ST. ANN’S: Artistic director Rebecca Silver Slater looked over a large crowd at the Gaelic College last Friday night and welcomed visitors to the 11th annual Cabot Trail Writers Festival.
She was accompanied by Sarah Faber and Andrea Currie, who serve as the chair of the Cabot Trail Writers Festival and board member respectively. All three welcomed visitors to the event while giving reference to the First Nations people who originally settled the area.
Faber and Currie noted that it was their hope the weekend would be guided by the Seven Sacred Teachings: Honesty, Humility, Truth, Wisdom, Love, Respect, and Bravery.
Speaking to The Reporter after the event, Silver Slater said the weekend seemed to be a hit on all fronts.
“I had quite a few people come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed the festival, and the different ways it made them think about things or opened reading up to them,” she said. “I love hearing that from our audience, and I love hearing it from our authors as well.
“It’s a stage for local and Maritime writers, but it’s also an opportunity to bring writers from farther afoot.”
The event spanned the whole weekend, with Friday night serving as a mixer with readings from the visiting writers. Among the honour roll this year was George Elliott Clarke, which served as a reminder of the very first writer’s festival. Founders Gary Walsh and Jeannette Macdonald invited Clarke to serve as the special guest for the first festival.
Clarke’s presence, the director said, was one of the many highlights of the weekend.
“He took the stage on Saturday night with We’koqma’qewiskwa, the Mi’kmaw women’s drumming group, and they were playing drums as he gave a spoken word poem for the murdered and the missing, and I don’t think anyone breathed until he finished,” she said.
The 2019 installment of the festival was the first without Walsh and Macdonald on the board of directors, but there certainly wasn’t a lack of attendees or visiting writers.
In addition to Clarke, the seventh Parliamentary/Canadian Poet Laureate, also making an appearance was Lynn Coady of Port Hawkesbury, a Scotiabank Giller Prize winner.
Inverness’ Tom Ryan of led two workshops, and two writers formerly of Antigonish, Sara Peters and Joshua Mensch, offered their insights to the visitors.
Eleanor Wachtel, well known as the host of “Writers & Company” on CBC Radio One, offered a discussion on the lives of writers on Saturday night.
“It was so exciting to introduce somebody whose voice has been echoing through your home for so many years,” Silver Slater said.
Also making appearances were Lesley Crewe, who’s authored 10 novels and serves as a columnist; Jessica Westhead, who works as a creative writing instructor at Ryerson University; and Alicia Elliott, who’s been published extensively and whose short story Unearth is set to appear in Best American Short Stories 2018.
“There were a tremendous number of hardworking people behind the festival working mostly for free and very hard,” Silver Slater said. “I’m so grateful to all of them.”