Four days with Writers at Woody Point, and I’m more inspired than I’ve been my whole life.
As Canadian travel journalist Lucy Izon said one evening while taking the water taxi to Woody Point, there’s a sense of community here. Like Banff, I’m so awed by the overwhelming hospitality from everyone; I exhausted myself yesterday saying “hello” to everyone while hiking the Tablelands. People strike up conversation with me like they’ve known me my whole life. I’ve been sharing meals and a few drinks every evening with some folks I’ve just met but feel like I’ve known forever.
Then there are the writers. I’ve been out of touch with the writers since I graduated from Memorial University, but the writing group has stayed entirely tight-knit. The same talented voices show up year after year, and the results are beautiful. Shelagh Rogers and Jeanne Beker have fallen in love with the west coast of Newfoundland and its slow, steady lifestyle. Jim Bryson paused during his acoustic performance last night to say, “I’ve never been to a place where I tell people where I’m staying by describing the colour of my house.”
I admit, I was sceptical about this festival at first. Really, a whole four-day event based on the reading of literature and sharing artwork? Goddamned hippies. But right from the moment Ed Riche opened on Thursday evening with “Reality is for people who can’t handle fiction” (describes a travel blogger, no?), I was hooked. I held onto every word, from every author, and my attention has yet to waver. These people are good.
Even the artistic performance by singer/songwriter Christine Fellows and artist Shary Boyle was enthralling. Using a projector, shadows, colour and an impressive range of artwork, Boyle interpreted Fellows’ own music with a sort of story. I didn’t know live art could be so entertaining.
Kathleen Winter, a former writing professor of mine, sat next to me during one of the performances. She was there to read from her new book Annabelle, and I couldn’t resist reminding her of my presence. It’s been years, but she was actually the first professor I’ve ever had encourage me to pursue travel writing. I’ve never felt prouder to tell someone I followed through with my plans and was there on behalf of Newfoundland and Labrador tourism.
Richard Wagamese had the entire audience holding its breath as he recited from his new book of poems. And Wayne Johnston! Dear god. The man is hilarious. Never had I imagined a story about scattering his mother’s ashes in a lake could be so funny. Never have I been so happy to sit in such close proximity to one of my icons.
Other than music and literature, I’ve been cruising fjords, hiking “desert” landscapes, driving around mountains, and feasting on seafood. I’ve been waking up every morning at 7 a.m. to get outdoors and enjoy the land. Gros Morne is good for the mind and body.
Now I have the painful task of deciding which books to buy. I guess those goddamned hippies are alright.