Alix Hawley delights Kingsville audience

For our fourth annual event, we were thrilled to host Kelowna, B.C.-based author Alix Hawley. Best known for her 2015 First Novel Award-winning novel All True Not a Lie in It, Alix has also attracted acclaim for her prize-winning short stories. Earlier this month, she traveled over 2,000 miles to join us here in Kingsville, where she read at our summer reading with Windsor Poet Laureate Mary Ann Mulhern.

Holding an outdoor event is always a gamble. That’s especially true during the summer months in extreme Southwestern Ontario, when the weather can be capricious. Would it rain? The forecast wasn’t clear. So instead of holding our reading at the lake, as planned, we convened at Red Lantern Coffeeshop in downtown Kingsville. I was apprehensive about the change at first, but soon a crowd arrived—over thirty people—and my worries dissipated.

Alix Hawley

Alix Hawley

Windsor Poet Laureate Mary Ann Mulhern

Windsor Poet Laureate Mary Ann Mulhern

As always, we began with a reading from one of our region’s talented local writers. Mary Ann Mulhern, Windsor’s Poet Laureate, opened with her first prize-winning poem, “Freedom’s Rail,” about Harriet Tubman. She went on to read new works from her forthcoming collection, set to be published this fall by Windsor’s Black Moss Press. For more on Mary Ann’s excellent work, including a list of her books for sale, I’d suggest following this link to her publisher’s website.

Next came the afternoon’s guest of honor, Alix Hawley, who read passages from her two novels. Both books of historical fiction follow the life of Daniel Boone, the so-called “White Indian” who helped settle Kentucky during the American Revolution. But together, they’re much more: a complicated love story between Boone and his wife Rebecca; an adventure story set in the untamed wilds of eighteenth-century America; and an examination of the odd (yet uniquely American) way in which a simple man was formed into a mythic figure—during his own time, to his own bafflement. Given their intelligence, mystery, and beautifully spare language, it’s no surprise they’ve attracted such great acclaim.

After the readings concluded, the crowd broke to mingle and have their books signed.

We were especially excited to feature Woodbridge Farm Book’s latest chapbook essay, “Your Eye: On Photography,” written by Alix, and published in honor of her stay. It’s the third installation in our Writers at Rest series, where authors reflect on their pastimes and hobbies. As the title reveals, Alix chose to write on photography, an interest she’s held since childhood. It’s a beautiful work that any fan of Alix’s (or photography, for that matter) will love. You can find signed copies for sale on our website’s Chapbook page, which you link to in the toolbar above.


Many thanks go out to all those who helped make this event a success, especially our readers, Craig Marentette of Red Lantern Coffee Co., Black Moss Press’ publisher Marty Gervais, Woobridge Farm Books’ co-publisher Chris Andrechek, Sharon Hanna, Dierdre Brode, Martha Thiessen, and all our loyal audience members.

We’re already looking forward to next summer, when we’ll celebrate our fifth anniversary with more great residencies and events. Until then!


Another summer comes to an end

In all, 2018 was a good year on the Woodbridge Farm. We were trilled to host three exiting young writers, each from different parts of the world.

Dani Couture

Dani Couture

Our season began in June, with a visit from Toronto-based poet and author Dani Couture, a celebrated member of the Canadian writing community. Earlier in March of this year, she published her lasted collection of poetry, Listen Before Transmit, with Wolsak & Wynn. Her two week residency, which she shared with her partner, the poet David Seymour, was fruitful and relaxing. We were excited to throw another of our popular outdoor readings with Dani — not least to celebrate our publication of her chapbook essay, A River in a Drought Is Still a River: On Not Running (available for purchase here) — but this was sadly cancelled due to the passing of Lorraine Woodbridge Munroe, my grandmother, just two days before the event was to take place.

As I mentioned in the cancellation email that was sent to our subscriber list (which you can sign up for here), my grandmother wasn’t only an enthusiastic supporter of the Woodbridge Farm Writers’ Residency, but a crucial actor in the preservation of the Woodbridge Farm itself. Without her efforts, what we’re doing wouldn’t be possible. Though she lived a long and happy life, her departure was deeply mourned.

Maxim Loskutoff

Maxim Loskutoff

In September, after a two-month interlude, we were pleased to host the summer’s next two authors: Maxim Loskutoff and Mikkel Rosengaard, our first international writers. Both recently published their debut titles. Maxim, who’s based in Missoula, Montana, is the author of Come West and See (W.W. Norton), a short story collection that garnered rich praise from The New York Times, among other outlets. Mikkel, author of the novel The Invention of Anna (Custom House/Harper Collins), is originally from much farther away — Elsinore, Denmark — but currently lives in New York. We were honored that these two writers chose the Woodbridge Farm as the launching point for their Midwestern and California book tour.

