Cabot Trail Writers Festival Celebrates 5th Anniversary

The Cabot Trail Writers Festival celebrates its 5th anniversary from October 4th – 6th, 2013. Authors Peter Robinson, Frances Itani and Russell Wangersky will gather with book lovers from near and far at North River, Cape Breton. This annual celebration of words has been treasured by writers and readers alike since its debut in October 2009. This intimate little festival takes place in a rural community hall against the stunning backdrop of the Highlands, just as the fall foliage flares into crimson and gold.

Events kicks off at 7 pm on Friday with the Opening Gala, where attendees meet and mingle over drinks and hors d’oeuvres. The Festival has commissioned an exciting musical collaboration to celebrate its 5th Anniversary. Renowned Cape Breton musicians Carmel Mikol and Otis Tomas have created five original pieces of music inspired by books from previous Festival authors. They will premiere these works at the gala.

The evening will also feature readings by this year’s authors. Peter Robinson is a best-selling author best known for his Inspector Banks novels, which are published in translation all over the world and have been adapted for the TV show DCI Banks. North River will be Peter’s first Canadian stop as he tours his latest DCI Banks novel, Children of the Revolution. Frances Itani has explored many facets of writing through 15 books, including novels, short stories, poetry and children’s works. Her stunning WWI novel, Deafening, was a huge international success and won both a 2004 Commonwealth Prize and the 2003 Drummer General’s Award. Frances also writes for a variety of newspapers and publications. Russell Wangersky writes award-winning fiction and non-fiction as well as editing and writing for the St. John’s Telegraph. His award-winning 2008 memoir, Burning Down the House: Fighting Fires and Losing Myself, detailed the emotional toll of working as a volunteer firefighter. His most recent short-story collection, Whirl Away, has just won the $25,000 Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award for 2013. Throughout the weekend books by these authors and others will be available for sale and signing at the popular Readers’ Market.

On Saturday attendees get to switch hats, from reader to writer. Each of the featured authors will host two workshops on topics of their choice. Whether participants are seasoned writers or just beginning to put pen to paper, these workshops offer an invaluable opportunity to pick up tips from the pros in a relaxed, informal setting.

In between sessions, authors and participants can enjoy a lunch prepared by local chef Yvonne LeBlanc from locally-grown ingredients. Then locally-grown young writer, Leah Noble, will read from her newly published ghost story, Night Swimmer.

Following the afternoon workshops, everyone moseys across North River bridge to St. Andrew’s Church Memorial Hall for a delizioso Italian supper. A special treat is in store after dessert, as Bette MacDonald arrives to tickle funny bones with her unique brand of Cape Breton humour. Bette, actor and comedian extraordinaire, is a Gemini Award winner who has been entertaining Canadians for over 25 years. She currently plays Trudy Walsh on CBC’s hit comedy, Mr. D.

The Festival winds up on Sunday with that audience favourite, the Writers’ Panel. This year’s moderator is Dr. Afra Kavanagh, a recently retired professor of English Language and Literature at Cape Breton University and strong advocate for Canadian writing and story telling. Anticipate a lively discussion as Afra, Russell, Frances and Peter discuss the “rules” of novel writing. Audience members will also get a chance to ask questions or toss in their own two cents worth.

Authors and attendees can carry on the discussion over a scrumptious brunch prepared by Yvonne LeBlanc. Then Cape Breton troubadour Buddy MacDonald will close out the Festival with his own special blend of song, humour and story. Buddy is a masterful songwriter and storyteller who has been entertaining audiences for 35 years. Many of his songs have become island anthems, played at kitchen parties and ceilidhs everywhere.

Five years in, this jewel of a festival once again promises to delight readers and writers alike as they celebrate the world of words in the Highlands of Cape Breton.

by Sue McKay Miller