Read by the Sea 2016 succeeds in bringing authors to North Shore


To the Editor:
To media and other friends: this is a wrap-up of Read by the Sea 2016, held July 9 in River John.
It may interest you to know that as well as the featured authors present on July 9, there were at least 17 other local and/or Nova Scotia published authors involved in organizing this event, or identified as being in attendance.
I don’t believe many small communities with a resource-based economy can boast such strong involvement in a literary festival. But – prove me wrong and we’ll find a way to meet the challenge.
To everyone involved in Read by the Sea 2016 – THANK YOU! And WOW!
Despite a chilly northeast wind and clouds (and who expects THAT in mid-July?) we had a great turnout for Read by the Sea at the Memorial Garden at the Royal Canadian Legion in River John.
The decision was made early in the morning to continue with the outdoor venue, as it offers a more festive feel and more space and the forecast (it was correct) called for no rain. We admit that we did expect it to warm up a bit!
Pitch the Publisher, hosted by the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association, began at 9 a.m. in the Legion hall with eight authors pitching their stories to a panel of four Nova Scotia publishers, before an audience of about 50.  The publishers calculated that the level of enthusiasm would equate to an audience of 1,000 in a larger centre like Halifax. The enthusiasm about this event – new to us – continued after the pitches ended and the author readings began, and even after the day was over.
The “Past and the Perilous” began at 11 a.m. with James Laxer and Jennifer Robson, both of whom speak as well as they write. Their readings engaged and entertained, and their humour, thought-provoking comments, and knowledge of history and political culture were drawn to the fore during deft interviews by local author and international journalist Joan Baxter.
During the lunch break, Pictou County singer-songwriter John Spyder Macdonald entertained musically while the audience – estimated at more than 300 throughout the day – visited the souvenir shop to buy “swag,” food concessions operated by the Lions Club and by Carole Downey, and Coles’ Books mobile store to buy books by the featured authors – who graciously autographed the purchases.
The afternoon readings began with Susan Paddon’s spell-binding poetry, followed by Kim Thuy’s feather-light and poetic novel readings, and interspersed with insightful interviews by River John Consolidated School alumnus and Giller Prize winner Johanna Skibsrud.
Then all four authors gathered on stage (incidentally, the stage was a hay wagon loaned by Lismore Sheep Farm in River John).
The final interview with Joan Baxter turned into an unforgettable, rollicking good time as the authors discussed the state of Canadian society, technology, the millennial generation, Russian literature and some funny, illustrative and “sexy” stories that squeezed tears of laughter from the audience – or left them speechless.
Can Read by the Sea 2016 be improved upon for next year? To find out, mark July 8, 2017, on your calendars and follow developments for the 18th annual Read by the Sea at www.readbythesea.ca – or follow us on Facebook.
Biographies of the 2016 participants may also be found on the website, as well as information about how to contact the volunteer committee that organizes this non-profit event. Anyone interested in becoming involved in the organization, please let us know.
It must be noted that Read by the Sea also organizes WordPlay, a children’s event, in recent years held a few weeks before the main event in July. Between the two events, the committee’s mandate to bring some of Canada’s best authors to Nova Scotia’s North Shore reached an audiences of more than 500 in 2016.
Special thank you to:  Royal Canadian Legion, River John; Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association; River John Volunteer Fire Department; The Pictou Advocate; The River John Pioneer; The Tatamagouche Light; New Glasgow News/ Truro Daily News; Lismore Farms, River John; Caldera Distilleries, River John; Proudfoot’s Home Hardware of Pictou County; Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library; St. John’s Guild, River John; River John H.U.B.; Coles Books, New Glasgow; River John Lions; Carole Downey, Spiddle Hill; River John Action Society; Canada Council for the Arts; Arts Nova Scotia; Nova Scotia Festivals and Events; Municipality of Colchester County; Munic-ipality of Pictou County; Mike Purdy Graphics; John Spyder Macdonald; Susan Sellers, Hanna Hunziker, and other Read by the Sea committee alumni, who never really retired; Creamery Square – and a collection of spouses and very good friends!

Monica Graham
On behalf of Read by the Sea 2016

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