yourself.
BY AUDREY WALL
How does a literary festival like StoryFest manage to attract Michael Ondaatje and Linda Spalding as their guests? As one of the organizers of StoryFest, a festival that promotes and applauds storytelling of all kinds, here is my story of how this came to happen.
As part of a very wonderful and resourceful StoryFest committee, we are constantly looking for inspiring and influential authors to bring to Greenwood’s festival which is held each year in October in Hudson. Of course, Michael Ondaatje’s name was always at the very top of the list of authors we would like to invite. One of Canada’s most celebrated and best known authors, Ondaatje is known nationally and internationally, and his career has included almost every prestigious literary award, including multiple Governor General Literary Awards, the Giller Prize, and the Booker Prize. The author of The English Patient, The Cat’s Table, In the Skin of the Lion, Divisadero and Anil’s Ghost, among many other works, is also an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Linda Spalding is a writer and editor whose most recent novel, The Purchase, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction last year. Spalding and Ondaatje are a husband and wife team, and together with Spalding’s daughter, Este, are on the editorial board of the national literary magazine The Brick. Last year, as a representative of StoryFest, I attended the Governor General’s Literary Awards at Rideau Hall and had the great fortune to hear Spalding’s very gracious acceptance speech when she won the coveted GG for fiction.
After the ceremony, I went over to speak with one of StoryFest’s previous guests, writer Merilyn Simonds, who happened to be in conversation with Michael Ondaatje. As she introduced me, Merilyn launched into a very animated description of StoryFest, which included our beautiful heritage home, Greenwood, which all our guest authors visit, and the unique converted train station that is Hudson Village Theatre where our guests speak. Michael seemed interested in StoryFest, and asked where it was held. Merilyn and I both spoke at the same time, “Hudson!”
“But where is that?” he asked. When he discovered that it was only a short drive from Montreal, he said “I’m in!” and I literally danced with joy on the spot—and also saw a fantastic chance to perhaps bring the brilliant Linda Spalding to StoryFest 2013 as well. So I said quickly: “And of course, we want your wife too!” to which he replied: “Ask her!” And so I did. The opportunity presented itself a little later in the evening when I met Spalding and repeated the conversation I’d had with her husband. Linda said she would be delighted to come to StoryFest too—and here we are, with great pride, welcoming Linda Spalding and Michael Ondaatje to our town this weekend.
BY AUDREY WALL
StoryFest’s special guest Charles Foran may just be visiting Hudson next week, but his roots in Montreal and Quebec are deep.
Foran, who once lived in Montreal and hails from a francophone and Irish background, has written extensively about Quebec in his journalism and essays — and perhaps never more eloquently than in his much awarded biography of Mordecai Richler and his latest biography of Maurice ‘The Rocket’ Richard. Over the years, Foran has become a well-established participant in the all the ongoing conversations that characterize Quebec, whether it be in his articles for The Globe and Mail or The Walrus, or the many other venues where his work regularly appears.
His special appearance at StoryFest this Tuesday, October 15 will provide a unique opportunity to listen and meet this well-seasoned observer of the Quebec scene.
Governor General award-winning author Foran, a novelist, journalist and essayist, won the coveted GG as well as the Hilary Weston Award, the Canadian Jewish Book Award, and the Charles Taylor Award in 2011 for his definitive biography Mordecai: The Life & Times.
But Foran brings other concerns and issues to any discussion as well.
From 2011 to just last month as president of PEN Canada, Foran headed the Canadian effort of the international organization that campaigns on behalf of writers around the world who are persecuted, imprisoned and exiled for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Foran lived in China in 1989/90 and witnessed the democracy movement that culminated in the Tiananmen Square massacre, and his award-winning non-fiction book The Last House of Ulster chronicles the life of a Catholic family from Belfast and the human cost of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.
His works of fiction, like The Butterfly Lovers, Carolan’s Farewell and Kitchen Music will also satisfy any reader looking for literary works of great beauty and resonance.
All in all, Foran’s visit promises to be an absorbing and fascinating evening.
BY SUSAN GILMORE LOMBARD (Hudson Gazette)
Emma Donoghue is a true Renaissance woman. Her powerful novel Room, narrated by a five-year-old named Jack, was shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize and Orange Prize, and won the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, among others. Her writing encompasses a wide range of subjects and genres, including literary history and drama for stage, radio and screen, but she is best known for her fiction. She has written seven novels, five short story collections and is currently working on her next novel, a mystery entitled Frog Music which will be published in the spring of 2014.
In 2012, Donoghue’s stage play The Talk of the Town based on the life of Maeve Brennan, short story writer for the New Yorker in the 1950s and ‘60s, was staged in Dublin to great acclaim. Her ability to evoke the quick, sharp, witty dialogue of sophisticated writers of the day, engages the audience and brings them into a world of the talented young men and women in the golden age of short story writing at the magazine. It also presents Brennan’s struggles with her sense of self and her private demons.
