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Nov. 14, 2019 | Thursday
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Niagara Falls Writer’s Festival gets help from some NOTLers
Andrew Porteus reads during the Niagara Falls Literary Arts Festival in 2016. (Supplied photo)

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Andrew Porteus has been publishing found poems online for almost 20 years and now he is helping to organize the Niagara Falls Writer’s Festival which takes place on Oct. 19 at three Niagara Falls library branches.

Porteus was initially involved with organizing a poetry contest during the festival, but due to limited submissions the contest was scrapped.

He will, however, publish submissions on his website, Niagarapoetry.ca, where he showcases more than 250 found poems centred around Niagara’s history.

This will be the first year for the festival running in this format, which was planned as a way to connect the local writing community in Niagara and to offer workshops and discussions on various aspects of literary interest.

The festival runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Victoria Avenue library branch, the Stamford branch and at the McBain Community Centre. Topics include a memoir workshop, poetry readings, tips on getting published, writing collaboratively, and building a writer’s platform.

The Niagara Falls Public Library held an event with a similar focus last year on Independent Authors Day.

This year’s festival started out as a continuation of that initial event but grew into its own, said Erik Upper, public relations co-ordinator for the festival.

With the help of a Niagara Falls Arts and Culture grant of $2,500, the festival was able to arrange for more workshop presenters, he said.

Porteus connected with friend and two-time best-selling memoir author Kathy Dobson and arranged for her to lead the memoir writing workshop at the Victoria Avenue branch.

“They can gain an understanding of how to write a memoir. Hers is very raw … instead of being a more sanitized, dispassionate look at it. It’s her first-person take, very intimate,” he said.

Dobson’s first book, With a Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood, was released in 2011 and her second, Punching and Kicking: Leaving Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood, was published in 2018.

Both memoirs touch on her own experiences growing up and leaving the Point St. Charles area of Montreal, “an industrial slum,” which was once deemed Canada’s most dangerous neighbourhood.

Dobson has worked as a journalist for the CBC and contributed to the Globe and Mail, National Post, Ottawa Citizen and many more media outlets.

Currently pursing a PhD at Carleton University in the School of Journalism and Communication, she has made a name for herself through her writing, her research into poverty issues, and by speaking about and hosting similar workshops.

Sharon Frayne of the NOTL Writers’ Circle will also be bringing her literary passion to the festival by reading her short story, Moonlight with Tom Thomson, at the Stamford branch.

The story was recently published in two parts in The Lake Report, accompanied by an image of an oil on canvas piece Frayne painted, which was the inspiration for the story. She said she will have the painting on display during her reading as well.

She also said she has a few other short stories and poems prepared for reading, if time permits.

Many writers participating and presenting during the event will have their published books available for purchase at the festival’s Book Fair, which will be held in the foyer of the Victoria Avenue branch.

After the festival, attendees will be invited to connect at Third Space Café on Queen Street in Niagara Falls for an open mic, where they can discuss the workshops. Porteus says they will meet at the café from about 4 to 6:30 p.m.

A full list of workshops and locations can be found at nfwritersfestival.com.

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