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Read by the Sea to celebrate 20th anniversary

Read by the Sea is turning 20, and while the event is still months away, organizers are already busy finalizing details for the literary festival in River John.

This festival will be held July 3 through July 6.

While the event has changed over the years, part time coordinator of the festival, Monica Graham, said one of the aspects that has stayed the same is the satisfaction of when all the planning and preparation is done and she can just sit and listen to other authors read.

“I find that very relaxing. And hearing them read their own words makes it different,” she said, reflecting on how their style of reading heightens the experience.

In honour of the festival’s anniversary she hopes there will be a multimedia exhibit on display with some recordings from early festivals as well as posters and photos.

True to the past, this year’s event will once again also include some great authors. Graham said it’s always exciting to be able to bring in some of Canada’s best authors to a small rural community that might not otherwise have the chance to meet them. She said it’s nice to be able to see the human side of these people.

Aside from a great literary event, it’s also a great time for the community to spend time together.

“The numbers have grown in recent years as people become more aware that it’s open to them,” Graham said. 

The festival begins with Atlantic Canada’s only dedicated children’s literary festival, WordPlay, on Wednesday, July 3, 1-3 p.m., on the grounds of Mabel Murple’s Book Shoppe & Dreamery in River John. 

An indoor venue will be available in case of inclement weather. 

WordPlay features critically-acclaimed children’s authors Jessica Kerrin and Arthur Slade, with musical artist Anna Plaskett performing from her children’s album To the Moon and Back, and Mabel Murple co-owner Sheree Fitch as MC. Their books will be for sale at Mabel Murple’s, and authors will be available to meet their fans and sign books. The event includes activities and participatory music for the audience. Food concessions will be on site. 

On Thursday and Friday, July 4-5, the festival presents Wordstock, literary fun and games that include a Heritage Society story walk, a family story telling campfire on the patio at Caldera Distilleries, exhibits throughout the village depicting the festival’s past 19 years, and a literary scavenger hunt with an alluring prize.  Details will be shared as they unfold, they will be shared. 

On Saturday morning, July 6, Read by the Sea and the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association again present Pitch the Publisher from 8:30-10:30 a.m. in the River John Legion. This spectator sport (think of Dragons’ Den with a literary twist) sees writers pitch their manuscripts to a panel of publishers before an audience.  

Watch the festival website and Facebook page for deadlines and how-to information. 

Read by the Sea MainStage begins at 11 a.m. July 6 in the River John Legion garden. Guests should bring their lawn chair, hat and sunscreen, and even a picnic if they like, although there will be concession stands on site (in case of inclement weather, the event will move indoors to the River John Fire Hall).

2019 featured authors include Allan Cooper, Kevin Major, Elizabeth Hay and Colin Campbell. 

Cooper is an acclaimed New Brunswick poet and author of more than 14 poetry collections, including The Alma Elegies; Everything we’ve Loved Comes Back to Find Us; and The Deer Yard, co-authored with Read by the Sea alumnus Harry Thurston. 

Major, from Newfoundland and Labrador, is a prolific and award-winning writer for young people and adults. His works include plays, mystery and history, coming-of-age novels, and wartime dramas. 

Elizabeth Hay’s novel, Late Nights On Air, won the 2007 Giller Prize, and her most recent work, a memoir, won Ontario author the 2018 Hilary Weston Writer’s Trust prize for non-fiction – just two samples of a list of engaging works.

Campbell, a River John summer child currently living in Ontario, will read from his first book Free Days with George, a warm account of the rescue dog who rescued him from despair. 

In recognition of the festival’s 20th anniversary, a fifth author will be added, but has yet to be confirmed. S

The festival follows the time-honoured format: each author reads and is then interviewed on stage. After all the authors read, in late afternoon, they return to the stage for a moderated panel discussion and audience question and answer session. 

There is no admission fee to any of the Read by the Sea events, in order to ensure access for all, regardless of economic circumstance. To help cover costs, the festival holds raffles during the Saturday event, and also accepts donations. 

The festival receives in-kind and financial support of a number of sponsors including: Pictou Antigonish Regional Library, Caldera Distilleries Inc; Advocate Printing; Mabel Murple’s Book Shoppe & Dreamery; Canada Council for the Arts – to name a few. 

Anyone who wishes to volunteer their assistance during the festival or as a member of the organizing committee, can use the following contact information:, find us on Facebook, or contact Monica Graham at 

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