Emma’s book of short stories, Astray, published in 2012, is outstanding as it explores the world of the “other”, not only in terms of place and time “…lighting up four centuries of wanderings…” but also with regard to departure from the expected. In Donoghue’s words, “… focusing on North America and the theme of life-changing journeys this time, Astray is an oddly autobiographical book. Having emigrated twice, as I explain in the Afterword, I have a stake in these storylines.”
Donoghue grew up in Ireland where she attained her Honours BA in English and French at University College Dublin, went on to do her PhD at the University of Cambridge and from the age of 23, she has earned her living as a writer. After spending a number of years travelling back and forth from Ireland, England and Canada, she has settled in London, Ontario, where she lives with her partner, Chris Roulston and their two children.
StoryFest kicked-off on the evening of October 1st with “Meet the Author” Lorne Elliott at the Hudson Village Theatre.
Lorne is a writer, humorist, storyteller, playwright, musician and performer.
An afternoon tea on the 3rd October at the Hudson Community Centre welcomed Helen Humphreys.
Helen has written four books of poetry, six novels and one work of creative non-fiction. In 2000, she won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for “Afterimage”; and “Wild Dogs” won the 2005 Lambda Prize for Fiction.
By WALTER J. LYNG, October 2nd, 2013
Greenwood’s StoryFest started out as a small and intimate affair. With the 11th edition now underway, it may still be intimate, but it’s far from small. With various events taking place until the end of October, the annual literary festival put on by the Greenwood Centre for Living History in Hudson will surely have book lovers swooning.
“We’ve kept the tradition of story telling alive by keeping this literary festival going,” says the festival’s executive director Audrey Wall.
“Over the past 11 years, it’s grown tremendously.”
StoryFest will this year be welcoming Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient and many other celebrated works. As Wall explains, Ondaatje’s involvement with the festival came out of a chance meeting at the Governor General’s Awards. “When I asked Michael Ondaatje to come, it was an interesting coup,” she says. After the two were introduced and the concept of StoryFest was explained, Ondaatje had an important question. “[He said] ‘It sounds good, but where is it?’”
To that extent, Wall has also become something of a spokesperson for the area.
“At this point, we figure we’re putting Hudson on the map,” she says.
Joining Ondaatje will be the winner of last year’s GG Award for fiction, Linda Spalding — who also happens to be his wife. The authors will each headline their own events with Ondaatje taking to the stage on Friday, Oct. 18 at Hudson Village Theatre, and Spalding being featured at a breakfast on Saturday, Oct. 19 at St. James’ Church Hall. And while tickets for Ondaatje’s event are sold out, Wall says there’s a good chance that he might be at the breakfast as well.
In addition, the festival will also welcome the likes of Helen Humphreys, Emma Donaghue, Charles Foran, and Josip Novakovich, who was a finalist this year for the Man Booker International Prize.
Novakovich will offer a workshop for writers on Sunday, Oct. 5. At the tail end of the festival will be a meet-and-greet with Michael Crummey on Oct. 29 and playwright Bonnie Laing on Nov. 1 and 2.
StoryFest will also feature other events, such as the annual Storytelling afternoon on Oct. 6, and the screening of Stories we Tell, hosted by the Hudson Film Society on Oct. 28. All the events will be held at various local venues, such as Hudson Village Theatre, the Stephen F. Shaar Community Centre, St. James’ Church, and Greenwood House itself.
By BILL Young, Montreal Gazette September 18, 2013
If you’re a compulsive reader, keep an eye on October. And Hudson!
For once again, the Greenwood Centre’s StoryFest is coming to town.
From October first and the moment local humourist, and now novelist Lorne Elliott steps on the Hudson Village Theatre stage, right through to October 29 when Newfoundland author Michael Crummey brings down the curtain, StoryFest promises to serve up one delicious literary treat after another.
Among the headliners is Michael Ondaatje, perhaps the most honoured of all Canada’s literary figures. He will be centre stage at Village Theatre on October 18.
Ondaatje’s accomplishments are legendary. He is a five-time recipient of the Governor-General’s Literary Award, a winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize - and a runner-up for both.
Internationally, his novel The English Patient earned him the prestigious Booker Prize and was later made into an Oscar-winning film. But, and this is perhaps StoryFest’s underlying strength, he is only one of this year’s participating authors to have received similar high honours.
Emma Donaghue (October 9) was short-listed for both the Booker Prize and the Governor-General’s Awards in 2010 for her novel Room, while Josip Novakovich (October 5 - Writers’ Workshop) was placed on the short list for this year’s Man Booker International Prize, in recognition of his full body of work.
