Local author Sheree Fitch is back in the chill of Nova Scotia winter after a recent trip to Cuba for the Havanna International Book Fair.
Fitch was contacted by the Canadian Embassy to attend the book fair that chose Canada’s 150th birthday to feature Canadian writers at the event that sees tens of thousands of people in the publishing, writing or book industry as well as many readers and book fanatics.
“I said of course, I would love to do that!” said Fitch. “My job on the first day was to host a conversation with Thomas King.”
Fitch was thrilled to have the chance to host the conversation with King, a Canadian-American writer who often talks about the importance of storytelling and First Nations. Fitch, who very often focuses on the importance of verbal story telling, was the ideal person to lead this conversation.
After her first day of hosting the conversation, Fitch visited the University of Havanna to present a paper on children’s literature, a topic that Fitch not only has a degree in but is also a children’s author.
“But that last event at the Canadian Pavilion, it was one of the highlights of my life,” said Fitch with a glowing smile. “It was an incredible experience — basically you are a cultural ambassador.”
To Fitch, her poetry reading at the Canadian Pavilion showed what verbal storytelling is all about. Although she was speaking a different language from many of the spectators there, with the help of a dedicated translator she watched the expressions on the children’s faces, lighting up just the same as Canadian children’s when they hear a story. She noted that even the translator, who was making many of the same theatrical mannerisms as Fitch, was moved by the poem.
While attending the book fair, Fitch made connections with a Havanna children’s book publisher who mentioned they would be interested in translating and publishing her books in Spanish for the children of Cuba. Along with a publisher connection, Fitch made friends with some members of the English department at the university and has been keeping in contact in hopes to connect with them again.
With all of the excitement in Cuba happening, once Fitch returned home she faced more excitement with the upcoming release of her latest children’s book, Pauly MacAulay’s Finest Divinest Wooliest Gift of them all. There is something a bit different about the latest in Fitch’s installment as it is a 68-page children’s book, which is considered quite lengthy for a children’s book.
“This is a story set in River John,” said Fitch. “There’s a lot of Pictou County in it, it’s a story that takes place all over the North Shore of Nova Scotia and sort of drifts over to Newfoundland and back.”
The story features a woman who lives outside of town, a lamb with some very special wool and some people who are after his special wool.
Fitch noted to keep an eye out for this book as well as her anthology of Atlantic Canadian poetry and stories and the opening of her bookshop, Mable Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery, this summer in River John.
“We here in Atlantic Canada have a really rich tradition of storytelling.” she said. “We can swipe things and they can disappear fast, but a book is still a book.”