Mikkel Rosengaard

Mikkel Rosengaard

Their tour’s first event took place at Pages Bookshop, Detroit’s premier independent bookstore, where they were warmly received by the staff. After reading passages from their work, Maxim and Mikkel led a discussion about a number of matters that their books touch on, including alienation and issues with contemporary masculinity. We hope to work collaborate with Pages on similar events in the future. All local readers should visit their store, if they haven’t already. It’s a delightful place.

With Maxim and Mikkel’s departure, we wrapped up our 2018 season. At present, we’re preparing for next summer. Our goal is to continue expanding the range of authors we invite, extending our reach to writers of literary non-fiction. I’m enthusiastic about the year ahead.

As always, thanks to everyone who continues to make this endeavor so enjoyable.

— Grant

Our third summer opens with June author-in-residence Dani Couture

Photo credit: Roberta Baker

Photo credit: Roberta Baker

After a long winter, it's been wonderful to shake out the dust of those dreary months and plan ahead for summer. First among our doings is a visit from June author-in-residence, Dani Couture — among the most celebrated Canadian poets at work today. Her latest collection, Listen Before Transit, was published in April by Wolsak & Wynn. At around that time, a profile of her ran in Quill & Quire, on which she shared the cover with three other major figures in Canadian poetry. The piece described Dani's practice as "interdisciplinary and intuitive, guided by research and curiosity." The author of three other collections, along with the novel Algoma, her work has been nominated for the Trillium Award for Poetry, received an honour of distinction from the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBTQ Writers, and won the ReLit Award for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in publications in Canada, the US and the UK, including Poetry and The Boston Review.


All this makes us excited to host Dani. But what makes the stay even more special is her long connection to Essex County, where many of her relatives live — and have lived for centuries, as descendants of the earliest French settlers. When I met up with her in Windsor earlier this year, Dani told me that she has an uncanny attraction to bodies of water. Could this be from some ancestral memory of living by Lake Erie and the Detroit River? Maybe. I'd like to think so.

In celebration of her stay, we're hosting another one of our popular, informal outdoor readings on Sunday, June 24th at 3 p.m. Dani will be reading with poet and artist Melanie Janisse-Barlow, a local favorite and mainstay of the Windsor-Essex arts community. Rain or shine, it'll be taking place here at the lake. More information on this can be found at the Facebook event page here. Free refreshments will be served — as well as gourmet organic coffee from our good friend Craig, owner of Kingsville's Red Lantern Coffee Co. Books on sale, too. It's going to be a blast.

As if that wasn't enough, we're also excited to announce that our chapbook press, Woodbridge Farm Books, will be publishing the second in our essay series, Writers at Rest: Authors on Their Pastimes and Hobbies. The first of these chapbooks, written last summer by Diane Schoemperlen (who mused brilliantly on the subject of collage-making), was a knock-out success. Earlier this year, the Toronto-based magazine Broken Pencil gave it a glowing review, praising the piece as “a joy … [and] a flash of light on an eccentric medium.” With a fresh new design in the making, we expect Dani's contribution to this series to be as exceptional.

More on this — and much else — to come.

A recap of 2017, and news from friends


Though the year's far from over, the first of September marked the end of Woodbridge Farm's successful second year of author residencies, classes, and events. There's a chance we might still entertain a visiting writer, like we did with Max Ross, but our present focus is on planning for 2018. With this in mind, I thought it would be good to look back, recap the season, and share news of doings from our past residents.

recap of 2017

If the summer of 2016 was Woodbridge Farm's "soft launch" as Windsor-Essex's latest literary start-up, 2017 marked its swift development into an organization that provides solid programming, with participation numbers to show for it. At our first outdoor reading in July 2016, to cite one example, we hosted around twenty-five guests. Last month's reading attracted around sixty-five. Encouraging growth. We hope to sustain it by continuing to add new features in manageable increments, while maintaining the style that keeps Woodbridge Farm unique.

The most noticeable addition was the introduction of writing classes, both of which sold out quickly. But there were many more smaller additions and improvements. One example was our decision to handle book sales directly, rather than contract a for-profit bookseller, which increased the reading series' revenue and sustainability. Though changes like this might not be as evident, they make a great cumulative difference.