Charles Foran (October 15) was accorded the Governor-General’s Award for Nonfiction for his biography of Mordecai Richler in 2011. He had already been shortlisted in 1995, as had Michael Crummey in both 2001 and 2009.. Crummey made the final cut in the 2001 Scotiabank Giller competition.
And then there is Linda Spalding, the 2013 winner of the Governor-General’s Award for Fiction, for her novel The Purchase. She will be the special guest at a literary breakfast on October 19.
As it happens, Michael Ondaatje and Linda Spalding are husband and wife. With six Governor-General Awards between them, they are quite possibly the only wedded couple in Canada qualified to occupy a niche in the ‘family’ corner of Canada’s pantheon of literary excellence.
Audrey Wall, Greenwood’s Executive-Director first met the literary twosome last winter at the Governor-General’s reception for award winners. One conversation led to another and a few months later both laureates had kindly accepted Wall’s invitation to read at StoryFest.
“We are particularly fortunate and honoured that Michael Ondaatje and Linda Spalding found themselves free to join us this year,” said Wall recently. “We gladly welcome them – and in such stellar company as Helen Humphreys, Emma Donoghue, Charles Foran, Michael Crummey and our own Lorne Elliott.”
The informal listing of literary honours and awards that appears above was prepared with the help of my colleague on these pages, Terry O’Shaughnessy.
Our intention was to underscore the fact there is nothing extraordinary about the number of acclaimed literary figures attending StoryFest this year. Rather, their presence reflects a pattern of accomplishment which seems to hold true for participating authors every year.
Why even Louise Penny, author of the prize-winning Inspector Gamache mystery series, is a former guest reader, having taken part in a PreStoryFest event in early 2010. Her latest release How The Light Gets In currently sits at Number One on the New York Times Best-Seller list,
Such uniform excellence only confirms what organizers have long believed, that authors have come to regard StoryFest as a literary destination of some importance.
“Every year we claim that this year’s collection of authors was the best yet,” notes Susan Gilmore of the StoryFest committee, “and every year that turns out to be true.”
Once the rest of the country learns of it, she says - watch out.
Or, as O’Shaughnessy suggests, borrowing from Miss Jean Brodie, "StoryFest Alumni are the always the crème-de-la-crème.”
Baseball historian Bill Young was a founding member of Greenwood’s StoryFest programme. He lives in Hudson.
By BRENDA O'FARRELL
One of the biggest annual events organized by the Greenwood Centre for Living History is StoryFest, a showcase that is becoming a must-see event, attracting the biggest names on the Canadian literary scene.
The lineup of authors who will attend this year’s edition in October read like a who’s who of Canadian writers. The headliners, announced last week, include Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient and other celebrated works, and last year’s winner of the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, Linda Spalding. Spalding, who is married to Ondaatje, won the top Canadian award for her novel The Purchase.
“When they so readily answered our invitation to appear at StoryFest this year, we were over the moon,” said Greenwood executive director Audrey Wall. “It’s such a coup for us. Ondaatje and Spalding are quite the double bill.
“Our committee works very hard to bring the best of Canadian writing to town. We are very grateful to Canadian authors for their growing interest in our festival.”
Also confirmed to host events throughout the month-long festival are Helen Humphreys, the author of several novels, including Leaving Earth and The Reinvention of Love, who lives in Kingston, Ont.; Irish-born writer Emma Donaghue, whose 2010 novel Room was an international bestseller and a finalist for the Man Booker Prize. She now lives in London, Ont. Also expected is novelist Charles Foran, a former Montrealer, and poet Michael Crummery of Labrador.
For a complete schedule of events and ticket information, go to greenwoodstoryfest.com.
*As printed in Off Island Gazette, (Montreal Gazette,) July 17, 2013.
By TERRY O'SHAUGHNESSY
Hudson’s own literary festival, StoryFest, has achieved a first in its 10 year history: an invitation to the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Awards Ceremony being held at Rideau Hall in Ottawa today.
Audrey Wall, executive director of Hudson’s Greenwood Centre for Living History, which presents StoryFest every autumn, couldn’t be more pleased.
“I’m absolutely thrilled for StoryFest to have been invited to such a prestigious event,” she said. “All the major Governor General literary prizes are awarded during the evening, so it’s very special for our literary festival to be there, too.”
It’s the first time StoryFest has been invited to attend.
“We are so excited for Story-Fest to be recognized in this way,” Wall added.
The annual literary festival held in Hudson has grown since its inception 10 years ago. Building upon the original Greenwood Centre’s Gigantes Series, launched with the support of former senator Philippe Gi-gantes, StoryFest attracts prestigious names on the Canadian literary scene.
M.G. Vassanji, Wayson Choi, Nino Ricci, Jane Urquhart and Joseph Boyden are only a few of the leading lights of Canadian letters to have appeared at StoryFest.
