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Surrounded by words: Local readers and writers gather in Kenora for Word on the Water

Local author, Georgina Williams, pictured above, reads an excerpt from her third biographical book, Delcina’s Tears, on Oct. 20 at Word on the Water in Kenora. Photo by Lindsey Enns

Story by Lindsey Enns

The third annual Word on the Water literacy festival was held in Kenora this past weekend giving readers and writers across northwestern Ontario the rare opportunity to gain more of a connection with some of their favourite local authors.

The three-day event combined a variety of seminars and workshops all geared towards uniting the literary community located right here in northwestern Ontario.

“What keeps being a positive part of this whole thing is what people get out of it, something like this isn’t done normally in northwestern Ontario,” Richard Brignall, author and event organizer said.

“We have realized over the years that this is something that people enjoy and is something that could become a yearly thing and from then we’ve just been building on it and building on it.”

Some of the speakers over the weekend included mystery authors, Doug Whiteway and Alison Preston, creative writer and poet, Katherena Vermette and 2010 Governor General Award Winner and freelance journalist, Allan Casey. Casey’s newest book, Lakeland: Journeys into the Soul of Canada, was inspired by his personal passion for exploring Canada’s waterways and wilderness across the region.

“I find that there’s this love and fear thing when it comes to nature,” Casey said.

“There’s no end of complexity to it and there’s just always more to know and I wanted to share that with people.”

One panel discussion gave those in attendance the chance to see what a day in a writer’s life is like from the point of view of three Winnipeg based authors. Mystery authors, Preston and Whiteway, discussed their creative processes and agreed that their favourite time to write is first thing in the morning.

“I grab my laptop and I head into my sunroom and I just feel like I’m exactly where I need to be,” Preston said.

Both authors agreed that while writing can be a very lonely profession, writing to them is a compulsion and is sort of like a habit that they can’t seem to shake.

“I just find the process deeply pleasurable,” Whiteway said.

Authors also had their chance to weigh in on book reviews and admit that they still live in fear of a negative review. Preston discussed how a bad review she received many years ago still bothers her but has never negatively affected her creative process.

“Writing helps me work through things, I do it for me,” she said.

“Writing can’t be just about the books because that’s a real slow process.”

Brignall, author of nine sports history books, says that although the path to publication has changed over the years, getting to see your name on a finished copy of your work is still what drives him to keep working on his craft.

“It’s invigorating seeing your name in print, but getting to that point is a lot of work,” he said.

“So many people want to be writers and that’s great but there are also so many avenues to do it.”

Brignall adds that one of the points of this festival is to bring small town writers just like him out of their shells and into a warm environment filled with people who enjoy being around them and listening to what they have to say.

“This is something that we’re hoping ignites the literary community across northwestern Ontario as kind of a gathering place of like- minded people because we all live in these little towns scattered across the Canadian Shield and this stuff just doesn’t always happen,” he said.

“In a lot of ways what regional authors are writing, they won’t be getting invited to the big festivals so this is a way for authors in the region to shine and a way for them to be the rock stars of the moment.”

For more information or to get involved with the festival next year, you can visit

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