Pulling back the curtain on Read by the Sea literary festival

On the planning side, the events of a literary festival are only one part of a long process. Author and Read by the Sea committee member Linda Little give us the scoop
Read By the Sea 2014
From left: Alexander MacLeod, Steven Galloway, Russell Wangersky, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Sharon Butala, Frank Macdonald and Sylvia Hamilton at Read by the Sea 2014

On the planning side, the events of a literary festival are but one piece of a long process. Author and Read by the Sea committee member Linda Little give us the scoop

In 2015, Read by the Sea, the great little literary festival that could, will be rounding up a slate of terrific artists for book-lovers on Nova Scotia’s north shore. While the day is a highlight of the summer holidays for many, the work that goes into producing the event is prodigious. Long before the venues are booked and posters go up, long before the airplane tickets are purchased and the accommodations reserved, the business of producing a literary festival begins.

GristThe festivities happen on two days. This year’s WordPlay for kids kicks off at the Tatamagouche Creamery Square on Saturday, June 20th. Andy Jones, Linda Little, and Starr Dobson (and a goat!) will lead the adventures. The Wild City Roses will provide song and dance and general hijinks.

The adult Read by the Sea event unfolds at the River John Legion Gardens on Saturday, July 11th. This year’s theme is Blood and Soul. The day opens with the mystery writers’ Blood stage with Maureen Jennings and Giles Blunt. After music and mingle and a picnic, the Soul stage features Linden MacIntyre and memoirist Isabel Huggan. There will be interviews, Q&As, live music, book sales and lots of opportunity to hang out with writers and fellow book-lovers.

Funding and author selection are the two big pieces of the puzzle that must be set in place about a year before the show goes on. Here’s how it all happens:

Read by the Sea has two main events: WordPlay for children and Read by the Sea for adults. In each case the committee considers the roster they would like to offer their audience. They look for variety, impact, entertainment value and potential to spark thought and discussion when choosing authors. Who would the audience like to see and who will bring new insights?

For both stages the committees look for a mixture of lively and profound, authors who speak to our lives here on the north shore and authors who open doors to experiences beyond our own. Names are tossed about: who has read what, and what’s excellent? How would one author mix with another? What themes arise by juxtaposing writers X and Y? Once the preferred roster, the “dream team,” is agreed upon committee members begin to contact the authors.

PunishmentOne thing Read by the Sea has learned over the years is not to discount writers because they might say no. Sure they might, and some do, but most writers are happy to receive the invitation. Festivals offer a terrific opportunity for writers to connect with their audiences and to gain new fans. While large festivals may have 50 or 60 writers and thousands of people in attendance over several days, a small festival with a single stage consolidates the audience and can actually offer more listeners in one session than the larger events. Furthermore, authors who accept a Read by the Sea invitation often prefer the intimate, down-home atmosphere of the rural festival to the larger, more commercialized urban events.

Once the organizers have settled on the roster and contacted the potential authors they put together their first grant applications. Fund-raising is a central task for any festival committee. Read by the Sea has held many fund-raisers in its 16-year history but the core of its funding comes from granting bodies such as the Canada Council for the Arts, Arts Nova Scotia, and the County Councils. A successful grant application sets out the vision for the organization and paints a detailed picture of the event. Then there is the post-festival reports to be sent to all granting agencies.

There’s a year’s worth of work behind the summer festival. But no need to dwell on that—let’s just enjoy Read by the Sea for all it’s worth!

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Written By

Linda Little is a short-story writer and novelist who recently released her first picture book, Work and More Work with Óscar T. Pérez. She has won the Cunard First Book Award, the Lilla Stirling Memorial Award, the Dartmouth Book Award and the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize. She lives in River John, NS.

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