Annual Lunenburg Lit fest celebrates Canadian literature


  • <p>PHOTO BY GEORGE PIMENTAL</p><p>Toronto author Shyam Selvadurai will be one of the featured authors at this year&#8217;s Lunenburg Lit Festival.</p>

LUNENBURG – The seventh annual Lunenburg Lit festival, hosted by the South Shore Public Libraries, is taking place Sept. 22-24 featuring Canadian authors from across Canada.

"It's a real opportunity for readers on the South Shore to have a real personal experience with the writers," says co-founder Christina Pottie. "The maximum amount of people we can have in any location is between 85 and 100 people, so you're actually going to see the person, ask them a question and get them to sign your book. It's a very personal kind of event."

She said the purpose of the event, as a library organization, is to get people reading and this gives a different way for people to connect to stories and the story tellers.

Pottie said the event has been considered a success since day one. "We went out on a limb. The library board here has really supported us in this endeavour and I would say it's our marquee, outside of the library event, for the year."

She said the interest has grown each year and was "pretty proud of the fact" that they were able to continue the event, with less capacity, over the past two years. Along with a smaller audience, they were also limited to having just Nova Scotian authors attend because of the border restriction, however, that was not an issue because "we have a huge pool of talent in Nova Scotia."

This year's event kicks of Thursday at 10 a.m. with a youth event featuring author Gloria Ann Wesley at the Lunenburg Heritage Bandstand. Last year about 100 students from grades 4 through 6 from the Bluenose Academy attended the event.

This year the event is aimed at a bit of an older crowd with Wesley reading from her book, If This is Freedom, a book set in Shelburne.

Thursday evening beginning at 7 p.m. a panel has been put together under the theme, From Pen to Print: Getting your feet wet in publishing.

This will feature panel members Chris Benjamin, Katherine Barrett and Andy Verboom.

Pottie said this panel is for aspiring writers and authors who want to learn a bit about the ins and outs about publishing: where and how to submit your work, what you need to and how long you have to wait.

The two Thursday sessions are free of charge.

Friday at 7 p.m. at the Lunenburg School of the Arts will feature authors El Jones, David Bergen and Heather O'Neill. A question-and-answer period will be held after all three authors have finished reading.

Saturday's events will kick off with a literary walking tour of the town starting at the Fisherman's Memorial on Bluenose Drive.

"We developed and researched a walking tour that takes us from the Fisherman's Memorial up to the library," said Pottie. "There will be stops along the way and talk about books that have been written in town or movies or TV shows that were made here."

Saturday at 2 p.m. the scene will switch to the St. John's Parish Hall for a back-and-forth with writer, singer and politician Charlie Angus and APTN reporter Trina Roach.

The event will wrap up Saturday evening at 7 p.m. at the Lunenburg School of the Arts. Authors featured will be Jane Doucet, Shyam Selvadurai and Megan Gail Coles.

"Doucet is a Halifax writer, but she has a connection to Lunenburg. Her second book is called, Fishnet and Fantasies. about a retired couple who move to Lunenburg to open up a sex shop," said Pottie, commenting, "not everything is high brow literature."

Pottie said the event attracts between 400 and 500 people each year with a core group coming every year. She said most come from the South Shore, but many also come from Halifax and New Brunswick.

Author Shyam Selvadurai of Toronto will be making his second trip to Lunenburg, his first since the early 2000s, and looks forward to the return and has scheduled to spend some time to explore the area.

"I was really happy and honoured to be invited. I remember people being so hospitable and open. I love that about the East Coast," he said, adding that he loves the intimate settings that the event has to offer.

"There's more attention given to each writer who comes," he said.

His latest book is called, Mansions of the Moon, which is a historical novel about the wife of Buddha.

"Most people didn't know he even had a wife. He did have a wife and a son who he left to pursue his calling," he said.

"The book was a way for me to explore the development of Buddha at that time. I wanted to look at how Buddha came up with his philosophy, but it would be a little difficult and intimidating to do that from his point of view. Doing that from her point of view, felt a little more human and more reasonable in a way."

He said she had to adapt to his changes as he pursued his calling.

"It was a joyful book to write. It was a very happy experience," he said.

Selvadurai was brought up as a Catholic, but in the early 2000s he became interested in Buddhism, not as a philosophy, but to provide an ethical framework "in which I could live my life."

He also explored Buddhism in his 2013 book, The Hungry Ghosts. He continues along that theme in his next works, a children's Buddhist fantasy for middle grade readers.

Tickets are available at all South Shore Public Library branches, Block Shop Books and Lunenburg Bound Books and Paper.

Thursday events are free of charge. Each of the other events cost $20 each or purchase a weekend pass for $50.

For more information go to: www.lunenburglitfestival.ca.

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