Globe and Mail columnist Jeffery Simpson was a special guest this year, as was journalist Sally Armstrong. Linden MacIntyre, Jan Wong and Stevie Cameron are just a few of the other names that have appeared on the StoryFest roster of guests over the years.
Local support, a finely honed team of Greenwood volunteers, and support from the Canada Council for the Arts have ensured that StoryFest keeps growing in stature.
“This was StoryFest’s most successful year,” Wall said. “Both in attendance and popularity, we had our best year yet.”
And who knows who may be enticed to come to Hudson next year.
“Well,” said Wall. “at such an event as the Governor General Literary Awards, no doubt I’ll be scoping out the possibilities for next year!”
The Governor General’s Literary Awards are given annually to the best English-language and the best French-language book in each of the seven categories: fiction, literary non-fiction, poetry, drama, children’s literature (text), children’s literature (illustration) and translation (from French to English).
The Greenwood Centre for Living History is a historic home and garden dating back to 1732. It is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization and StoryFest is its most important fundraising event.
This article was featured in the Off-Island news section of the West Island Gazette
By SANDRA STEPHENSON
Performing poetry isn’t what it used to be. New trends in performance art, spoken word, poetry, socially responsible rap and hip-hop come together in Hudson at Galerie Hudson (3663 Harwood Blvd) on October 11 at 7:30pm.
World Slam Champion in 2010, Ian Keteku will share the stage with experimental word artist, Oana Avasilichioaei and local poetess, specialist of the “2-day poem,” Paris Sea in this year’s Storyfest Poetry Invitational event.
Ian and Oana are known for creating new boundaries for poetry in performance. Using technology and plain old speaking voice, they create new worlds and new hopes. “I wonder,” Ian muses in one of his pieces which he performs standing on his head, “whether stars in the night sky ever wish on shooting humans, what butterflies get in their stomachs when they are scared…” This is poetry to listen to, to hear as music.
Oana, recently writer in residence at U. Calgary, wrote: I am the masquerade, the railing through which your fingers slip. I am the circle, unfinished because you refuse to end me. …. You don’t notice that the burlap has worn itself thin by endlessly pleading with you; the rub of grain that will not sprout. But you don’t listen. Instead you leave a trail of grains and peonies behind you….
Paris Sea is a mother of four, West Island resident, and two-time winner of the CV2 poem contest who judged their 2011 competition. In it, writers receive a list of 10 words, which they have forty-eight hours to compose into a poem. Her work is engaging, with frequent humour and dazzling word-play.
Past readers in the Storyfest poetry event have included Karen Young, Susan Gillis, Mark Abley, John Asfour, David Solway, Claudia Coutu Radmore and others of national and international stature.
Please join us for the Poetry Invitational at Galerie Harwood on Thursday, October 11 at 7:30 pm. Entry is free for Storyfest pass-holders, $5 for students and $15 for general public. Books and CDs will be available for purchase.
Storyfest is a fund-raising event for Greenwood Centre for Living History, Hudson, and is sponsored in part by the League of Canadian Poets and Canada Council for the Arts.
BY SUSAN GILMORE LOMBARD
Jeffrey Simpson, national aff airs columnist for Th e Globe and Mail for more than 25 years and author of eight books, including his latest, Chronic Condition: Why Canada’s Health- Care System Needs to be Dragged into the 21st Century, will be the featured guest speaker on Tuesday, October 9, as part of the Greenwood Centre for Living History’s 10th annual StoryFest.
Simpson’s keen observations and analyses of national and international issues, ranging from Canada’s climate change challenges to the impact of living with the star-spangled neighbour to the south, offer thought-provoking insights into Canada and the world around us.
He has been awarded all three of Canada’s leading literary prizes – the Governor General’s award for non-fiction writing, the National Magazine Award for political writing, and the National Newspaper Award for his newspaper columns.
Born in New York, Simpson came to Canada at the age of ten and attended University of Toronto, Queen’s University, and The London School of Economics. He has been a guest lecturer at Oxford, Edinburgh, Harvard, Princeton, University of British Columbia, among a number of other universities in Canada and abroad, and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2000.
Simpson has been recognized for his excellence in public policy journalism and public discourse. These skills were put to excellent use in his research into and thinking about the healthcare issues in preparation for writing his latest book. In Chronic Condition: Why Canada’s Healthcare System Needs to be Dragged into the 21st Century, he presents ideas that need to be debated in order to improve Canada’s healthcare system. He asks questions that involve funding and how choices are made when deciding how to spend tax revenues, he puts forward new ways to fund an ageing population’s medication needs, and looks at a number of European countries, such as France, Germany, the U.K. and Sweden, that have different and effective ways of keeping universal, extensive healthcare without compromising the overall system. He states that Canadians must be ready to ask direct questions of the policy makers and politicians so that discussion can take place and Canada can create a new and viable healthcare system for the 21st Century.
