I’m just back from five days in Fernie where I marvelled all over again at how the residents of a mountain town —built on coal-mining, currently thriving as a winter sports area as well—are pouring their energy into becoming a literary centre.
This is the fifth year for the Fernie Writers Conference, the second year I’ve had the privilege of teaching a weekend fiction course. As well as the obvious pleasure of spending five days on the side of a mountain and wandering a town with baskets of flowers hung at every light standard and shop entry, there was the amazing company of a faculty that made this festival shine as bright as any on the continent. Fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, song-writing and the finest offerings I’ve encountered anywhere for the teen and pre-teen writers. Events at the bookstore, library, railway station arts centre, local bar, and Island Lake Lodge where the curtain of rain that kept us inside made the perfect backdrop to a moody afternoon of poetry. And of course the slopes, the classes at the ski resort where it’s all about wildflowers and mountain bikes.
I admit to preparing for my workshop with reluctance to leave my garden. I’ve had a busy winter, in fact I’ve had five years as busy as any stretch of my life, and this one little bump in the summer schedule was … well, a bump as I was anticipating the time away. But as always, I came away energized by the enthusiasm of the five writers I was working with. Fascinated by the range of projects; historical fiction set in a town much like Fernie, a novel set in Borneo during WW II, a bit of black comedy about three couples at a weekend cabin in the mountains, the brave story of a woman’s journey toward freedom, a series of animal stories by a storyteller who can make you care about a cockroach, a science thriller/love story about the search for the genetic key that will unlock the cure to a premature aging disease. And five writers who approached one another’s work with the level of respect and attention that made the workshop a sheer pleasure.
A link to the Fernie Conference Website: http://ferniewriters.com/ (the slideshow of photos there is from the 2010 festival, but I believe this year’s photos will be there soon.)
Write yourself a reminder to check out the FWC as soon as the 2012 program is up.