Almost all of these small improvements came as corrections—where we learned, quite humbly, from missteps made in innocence. My favorite example was the idea to space two thirty-minute gaps between each of an event's three readings. I made the mistake of implementing this at our June lawn party. When planning it, I thought those thirty-minute pauses would encourage a relaxed atmosphere, allowing time for people to mingle. But I was wrong. Most seemed anxious for the show to continue; a few got up and left. My friend Tim, who's been playing gigs for decades, said there's a standard rule in live music: never leave the stage for more than ten minutes. Five is better. But having no breaks works, too: that's how August's event was structured, and it flowed well. Everyone I spoke with enjoyed our five part, barrel-through pacing—i.e.: I. welcome -> II. intro -> reader -> III. intro -> reader -> IV. intro -> reader -> V. conclusion. It's the model we'll adopt going forward.

I mention this, in part, to point out two strengths that make me enthusiastic about Woodbridge Farm's future. Both have to do with the quality of our audience: first, they offer smart feedback; second, they've shown unwavering support even through this early process of improvement and expansion. It speaks so much to the quality of those who form our core.

In light of this year's success, planning is already started for the 2018 season. While it's too early to make any announcements, we'll be expanding the geographic range of authors invited to the retreat and reading series. We're also in discussion with supporters and regional organizations to develop our existing programming and establish new ties with the community. In other words, expect surprises.

news from our friends

Photo courtesy of Alana Wilcox

Photo courtesy of Alana Wilcox

Earlier this month, Yale University president Peter Salovey awarded the Windham-Campbell Prize to our August 2017 writer-in-residence, André Alexis, at a ceremony in New Haven, Connecticut. Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård, best known for his five-part novel, My Struggle, was the evening's keynote speaker. Alexis is the third-ever Canadian to win the award. Soon after, he was back in Toronto with his fellow 2017 Giller Prize jurors—including Lynn Coady, Nathan Englander, Anita Rau Badami, and Richard Beard—for the announcement of this year's prize longlist. Around the same time, Alexis' inclusion in Granta's forthcoming issue on Canada was made public.

After a promotional tour for her collection First Things First: Early & Selected Stories, including stops in Montreal, Toronto, and Hamilton, Diane Schoemperlen is back home in Kingston, Ontario, where, among other things, she's busy creating new collages. If you're interested in reading an excellent essay on the form, only about a dozen copies of her limited-edition chapbook, One Things Leads to Another: An Essay on Collage, are left. You can order them from Diane directly, or through our online store. Diane will be participating in several writers' festivals this autumn, including Toronto's International Festival of Authors and Kingston Writers' Fest.

A magazine piece that journalist Ryan Goldberg worked on while visiting us was published in Texas Monthly this past July: "Drug Runners," a deep dive into the world of the Tarahumara First Peoples of Mexico, their culture of long-distance running, and how this talent has been exploited by drug cartels, was selected among that week's best articles by Longform.

Kim Fahner, our August 2017 resident, continues her role as Poet Laureate of Sudbury, Ontario. In a few short weeks, she'll be launching her latest collection of poetry, Some Other Sky, published by Windsor's Black Moss Press. Windsor-Essex locals should keep their eyes open for an announcement about this year's Poetry at the Manor event, which should be happening around mid-October. Kim is scheduled to present there with several other poets laureate from around the country. The evening, as ever, will be hosted by the indomitable Marty Gervais.

Up in Toronto, Jesse Eckerlin began his masters degree at the University of Toronto's Centre for Comparative Literature. He completed his bachelors in literature from the same university earlier this spring.

Our August lawn party with André Alexis, André Narbonne, and Dorothy Mahoney

André Alexis, author of the Giller Prize-winning novel  Fifteen Dogs , entertains with a never-before-read passage from his forthcoming novel,  Days by Moonligh  t

André Alexis, author of the Giller Prize-winning novel Fifteen Dogs, entertains with a never-before-read passage from his forthcoming novel, Days by Moonlight

On Sunday, a record crowd came out to enjoy an afternoon with Giller Prize-winning author André Alexis, along with local writers André Narbonne and Dorothy Mahoney. The weather was perfect, freshly roasted coffee was served by Red Lantern Coffee Co., and Stephen Phillips played early jazz of the 1920s from the bed of his 1945 Chevrolet. The mood of the afternoon was as bright as you'd expect, carried by laughter and conversations around the book signing table.

