Love of the written word

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RIVER JOHN — Under the sun, a strong breeze blowing, roughly 200 people gathered to listen to three Nova Scotian authors read.

It was the 19th annual WordPlay, part of the Read By the Sea literary festival. Just as it was last year, WordPlay was hosted at Mabel Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery owned by Sheree Fitch and her husband, Gilles Plante.

“To be in this magical, magical place is exciting,” said Paulette Bourgeois, author of the classic Franklin series. “It’s a beautiful day and I’m so happy you all came out.”

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Along with Bourgeois, the audience heard from Wesley King and Justin Gregg, both of whom had young helpers on stage with them.

Franklin, said Bourgeois, started with one simple idea. The author was a new mother, trying to get her daughter to sleep late one night. She turned on the television to see an episode of MASH. In the episode, the character Hawkeye was claustrophobic, which caught Bourgeois’ ear. He said he’d be afraid of his own shell if he were a turtle.

“That was a lightbulb moment,” said Bourgeois. “I never planned on him being like other little boys going to school. I had one story in mind — a turtle being afraid of his own shell.”

During her introduction of Bourgeois, Fitch said the Franklin series has sold more than 60 million copies, of which Bourgeois said many of those were to large corporations such as Costco and Walmart.

For one family from Tatamagouche, WordPlay is something they attended last year, as well as this year’s event.

“I love Sheree Fitch,” said Erin Pope, whose seven-year-old son, Logan, helped Gregg during his reading of ‘Fancy Goat.’ “I think this is a very good thing to do. It encourages kids to get out to read and show their creativity.”

While the authors signed copies of their books, many visitors lined up to make purchases to take home. Rainbow Express, a musical duo, kept the audience engaged.

Fitch said Read By the Sea has been successful over the last 19 years because of its dedicated volunteers.

“This village is so filled with people like that,” she said, adding volunteers would soon be hard at work planning the 20th annual festival. “What I think is important about days like this is that books create people and this gives people the opportunity to meet those people who created them.”

Read By the Sea continues with a variety of activities this week, concluding with the Read By the Sea literary readings on the main stage at the Royal Canadian Legion, River John, on July 7.