This is an event not to be missed and will take place at the Hudson Village Theatre on Tuesday, October 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Greenwood’s StoryFest presents Wayson Choy at the Hudson Village Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2. Tickets $15, at Pure Art, www.greenwoodstoryfest.com or at the door. Festival passes available for all StoryFest events. (Gazette photo) by JIM DUFF
Writer Wayson Choy, who describes himself as lucky, tells the following story:“I just came back from Vancouver, two weeks later than I had planned. I’d had an asthma attack in Vancouver because as it turned out, for the Olympics six years ago they planted only male trees because female trees shed and male trees are more decorative and ‘clean,’ quote unquote.” It was Choy’s misfortune to be in town the day a temperature drop caused all those male trees to pollinate, “a last chance at a big orgasm.” Soon the severely asthmatic Choy was in respiratory distress. He was taken to University Hospital and spent the next eight hours in the ER, recovering from another of the increasingly acute asthma attacks he describes in his latest memoir, Not Yet.
The 73-year-old author and teacher, who kicks off this year’s Greenwood StoryFest onstage at the Hudson Village Theatre next Tuesday, Oct. 2, has turned his life experiences into a series of best-selling novels and memoirs — his 1995 debut novel The Jade Peony, his 1999 memoir Paper Shadows and his second novel All That Matters.
All are set in his boyhood in Vancouver's Chinatown, part of a strange city-state where the British topped the caste system and white trash lorded it over First Nations peoples and Canadian-born descendants of a dozen Asian nations. This was the society that gave Canada the Exclusion Act, the head tax and the Komagata Maru. But you won’t find anger in Choy’s work. “I have an excellent life, a lucky life,” he explains. “I always talk about my life as a writer and how lucky I have been, mainly because I have this great faith in the world, that enough good people and decent people are holding up the sky. Many of them are writers and readers.”
I suggested that he’s lucky to have the option of writing for pleasure. “Well you be careful,” he said, “because I write for money. All my books have been assigned. I knew I’d be a writer one day, but because I published a short story (Jade Peony) and it kept getting republished, someone asked me if I had any short stories, I said I thought I’d retire and write one day, and suddenly somebody made an offer and got me an agent, and I wrote a collection of short stories that turned into my version of Dubliners.”
In 2005, he received the Order of Canada in recognition of his work as a writer and teacher. No longer teaching full time, Choy is a part-time instructor at Toronto’s Humber College where he spends his days doing what he loves best — giving writing workshops for a master class or talking about his life as a writer at Toronto’s Humber College. “I find it interesting to be interested in my own life,” he says without a trace of modesty, false or otherwise. “I don’t know what I’m saying until I say it.”
Choy, in wide demand as the opening act at writers’ festivals across Canada, isn’t fazed by the intimate size of the HVT venue. “Whether it seats 10 people or a hundred people, if they’re interested in books, I’m interested in them. Books are my life, teaching is my life and I guess I’m a ham as well, so that adds up.” The interviewer’s trick is to probe for cracks in the wall most writers live behind.
Choy has no wall; rapport is almost instantaneous. After discovering we’re both lifelong asthmatics we gleefully explore the emotional impact of realizing we’ve left our meds at home or the medical risks waiting too long to take them. Choy could teach Big Pharma.
It was only after we’d said goodbye that I realized Wayson Choy’s secret weapon. His curiosity about the world around him is insatiable. He’ll quickly turn the Hudson Village Theatre into a writer’s workshop, where he’ll make us all his students. I can’t imagine a better choice to open StoryFest’s 10th anniversary season.
Trevor Ferguson and Johanna Skibsrud enjoying Greenwood hospitality.
David Gossage joins Joanna, Trevor and Greewood members...
Authors open up at StoryFest teaser
Giller winner, local crimewriter, celebrated flautist charm Greenwood preview June 15
By KATINKA RUBIN MICHAUD
HUDSON — What better way to pass a rainy weekend than in the company of two of Canada’s most celebrated writers and a world-renowned musician?
This past Sunday, the Greenwood Centre for Living History kick-started its StoryFest fall event with a fantastic spring reading afternoon. Scotiabank Giller Prize winner, Johanna Skibsrud, and local author Trevor Ferguson, accompanied by Celtic flautist David Gossage, provided a wonderful treat for approximately 60 people at St. Mary's Hall.
Skibsrud started her reading by telling the audience that she sees her novel, The Sentimentalists, in terms of an exploration of living history. “The idea for the novel first came to me when I was canoeing over at Lake Flagstaff in northern Maine, which is a lake that covers over a town which had to be relocated when a hydroelectric dam was built in the middle of the twentieth century.”