The readings started, as they always do, with poetry. This time it from our friend Dorothy Mahoney, who recited a few pieces from her latest collection, Off-leash. Like the title implies, the work involves dogs. But not in a superficial way. Dorothy's look into our relationship with canines was written to develop, in her words, “a larger commentary on love, loyalty, betrayal, and, at times, abuse.”

Poet Dorothy Mahoney reading from her latest collection,  Off-leash

Poet Dorothy Mahoney reading from her latest collection, Off-leash

Next came André Narbonne, a writer, poet, and professor of literature and creative writing at the University of Windsor. He read a fable that was originally published in the Windsor-based literary journal Rampike, then a poem from a forthcoming collection due out this fall from Black Moss Press. One of the things I find fascinating about Narbonne—who's quickly become a valued member of the region's cultural community—is that he arrived relatively late to academia, having first labored as a maritime engineer. He was living out of his duffel bag when he arrived in Halifax on a damaged tanker in the mid-eighties. Years later, he completed two degrees in English at Dalhousie University, before going on to earn his Ph.D. His early experiences helped add remarkable authenticity to his story collection, Twelve Miles to Midnight, which was recently named a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Award—a prize that recognizes the best debut short fiction collection by a Canadian author.

Andre Narbonne reads from a fable first published in Windsor's literary journal  Rampike

Andre Narbonne reads from a fable first published in Windsor's literary journal Rampike

Finally, our guest of honor, André Alexis, took the stage. Rather than deliver a lengthy preamble, he announced the work was from his forthcoming novel, Days by Moonlight—the fourth in his five-book series—and jumped in. The passage he read was from the book's second chapter, set in small town of southwestern Ontario, where its residents establish an annual parade in honor of marginalized Canadians and Canadian history. Despite the best intentions of the townsfolk, everything goes comically awry. Alexis' deadpan delivery heightened the scene's increasingly surreal humor, drawing bigger laughs as the reading progressed. (Interesting, as we learned later at the party, it turned out that the last bit of what Alexis read had been penned early that same morning.)

Thanking our participants

Thanking our participants

After the readings, we socialized, enjoyed refreshments, and had our books signed. Then door prizes were drawn. One of the winners, Rev. Morley Pinkney, left with a copy of David William's new novel, When the English Fall, along with the latest issue of The Walrus, and a gift certificate for dinner at The Main Grill & Ale House in downtown Kingsville. Two others won similarly cool swag. Most stayed to mingle and listen to music until Stephen packed up his truck.

Stephen Phillip's 1945 Chevrolet, with antique phonographs and records

Stephen Phillip's 1945 Chevrolet, with antique phonographs and records

Quite a few said it was the region's most memorable literary event of the year. A great portion of its success is thanks to our excellent participants, but also to the support the community. First and foremost, we're grateful for our hardworking volunteers, especially Chris Andrechek, who handled book sales; Stephen Phillips, who shared his rare music; Sharon Hanna and Philip Munroe, who assisted with a number of matters; Kirk Munroe for serving as our parking officer; and others. Huge thanks to Craig Marentette of Red Lantern Coffee Co., who'll be slinging java at all our future parties; the excellent independent businesses who donated gift certificates for our raffle—The Butcher of Kingsville, Merli's Coffeehouse & Eatery, and The Main—and the publishers who supplied our book table: Windsor's own Black Moss Press and Palimpsest Press, as well as Coach House Books of Toronto. Thanks also to the staff of the Pelee Island Winery, who graciously offered their event space as an alternative rain location, and to the Kingsville BIA, Mayor Nelson Santos, and Councilor Tony Gaffan for their outreach and advice. Finally, we owe a debt of thanks to all our friends in the local media, including Craig Pearson of The Windsor Star; Jerome Vaughn of WDET, Detroit's NPR affiliate; Colin Côté-Paulette of CBC Windsor / Radio-Canada; Nathan Swinn of CBC's Afternoon Drive; Louann Geauvreau-Karry of The Kingsville Reporter; and Nelson Santos of the same. 

But most of all—thanks to all who joined us. In just two short years, you've helped Woodbridge Farm's events and sold-out classes grow to become the highlight of Windsor-Essex's summer lit scene. 

Raffling off three door prizes

Raffling off three door prizes

In the coming weeks, I'll post a more comprehensive look back on the season as a whole, with a few words about planning that's currently underway for next summer. Until then, enjoy a restful Labor Day weekend.


