There have been other festivals.
Whenever three people gather in this country, Squatchberry Country, there is a squatchberry festival.
But . . . the first genuine, honest-to-goodness, tasty literary festival, complete with squatchberries, occurred in 1981. In Geraldton. Northwestern Ontario. For the next three years, it moved around: Dryden . . . Kenora . . . Thunder Bay.
Then it melted into the understory. Years later, other festivals, fair-to-good imitators, came to public attention. And then, last year, in Thunder Bay, the annual Sleeping Giant Writers’ Festival failed to materialize. I had become one of its fans. As a participant. Never as a presenter.
Then, last fall, Word on the Water Literary Festival happened in Kenora, for the second time. For the first time, I heard about it, and attended. As a participant.
And then I went to hear Jane Urquehart, on a tour with fellow authors, in Thunder Bay. And I thought: how do I introduce myself?
I’ve been trying to get in touch with Jane for years. Not as a fan, but as an historian. Jane spent her childhood in my backyard, in Geraldton, but she was just a runty little kid at the time, and beneath my notice as a smartypants high school participant, with a very wild head of hair tamed by byrlcream.
So, at the reading, I approached Jane, and invited her to the next Squatchberry Literary Festival. It seemed like a good idea at the time. All I had to do then was tell someone else about it, so that there would be more than just the two of us in attendance. And then plan it, get a group together, organize it, finance it, and, most of all, which I’ve been doing for months now, agonize about it.
Which is one of the places my head has been since last November. (BTW, I don’t need brylcream now. My hair follicles have been domesticated.)
Without the support of a lot of people and a lot of organizations, including our little executive committee with Suzanne and Karen and Pina and Clarence on board, it would never have happened.
But it is happening.
And in March, I got in touch with Jane Urquhart. Not personally. I had neglected to get her address. I asked her brother, Nick, in Vancouver, to get in touch, and eventually, somehow, at some later date, through her executive secretary, learned . . . learned that Jane would be in Ireland during the Festival. She sent her regrets. Jane’s, I hope.
Do I feel foolish.
It was too late to stop.
Our little committee has collected a total of seventeen published authors to present over the course of about 48 hours, from June 29th to July 1st, in Geraldton’s Community Centre.
More at SquatchberryFestival.ca.
Every one of the authors either grew up in S.C., or found nourishment in this our native soil. Some have since moved away from Squatchberry Country, but keep their memories fresh with variations on the squatchberry festival.
We are inviting local unpublished writers and regionally-famous musicians to become presenters during the open-mic sessions.
At the gala banquet on Saturday night, diners will partake of a fresh harvest of squatchberries, among other tasty things.
Yes, squatchberries may be mythical, but they do exist.
And, oh yeah.
I will be a presenter at this festival.
I would not advise my strategy to every aspiring presenter.