“It was a striking experience, you could still see trees that would emerge through the water. The physical presence of history that surrounded me and this presence of history in our daily life was the first inspiration in writing The Sentimentalists.”
That was the summer Skibsrud had enrolled in an MA program at Concordia University. She had the beginning of a story in her head about an eccentric man named Henry, who lived in a imaginary lake town in a house that overlooks his submerged original home. "As I was exploring these ideas of buried history and buried memory," Skibsrud continued, "my father began to tell me about his experiences during the Vietnam War. I was immediately struck by the intersections between his stories and my story. I began to weave his real-life stories into my story about Henry. I think of the book as a way to exploit the space between facts and fiction"
Trevor Ferguson uses the pen name John Farrow for his crime novels structured around the persona of fictional Montreal police detective Emile Cing-Mars. River City is the latest in the trilogy which covers no less than 450 years of Montreal history. He explained to the audience how his latest novel will come out in two completely different editions. His publishers in England and New York could not agree on the editing, so Trevor decided to “just do two books...It will be the same story, but totally restructured. “I didn’t realize, when I was doing it, that my mind would be turned inside out, backwords and kicked out the door, and I could not remember one version from the other, because I was doing them simultaneously,” Ferguson adds. “It was a nightmare, but we got through it.”
It is very impressive how the Greenwood Centre can attract such famous Canadian authors to StoryFest. Audrey Wall, director at Greenwood, explained to me that the visiting authors come here because of their love for literature. They enjoy their visit to Hudson and, consequently, are very effective at spreading the word to other great Canadian authors about Greenwood and StoryFest.
For the fall program look out for Wayne Johnston, Linden MacIntyre and Camilla Gibb.
By ALYSSA FOURNEAUX
Greenwood Centre’s StoryFest kicks off June 12th with an exciting double header, featuring Johanna Skibsrud and Trevor Ferguson.
Hudson’s own Trevor Ferguson, perhaps better known under his pen name John Farrow, returns to StoryFest to promote his new book River City, set to be released this July 12. He will be joined by Celtic flute player David Gossage.
Last year’s Giller Prize winner Johanna Skibsrud starts off the afternoon by talking about her fictional novel The Sentimentalists. When Skibsrud was nominated she was considered to be the underdog in the competition.
“It was a real pleasure to be contacted after the Giller by writers who felt inspired by my story,” she said. “Writers can get a bit jaded—often for good reason—about the possibilities for writers who don’t have any previous exposure or financial backing. It felt good to be part of a different story that was able to provide encouragement to other emerging writers.” Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists tells the story of a daughter’s desire to uncover her father’s war stories. It is loosely based on her own father’s experiences during the Vietnam War.
“My father’s stories were a real revelation to me,” Skibsrud said. “He had never spoken of his experience in the war to anyone, so it was almost as if, listening to him, I was listening in on his own process of a revelation. He didn’t recall very much, but what he did was striking and horrifying to me. It was difficult,and painful, for me to try to imagine that my father had lived alone with these memories for so many years.”
Skibsrud has a collection of short stories coming outthis fall called: This Will Be Difficult To Explain and Other Stories.
Ferguson’s newest crime thriller River City is a third instalment of detective Émile Cinq-Mars’ investigations. Ferguson says it “encompasses 450 years of Montreal history written as a crime novel.” It is a prequel to City of Ice and Ice Lake. River Citytook Ferguson 3 years to write and 5 years to edit.
He says he doesn’t really know where the inspiration came from, except for a need to tell a really great story.
“I’ve always been drawn to the epic story,the broad canvas where we can see a very wide spectrum of human experience, both personal and social, play out,” he said. “It’s a natural part of my imaginative flow, the epic, so it was time to take something really large on.”
Ferguson says his protagonist Émile Cinq-Mars is based on a former Montreal detective, Jacques Cinq-Mars.“He’s [Jacques Cinq-Mars] very old now, and was born much earlier than Émile, and they were different, but they did go about things in a moral and determined fashion.” Ferguson said. “Jacques is now more closely in the work, as the life of Armand Touton [another character in the novel] is closely based on him, whereas Emile was a modern update.”
On June 12, Fergusonis partnering with Gossage; together, they will take a different approach to storytelling. “He’s a great musician.” Ferguson says. “Not merely good. But perhaps the best flute player on the continent. For StoryFest,it gives me a chance to do something different. I can visit different stages in a very big book (845 pages) and rather than introduce them, allow the music to create the mood and change and charge the atmosphere. I’m looking forward to that very much.”
Between presentations refreshments will be served at St.Mary’s Hall. Afterwards, guests are invited to cross the street to Greenwood for a reception with the authors and to get their books signed.
