Tales of family and loss at literacy council’s FEIS 2019

Pictured following FEIS 2019 are Taralee Wood (left), an instructor with the Port Hawkesbury Literacy Council (PHLC) author Sheree Fitch, author Amy Spurway and PHLC coordinator/instructor Crystal Samson. Fitch and Spurway are holding gifts they received from the organization that were crafted by Gina Cloud of White Turtle Pottery, drawing inspiration from the works of both authors.

PORT HAWKESBURY: The craft of storytelling was on fine display last week as the Port Hawkesbury Literacy Council hosted an exciting new author reading from a debut novel, alongside one of Canada’s most beloved children’s authors at FEIS 2019.

Sheree Fitch shared passages from some of her classic children’s books and gave the audience an early opportunity to hear some of her newest non-fiction book for adults, You Won’t Always be This Sad, in which she deals with her grief over the sudden death of her son.

But as an author who has delighted many children and adults alike in her 33-year literary career, Fitch also stressed the necessity of finding joy again and sharing stories.

“A book isn’t a book unless it’s read,” she said, thanking her readers for bringing her work to life.

Noting that she has recently found joy again in writing and family, including her son’s children, she spoke to the importance of promoting literacy for all ages, and truly listening to the innocent wisdom of children.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I think it takes a child to raise a village,” Fitch said during her second appearance at FEIS (referring to a Gaelic arts or cultural event).

Photos by Dana MacPhail-Touesnard — Beloved children’s book author Sheree Fitch shared excerpts from some of her best-known children’s books and her new book for adults, You Won’t Always be This Sad, detailing the loss of her son.

Reading from her debut novel, Crow, Amy Spurway delivered a truly entertaining performance, ripe for audio book treatment. The story follows a dying young woman who returns home to Cape Breton to live out her last days by learning and spilling all of her family’s secrets. The story is full of dark comedy but is “ultimately, about healing and hope,” and was a way for her to explore the notion of a good death.

“And more importantly, what makes a good life,” she said from the podium of the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, in response to questions about the story’s inspiration and her own writing process.

In addition to writing notes on paper and envelopes that she admits to often losing or throwing away, Spurway described the book’s journey as “typing things and deleting things and typing things and deleting things for 13 years.”

Author Amy Spurway – a native of Ross Ferry in Victoria County – read from her acclaimed debut novel, Crow, which explores the concepts of a family, identity and belonging at FEIS 2019.

Port Hawkesbury Literacy Council (PHLC) coordinator and instructor Crystal Samson said this year’s event marks the 18th year the council has hosted a fundraiser of this type to support its programming and raise awareness of literacy.

“The greatest thing about FEIS is that all of the money that’s raised goes directly back into programming and into supports for our learners,” she said, noting the fundraising event affords the organization a flexibility to extend programs or offer additional resources to support learners.

Samson said she is grateful for the support of local businesses and individuals who donated items for the silent auction and those who bought tickets for the annual event.

The Port Hawkesbury Literacy Council is currently offering employability and academic upgrading programs, computer classes for seniors and an English as a second language (ESL) program.

Author Amy Spurway (left) and Sheree Fitch met with FEIS attendees and signed books following the annual fundraiser for the Port Hawkesbury Literacy Council.