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 .

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 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.”


Kaija Savinainen —A Brush with a Gifted Environmental Activist - theHumm February 2021

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......


Interested in Writing?
Check Out Winterwords Online Events!
- theHumm February 2021

In the December issue of theHumm we issued an “invitation to write” by the name of Winterwords — asking readers to contribute up to 1000 words on the theme of “Back to Better in the Valley” and to contact us if they were interested in facilitating a writing workshop of some kind. The response has been warm and wonderful, and we are delighted to launch the 2021 Winterwords schedule of online events. All are free (or by donation to facilitators), and there is room for additional workshops should mo......


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......


Happy Hiking: an Interview with Vickie Walsh - theHumm February 2021

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......


The Last Generation: to Act on Climate Change - theHumm February 2021

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......


Hedgerow (where the domestic and the wild mix and mingle) - theHumm February 2021

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.......


Homesteading. Homeschooling. Homebodying. - theHumm February 2021

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......


Winter Haiku - theHumm February 2021

By Barbara Bolte

Barbara Bolte sent in this evocative Winter Haiku in response to theHumm’s Winterwords invitation to write:

Do not touch me with

your icy fingers —

I cannot give you my warmth.


The Return of the Almonte Lectures - theHumm February 2021

The Almonte Lecture Series promised to return, and they are — via Zoom! They have fascinating lectures lined up for the last Friday evening in February and March, and welcome everyone to attend v......


Public Libraries During Tough Times (Like Lockdowns!) - theHumm February 2021

By Jill McCubbin

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. Or as my son said: “We are blessed to live in these times and we are cursed to live in these times.”

And so, in these times, libraries have ......


C.R.A.V.E. Raffle for Interval House
- theHumm February 2021

Lanark County Interval House and Community Support is offering the chance to win $100,000 with their C.R.A.V.E electronic raffle! LCIHCS has had to cancel all in-person fundraising events and act......


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.



…and Now for Something Completely Different - theHumm February 2021

By Glenda Jones

Yesterday I could have sworn I was an extra in the movie Groundhog Day, but today I realize that, just like the proverbial river that is never the same for an instant, life moves on and it’s all ......


Sovereignty Gardens: Growing in Arnprior - theHumm February 2021

By David Hinks

I find it very encouraging to meet young enthusiastic gardening entrepreneurs. Shelby Gibson’s business in Arnprior, Sovereignty Gardens, is in the beginning stages. She is planning to offer a va......


Community Blossoms Flower Share Program - theHumm February 2021

Community Blossoms is a new flower share program developed by Johnny Slack and his wife Emma, owners of Calabogie Family Farm. With the knowledge that the pandemic is putting stress on the commun......


Cat vs. Therapist  - theHumm February 2021

By John Pigeau

Last week my therapist said something to me that struck me as exceedingly important. We were talking on the phone and I have a famously poor memory, so I said, “Whoa. Can you hold on a second? I ......


Winter Play Challenge - theHumm February 2021

Lockdowns and Covid restrictions driving you stir-crazy? The folks at Unposed Photography have come up with something fun to help out over the next couple of months. This is a not-for-profit......


MERA’s Speaker Series - theHumm February 2021

Brighten up your winter on Thursday evenings with an exciting series of talks presented by MERA. They will be shown on Zoom, so no danger of Covid or driving on icy roads. The topics include worl......


The Cat’s Meow
Our Area’s Certified Feline Master Groomer
- theHumm February 2021

What is a Certified Feline Master Groomer and how can one help you and your cat? For Cassandra Prince, co-owner of The Cat’s Meow, the answer is multifold. Regular cat grooming can help owners wh......