StoryFest is becoming a well known event in Hudson. It evolved twelve years ago from the Gigantes lecture series, named after the late Liberal MP Philipe Gigantes. According to executive director Audrey Wall, StoryFest is Greenwood’s biggest fundraiser. StoryFest was created to pay homage to Greenwood’s founder Phoebe Nobbs Hyde’s love of storytelling.
This very special StoryFest event is a taste of what is to come in October, when Greenwood welcomes other notable authors and poets to Hudson.More information about the complete StoryFest programme will soon be released.
This event takes place on Sunday, June 12 at 2pm at St. Mary’s Hall. Tickets are $25. They are available at Pure Art, 422 Main Road, Hudsonor at Greenwood,254 Main Road, Hudson. For more details call Greenwood at 450-458-5396 or visit www.greenwoodstoryfest.com
On June 27th, Greenwood launched the summer reading season with a special pre-storyfest event; an afternoon with best-selling author Louise Penny.
Recognized internationally for its charm and psychological insight, the author’s award winning mystery series has particular appeal for local readers with its familiar Eastern Townships setting.
Penny was born in Ontario and worked as a news journalist and radio host for CBC, a career that led her to various regions of Canada, and finally to Quebec. Now living in the Eastern Townships, she draws on the region’s idyllic landscape and rich cultural mix for the vividly imagined community of Three Pines.
Her first novel Still Life (2007) was an immediate success with readers and critics. Penny adapts the ingredients of the British whodunit into a witty and affectionate rendering of small town Quebec with the small rural village, the collection of eccentric characters, clever plots and of course, the leading figure of the detective, in this case the wise, sophisticated Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. In Penny’s hands, the formula acquires an exceptional depth through complex characterization, keen observation of the rich texture of daily life, and elegant writing.
Following Still Life, she has published four more books in the series, the latest being The Brutal Telling, published this year, for which she received her third Agatha Award for Best Mystery. Her upcoming book, Bury Your Dead, is to be released in September.
You can visit the author on her blog where she shares the details of her daily life, from breakfast in Cowansville and visits to the pond, to the trials and joys of work in progress.
Louise Penny spoke at St. Mary’s Hall on Sunday, June 27th at 2:00 pm. A reception followed at Greenwood.
This event is part of the Quebec Writers' Federation's 2010 "Writers Out Loud" series and made possible by the Canada Council for the Arts.
Sunday marked the end of StoryFest's month-long journey through Hudson celebrating writers, readers and storytellers. Featured guests Jane Urquhart, Donna Morrissey and Jan Wong were the big names hosting this year's events, filling the Hudson Village Theatre three times.
"Greenwood Centre is a non-profit charitable organization," said Audrey Wall, Executive Director. "Three years ago, StoryFest was still being operated under a deficit. With hard work and dedication from the committee, we made the move to the theatre and other larger venues hoping to draw bigger crowds with higher profile guests," she adds.
Next year's lineup, already in the making, tentatively includes Nino Ricci, MG Vassanji and Claire Rothman. Applications for funding were submitted to the Canada Council for the Arts in September. "There are many expenses associated with putting on StoryFest, our biggest annual event. It's nice to finally come out ahead. It's a testament to the hard work of so many invaluable volunteers," says Wall.
The committee of volunteers for Greenwood Centre's StoryFest includes Audrey Wall, Jane Havard, Sharon Sullivan, Diane Ratcliffe, Donna Seaman, Sandy Racicot and Christine Coté, each bringing a unique talent to the table.
It was Havard's idea to introduce a season pass for all of the events last year. "It gives us a core group of people to count on and encourages them to come to all of the events. It's also a nice way to save on entrance fees with the discounted price. We sold 50 passes this year and expect to do better next year," says Havard.
Greenwood's volunteer support also includes students from the Young Canada Works summer program, whose contribution is also invaluable. "This year Caroline Cawley and Katie Scotcher gave us 14 weeks of their time making tickets, posters, website updates, and virtually anything else we asked of them," said Havard.
United by a passion for words and educating, the ladies of Greenwood hold fast to StoryFest's motto: "Our stories are your past, your stories are our future" when planning what has become the second biggest fundraiser for Greenwood after Treasures in the Attic.
Jane Urquhuart said it best when she hosted the special opening event for pass-holders, "Every story needs a place to start from. The Greenwood home is a wonderful place." Fundraisers like StoryFest work to promote and preserve Greenwood in the hearts and minds of the community while at the same time merging place with festival.
Sponsorship from both individuals and companies has been generous. "Theatre Panache made it possible for StoryFest to have a printed booklet this year, on-line ticket purchases, and allowed us to ride on their coat-tails reserving three evenings for Greenwood in their theatre schedule," says Wall, noting one of many contribution to StoryFest's success.
