East meets west at 15th annual Read By the Sea festival

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There’s something special about hearing an author read his or her own work.

It can offer a fresh perspective on a familiar narrative and give a deeper insight into the words on the page, says Linda Little.

That’s what she hopes participants in the Read by the Sea event will walk away with this year.

This year is the 15th anniversary for the literary festival and there’s been a few changes. For starters, the date, July 12, is a week earlier than usual. And everything starts earlier—at 11 a.m. for what organizers believe will be three unforgettable experiences. 

In celebration of the festival’s 15th anniversary there will be more authors and expanded conversations between writers and with the audience. This year’s theme is “East Meets West.” The morning begins at the Legion Gardens in River John (rain venue is the River John school) with the Western stage features Guy Vanderhaeghe, Sharon Butala, and Steven Galloway.

“It’s a great opportunity for people who like to read to hear some of Canada’s really excellent novelists and poets that you just don’t get a chance to see,” Little said.

Vanderhaeghe is author of the highly lauded historical frontier trilogy that includes “The Englishman’s Boy,” “The Last Crossing,” and “A Good Man.”

Butala may be best known for her seminal work “The Perfection of the Morning,” a meditation on the meaning of place and our relation to it. She has been writing about her corner of the world near east end Saskatoon for decades and has 16 books to her credit including her latest, “The Girl in Saskatoon.”

Coming from farthest away, Vancouver, is Steven Galloway. His “The Cellist of Sarajevo” brought him to the fore of the Canadian fiction world. He has spent this spring touring with his new novel, “The Confabulist.” In this book he uses the history of Harry Houdini to explore themes of memory and illusion.

Each of these western writers will read from their work and they will come together in a forum discussion about history, place, and writing. This forum will be led by acclaimed author and film-maker Shandi Mitchell who wrote the award-winning western immigration novel, “Under This Unbroken Sky.”

Lunchtime offers an opportunity for people to browse books, visit with authors, and sample a range of treats while being entertained by the lively songs and stories of musician Doris Mason.

At 1 p.m. readings resume with the Eastern Stage. Russell Wangersky arrives from St. John’s, N.L., where he works as an editor for the St. John’s Telegram. His latest short story collection, “Whirl Away,” made last year’s Giller short list and won the Raddall Atlantic fiction prize. He will be joined by fellow newspaperman from Inverness, Cape Breton, Frank MacDonald.

Rounding out the eastern voices is renowned film-maker and poet, Sylvia Hamilton with her new poetry collection, “And I Alone Escaped to Tell You”. Popular poet and Griffin-prize nominee Sue Goyette will facilitate the conversation between these three eastern authors they have read.

Alexander MacLeod will host the grand finale of the day when all six authors come together. MacLeod will open this stage with questions that give all authors a chance to reflect on the comments of the day, on the commonalities and differences in writing from the West and the East. Then the mikes will be opened for audience members to ask their questions and to comment on the issues of the day. Free admission. Free on-site childcare. Full details available at readbythesea.ca.

This year the festival held the children’s event in Tatamagouche on an earlier weekend to allow more time for adults on the day of events. Typically they have between 250 and 300 people turn out for the events and they’re hoping for even more this year.

One way they’re trying to boost attendance is by offering child care.

“We’re hoping that people who have kids will have an opportunity they might not have had in the past.”

Organizations: River John school

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Legion Gardens, River John Canada Vancouver Sarajevo Inverness Cape Breton Tatamagouche

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