Reading and Writing in the Time of Covid - theHumm February 2021
Reading and Writing in the Time of Covid - theHumm February 2021
By Jaaron Hamilton
The pandemic has caused a significant number of difficulties for many industries and communities, but one vibrant community is finding new ways to foster creativity during a challenging time.
The Ottawa Valley is full of creative writers and readers, but Covid has created a roadblock for many. While writing may seem like a solitary activity, growth and development comes from the brainstorming and sharing of ideas through the workshops, gatherings, and in-person events that have been casualties of this year. These difficult times present an unprecedented challenge for everyone, but there are many new ideas that are surfacing to bring people together.
How better to connect with other readers, writers and literary aficionados than through book launches, author talks, creative writing workshops or book clubs? The past year saw the temporary end of in-person gatherings, but creative and industrious minds are coming together to build new online gathering places. Lockdown or not, there are plenty of ways for interested writers and fiction-lovers to unite and share in common enjoyment of the written word.
Writer, editor and teacher Robynne Eagan is actively working to find new opportunities to connect people and to bring the Ottawa Valley writing community back together. As she describes, she is looking for ways to “let writers engage together in this time.” Working on projects such as Winterwords and the Lockdown Writer’s Café, Eagan is seeking to discover and build talent on a local level and to feature more writers living in the Ottawa Valley.
“We’re looking at the pandemic and how it’s affected people. We want to provide some sort of platform for people to write about it,” Eagan shares. She hopes to help people process everything that this pandemic has wrought, whether positive or negative, and to gain insight through their writing.
“It’s a cool area, the Ottawa Valley,” she explains in an interview. “I think there’s a lot of hidden talent, and I am so inspired by the people you find.” This community is full of creative writers and poets. In this time of struggle, it is uplifting to discover that there are some who are looking to nurture this raw talent and to share it with others. Writers and readers alike are uncovering fresh new ways to connect with the literary community; not just locally, but around the globe as well.
Eagan says, “The world is open to people now. You can watch any conference and see all kinds of great writers.” Conferences across the world have established themselves on digital platforms and have extended their reach worldwide. From BookCon to the The Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival, “you can go online to writing conferences around the world and you hear all of these famous writers,” Eagan describes. “It’s great.”
Connection is possible within one’s own backyard also. Locally, writing groups and author events have moved online and provide ample opportunity for people to tune in from the comfort of their own homes. By way of connecting the literary community against the odds, the Ottawa Writers Festival ran their Fall season virtually this year, and announced virtual programming for the Spring of 2021. Find more information about their upcoming season at writersfestival.org .
Candace Woolley of the Bonnechere Authors Festival says her hope is to consider moving the festival online to a virtual forum in 2021. Plans are still in the works, but festival attendees can stay up to date by visiting bonnechereupl.com/baf.html or contacting the Bonnechere Public Library.
Online video meet-ups also provide a forum for those interested in creating or joining a book club to meet virtually on a regular basis. Eagan outlines her own experience with writing groups online. “I’ve found with my two [creative writing] groups, we’ve gotten a little more personal. There’s a connectedness that wasn’t there before.”
Although writing is a solitary activity, it is easy to feel disconnected or out of sorts without the regular in-person events and sessions to brainstorm and share ideas with others. Eagan explains: “a lot of the writers I’ve talked to are kind of in shell shock. They’re really preoccupied and are having a hard time concentrating, and even reading!”
The pandemic seemingly provides ample opportunity to create and consume new literature, but the motivation is often absent. There is a lack of productivity, but as readers and writers begin to venture online and discover new ways to interact, there are increasingly more ways to combat the fatigue that this pandemic has brought. Zoom and FaceTime allow book clubs and writing groups to connect virtually throughout the winter, with the hope that perhaps in the spring, the possibility of meeting face-to-face will arise.
Staying connected to the literary community may look a little different for each person. Subscribing to the e-newsletters of local bookshops and festivals or following their social media pages allow readers and writers to get relevant, real-time information about what’s going on throughout the turbulence of the pandemic.
For readers seeking to remain connected in this tumultuous time, Almonte’s Mill Street Books offers a regular newsletter to keep the community abreast of their offerings and their pandemic programming. In addition, owner Mary Lumsden explains that their regular book club has moved to Zoom, they continue to offer personal recommendations to readers, and they have even hosted a virtual event with author Tim Cook (The Fight for History).
Challenging times and circumstances allow for transformation to take place. Instead of isolating people in their homes, the pandemic allows people to connect on a very open, human level, setting the stage for creativity to blossom. It may be virtual, but the community is able to rally together and find commonality in this shared experience.
There is so much growth and connection happening within this community and so much to look forward to in the months to come. Although it is easy to feel isolated, the support is there. Eagan says, “It is so inspiring how people are rolling with things and finding ways to get around it and keep things going no matter what it takes.”
By Sally Hansen
Art… and Soul
When theHumm first featured oil painter Kaija Savinainen Mountain (her married name) in 2007, she responded to my inevitable question as to why she created her art with this statement: “I have a terrible need to create. It chases me.” She has continued her race to the top of her creative powers, but she has raised the bar on her ambitions. Today her answer is: “Nature needs our respect and care more than ever these days, and I challenge us all to be mindful of......