"Maria Loggia was also very gracious," she adds, "in donating the ticket price from her lunch event at the Community Centre to Greenwood." Tickets sold for $20 per person and the event was hugely successful with eight full tables of 10. Loggia's new cookbook, launched last week, has already sold just over 120 copies at A Temps Perdu since the luncheon.
"We want to thank the community, the passholders, and everyone who took time out of their busy schedules for their support," says Wall. "We are extremely pleased with the turnout and look forward to making next year's event bigger and better."
Dear StoryFest fans,
October and StoryFest are coming fast! We are thrilled to have a full month of events planned for you. For a complete list of events and times, see the attached poster, or go online to www.greenwoodstoryfest.com to read all the details about each of our guests. Have you heard about the big names in the literary world who are coming to our little town? We are excited, and hope you will be too.
The Festival Pass offers the best value: for $60, you can attend $100 worth of events. Pass holders are invited to a special private tea at Greenwood to meet Jane Urquhart on Tuesday, Oct. 6th at 3:00pm.
This year we're holding our first Books and Breakfast- Saturday, Oct. 17th at 9:00am at St. James, with guest authors Robert Wright and Jeff Heinrich. A delicious cooked breakfast awaits you.
The new book "At Home with Maria Loggia", will be launched at our Community Centre event along with more delicious food. Book your tickets early for Thursday, October 29th at 1:30.
A Temps Perdu, 76 Cameron, is selling tickets and will be hosting a children's storytelling event and an open poetry reading.
Please pass this along to anyone you think may be interested.
We hope to see you there!
Audrey and Jane
Hudson, June 2008
StoryFest - Playing With Words, is a community initiative spearheaded by Hudson's Greenwood Centre for Living History. In partnership with Westwood Senior High School, students participated in numerous StoryFest activities both at Westwood and within the Hudson community at large. StoryFest 2007 authors who spoke at Westwood included Roy MacGregor, Gil Courtemanche, Noah Richler, Claire Mowat and Karen Molson. To promote StoryFest 2007 events, students set up displays, painted murals, organized contests, put up posters and gave audio-visual presentations. In conjunction with StoryFest and Canadian Children's Book Week, Westwood Senior organized Reading Week within the school. To promote and encourage the "Love of Reading" theme, many activities unfolded: "Poetry Free For All", "MatchBook" Contest, StoryFest Draw and "Look Who's Caught Reading". Students met with the authors and storytellers including Hudson's own "Trapper Rod" Hodgson.
In recognition of StoryFest - Playing With Words as a joint Greenwood & Westwood project, Westwood Senior won First Prize in the Prix de Reconnaissance of the Ministere de l'Education, du Loisir et du Sport among 294 schools in the Greater Montreal region. The Prix de Reconnaissance is awarded to projects that promote books, develop reading habits and contribute to student success.
Kindly submitted by Gwen Murray,
Librarian, Westwood Senior High School
Roy MacGregor is one of us. He tells our stories as Canadians in a way that makes us feel as though he is sharing news about our aunt or our neighbour or our Grade One teacher, etc. His stories are about people with whom we can easily connect.
The Hudson Gazette gave us permission to reprint their description of Roy's day in Hudson on Oct.16...
StoryFest got off to a running start last Tuesday evening with columnist and author Roy MacGregor's appearance at St. Mary's Parish Hall. It's safe to say that nobody left the hall disappointed. The man can certainly spin a yarn. His characters are modest but memorable. His settings are as diverse as the country he writes about. After listening to or reading MacGregor's work, his stories become our own.
MacGregor recounted the story of an old man who got lost in the woods while hunting. He shot a deer for sustenance but because he had lost or left his false teeth at home, he resolved to pry the molars out of his kill with his pocketknife and use them in place of his own. Some people in the audience laughed, some grimaced. "Yeah, I didn't believe him either," concluded MacGregor to the delight of even the most squeamish in the audience.
According to MacGregor, resourcefulness is the real story of this country and that "the best we can do under the circumstances" should be our nation's motto. He talked about the Trudeau funeral train and what an array of emotions it aroused in him and his fellow reporters. In true MacGregor fashion, he described how he was only able to grasp the real thread of his reporting on the event after he figured out that the real story wasn't on the train but rather, was to be found in the crowds of people who came out to pay their last respects.
It's the nation's anomalies that make Canada great in MacGregor's eyes. He told the story of a 100-year-old man who had never learned to read. Though active and able bodied, when his wife died, he lost his crutch. In order to keep his independence, he started teaching himself to read using cereal boxes and Canadian Tire flyers.
In closing, MacGregor was thanked by Audrey Grey for appearing at Hudson's Storyfest. She alluded to his missing something in Ottawa, namely the throne speech. "Something's happening in Ottawa?" MacGregor asked, feigning ignorance. An appreciative Storyfest audience was officially smitten.