By Guest Diva Sharlene Young-Bolen
HURON COUNTY — This past weekend saw the celebration of the 2015 Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story with events and workshops taking place around Huron County. This literary festival is held once a year to encourage emerging writers and celebrate the short story in the landscape that inspired Alice Munro.
The Alice Munro Festival ran from June 4-7 and showcased readings, book signings, presentations, and masterclasses with some of Canada’s most respected authors, culminating in the Jubilee Gala at which the Adult and Youth Short Story Competition Awards were presented. Writers and readers had the opportunity to sign up for writing masterclasses and facilitated discussions with celebrated Canadian authors.
Heather O’Neill (2007 Canada Reads winner) presented a reading of her new collection of short stories, Daydreams of Angels. Author and Wingham native Andrew Kaufman hosted a “Story Structure of the Screenplay” masterclass among other appearances. Man Booker Prize-nominated Lisa Moore was the Jubilee Gala keynote speaker, led a masterclass and read some of a recent work at the Readings in the County in Bayfield. Governor General’s Literary Award-nominated Merilyn Simonds facilitated a book club discussion on reading Alice Munro stories. Giller Prize-nominated Caroline Adderson presented two masterclasses – “Writing Linked Short Stories” and “Writing Narrative Scenes” as well as other appearances.
At the Jubilee Gala on Sat., June 6, guests enjoyed pre-dinner social time with entertainment provided by Goderich musicians Mike Reynolds, Warren Robinson and John Lodge. After dinner, Eli Ham kicked off the evening’s program.
Author Lisa Moore was the keynote presenter for the evening. A Canadian Short Story writer and novelist from Newfoundland, Moore is a three-time nominee of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the 2014 winner of CBC’s Canada Reads. Moore’s keynote presentation focused on the fiction of Alice Munro and the art of Mary Pratt, a Canadian artist whose paintings illustrate many of Munro’s book covers.
In her keynote address, Moore compared the work of the two women saying, “Both artists work in the tradition of realism, their work easily consumed on the surface but revealing another secret meaning underneath. Munro’s stories are full of permeable borders and often an unravelling of security. Munro is constantly stripping away false truths and Pratt’s artwork is always uncompromising. Munro’s women are always breaking expectations; Pratt’s paintings are full of paradox, contradiction – an interrogation of reality.”
After the completion of Moore’s presentation, Eli Ham took the stage to introduce the short story contest judges, Andrew Kaufman and Moore. The finalists for the youth award in the Alice Munro Short Story Contest were Bronte Cronsberry of St. Marys for Pointed Girl; Michelle Krasovitski of Goderich for Caretaker of Time; Katherine Talbot of Goderich for Windows of Reflection. The finalists for the adult award in the Alice Munro Short Story Contest were Leanne Dunic of Vancouver for Without Her; Lynn Horton of Toronto for Gamer; Catherine Jackson of Vancouver for Nest. The winners were announced: Michelle Krasovitski and Leanne Dunic. This year’s winning stories have been posted to http://www.alicemunrofestival.ca so that everyone can enjoy them.
At the final event of the Alice Munro Festival, Readings in the County held in Bayfield, Moore, Merilyn Simonds and Caroline Adderson each read excerpts from their recent works. A question and answer session followed and was particularly enjoyed by the audience in attendance. The attendees and authors seemed to enjoy the intimate setting of the historic Bayfield Town Hall and there were many questions, many answers and anecdotes and much laughter.
This year’s Alice Munro Festival was an exciting, fun event for both readers and writers; well-organized, the workshops informative, the events entertaining. The festival planning committee has ideas in mind for next year’s literary festival and many of this year’s attendees will no doubt already be thinking about what’s in store for 2016.