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Artistic Excellence in our Area - theHumm February 2021
By Miss Cellaneous
Mary Pfaff: Companions
From February 17 to March 26, Sivarulrasa Gallery in Almonte is pleased to present Mary Pfaff: Companions, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Almonte-based artist Mary Pfaff. The Gallery is thrilled that this exhibition will include, in addition to new smaller works, four new 60-inch canvasses entitled Beyond, Home, Uncertainty, and Conversing with the Trees.
Mary Pfaff earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts (with distinction) fro......
Build a Birdhouse! - theHumm February 2021
By Glenda Jones
The birdhouse auction in support of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists is only three months away, and crafters are scouring their treasures for the makings of a unique creation to tempt bidders. While a classic wooden house will suffice, a dwelling that once was a watering can or a toy could up the interest. Turn children loose with a box of odds and ends, and their imaginations are limitless. An old key will become a perch; an assortment of bottle caps will become shingles; a milk carton will......
By Kris Riendeau
Just before Christmas, I picked up a copy of Vickie Walsh’s Guide to Hiking Trails in Ottawa and Region. As I perused the pages and learned about many trails with which I had not yet become acquainted, it occurred to me that Vickie’s insights would be a wonderful addition to theHumm. Imagine my delight when she responded to my enquiry to say that she had just moved to Almonte and was interested in collaborating! Her background is varied and fascinating, and her dedication to promoti......
By Emily Pearlman
“I am inspired by empowered young people coming to realize our place in the world as the last generation to challenge Climate Change and environmental injustices,” says Ahlena Sultana-McGarry, one of the facilitators of Climate Network Lanark’s Youth for Climate Action group. She speaks with a quiet confidence which seems the right note to strike with the twelve young people from across Lanark who recently assembled as strangers for the group’s first meeting.
Sultana-McGarry, a graduate in Cro......
By Susie Osler
I ride a friend’s beautiful big black horse Izzy out into the fields on a farm east of Perth. It is a gloriously eerie afternoon in late November. A wet snow has fallen on not-yet-frozen ground and now a thick, vaporous veil of fog has gathered over the land.
Izzy is a game companion and I anticipate the adventure we have ahead of us. When the curtain of fog closes around us, separating us from buildings and barns, suddenly I am transported into the pages of childhood books — a girl on a pony, ve......
Finding Joy in Lockdown - theHumm February 2021
By Sarah Kerr
I had a bit of the “blue Monday” feels as I sat down to write this month’s Little Humm column. But the whole point of this column is to add some joy and encouragement to all my parenting peeps in the Valley. So in an effort to find inspiration for February, which is currently forecasting a continued lockdown and possibly a polar vortex, I decided to survey the kids of the Ottawa Valley to see how they think we should handle this situation. And it turns out, they’re not as upset about lockdown in wint......
Back to Better in the Valley - theHumm February 2021
By Jeanne d’Arc Labelle
Jeanne d’Arc Labelle sent in this thoughtful note and hopeful poem in response to our Winterwords invitation to write. She says: “I see the turbulence of the pandemic posturing on the unknown, all the while… its isolation being spun into hope, and gratefulness; and in small and big ways, all around me. I wondered, could such a context be captured in ‘Tritina Poetry’? Tritina poetry is choosing three words (1,2,3), to be used in rotation, at the end of three sentences, using ......
Dear Little One - theHumm February 2021
By Jaaron Hamilton
Jaaron Hamilton sent in this letter to her young son (as well as the photo) as her contribution to theHumm’s Winterwords invitation to write:
By the time that you’ll be reading this, all of this will be a distant memory. Maybe you’ll be reading about it in your history textbook, or watching a documentary about it on Netflix. In any case, there is one thing that is absolutely certain: this was not the year that we imagined. I don’t know what we expected, but this definitely wasn’t it.......
By Nick McCabe
Nick McCabe sent in this gently insightful contribution to theHumm’s Winterwords invitation to write. Artist Catherine Orfald allowed us to use her painting Ontario Farm Remains to accompany it.
This past summer, while tying up our tomatoes in the garden for what felt like the 100th time, my wife noticed our son Theo, in flight, speeding past the garden with a rusted-old-broken-thingamajig in hand toward the woodshed. She, boldly, remarked as to whether he had gotten around to co......
We and Covid - theHumm February 2021
By Frank Hirst
Frank Hirst is the author of A View from the Forest — a non-fiction collection of stories about his life. Born in England in 1939, Frank came to the Ottawa Valley in 1948. He taught for two years each in Ottawa, Northern Ontario and Dawson City, spent four years at Queen’s and retired from high school teaching in 1990, returning to his farm. Frank lived off the land for the most part in the Ottawa Valley, in a log cabin he built in the bush with his wife and kids. Frank’s adventures, captur......
By Jill McCubbin
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Feb 17 - Mar 26 Exhibition: Mary Pfaff's paintings
Mar 10 - Apr 16 Exhibition: Jim Hake's Sculptures
- Kaija Savinainen —A Brush with a Gifted Environmental Activist
- Interested in Writing? Check Out Winterwords Online Events!
- Artistic Excellence in our Area
- Build a Birdhouse!
- Happy Hiking: an Interview with Vickie Walsh
- The Last Generation: to Act on Climate Change
- Hedgerow (where the domestic and the wild mix and mingle)
- Finding Joy in Lockdown
- Back to Better in the Valley
- Dear Little One