André with students of his day-long class on experimental fiction

André with students of his day-long class on experimental fiction

André Alexis Headlines Lawn Party & Outdoor Reading

Join us on Sunday, August 27th at 3 p.m. to welcome the Giller-winning author of Fifteen Dogs

We're thrilled to host André Alexis, among our nation's most celebrated novelists, at next Sunday's lawn party and outdoor reading at the farm. He'll be joined by two of Windsor's best loved writers: author, poet, and professor André Narbonne, whose most recent short story collection, Twelve Miles to Midnight, was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award; and the widely-anthologized poet Dorothy Mahoney. Come out for this rare opportunity to meet an author The Windsor Star recently named "the current toast of the Canadian literary scene."

Date: Sunday, August 27th
Time: 3 - 6 p.m.
Location: Woodbridge Farm
Address: 619 Woodbridge Lane, Kingsville, ON (map)
RSVP: Facebook event page /
Rain Location: Pelee Island Winery (455 Seacliff Dr, Kingsville, ON N9Y 2K5)

In addition to everything we've offered in the past—free refreshments, relaxed atmosphere, old-time jazz from the 20s and 30s, and books on sale for signing—we're excited to share new swag and samples, including:

  • Free pour-over coffee tastings from Kingsville's first organic gourmet roaster, Red Lantern Coffee Co.;
  • Free giftcard giveaways courtesy of our best independent, locally-owned restaurants and businesses, including The Butcher of Kingsville, The Main Grill & Ale House, Merlis' Coffeehouse & Eatery, and more;
  • Our inaugural Random Review Copy Raffle, where everyone gets a chance to win books.

We'll be taking very short breaks between each author's presentation, then enjoying the rest of the afternoon under a lazy shade. It's our last outdoor event of the summer. Don't miss out.


A sample of our prize giveaways, including gift certificates from Kingville's best establishments and new works by Margaret Atwood, Diane Schoemperlen, and others.

A sample of our prize giveaways, including gift certificates from Kingville's best establishments
and new works by Margaret Atwood, Diane Schoemperlen, and others.

Registration Opens for André Alexis' Master Class in Experimental Fiction

A limited number of seats remain open for Giller-winning author André Alexis' master class in experimental fiction, scheduled for Saturday, August 26th, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This is a rare opportunity to learn craft from the author of Fifteen Dogs, perhaps the nation's most celebrated novel in recent memory. Light summer lunch included. Cost: $149.95 + HST. Course description:

What is experimental fiction? What draws authors to the form? How can innovation add depth and meaning to a narrative, or shape a work in lieu of a narrative? Commencing with a morning lecture, followed by an afternoon of guided writing exercises, award-winning novelist André Alexis takes students through the theory and practice of a tradition popularized, in recent years, by Zadie Smith, George Saunders, and Alexis himself.

For more on Alexis, please see his bio on our Residencies page.

Attendees of Diane Schoemperlen's June memoir master class raved about the instruction, welcoming atmosphere, intimacy, and food. To reserve your spot, email Seats are filling quickly.

Students of Diane Schoemperlen's June master class in memoir writing

Students of Diane Schoemperlen's June master class in memoir writing


Summer Harvest Begins, and Writer Max Ross Visits

Most of our ancestors spent their summers in a stoop. Not all did. Some rode horses into other horses, sniffed game trails, threw clay, or cast nets, but, for the preponderate number of peasants in our collective line, stooping was definitely the most popular pursuit of the season. And why not? Ancient grains don't reap themselves.

We still stoop today, of course, but it's often over a computer, for want of a posture-correcting Aeron chair. Slouching is the new stooping, and its practice extends far beyond the month of July. Whether a life of slumping is progress over several months in full-stoop, intermingled with generous periods of genuflecting, skulking, folk dancing, fleeing, and kowtowing, I'm not smart enough to say—but it does feel good to occasionally return to your roots.

My friend Max Ross discovered this during his trip here. I took him up on his offer to help me in the garden. We stooped to harvest garlic—over a hundred bulbs. Then we graded them on the gravel drive, before trimming their stems and roots and hanging them to cure. Honestly, I did the trimming and hanging on my own. After zealously throwing himself to the labor of garlic plucking, which lasted a heroic ten minutes, Max preferred to spend the remainder of the day on a couch, napping and reading Knausgård. We all have our own ancestors to impress.

I've been friends with Max for nearly a decade. We met at New York University's graduate program for fiction, where the two of us attended workshops and classes together. His fiction, which is always very funny, has been published in several well-regarded journals, including American Short Fiction, The Common, and elsewhere. His essays, reporting, and reviews (as funny) have been featured in the New York Times, Boston Globe, L.A. Review of Books, and online at The New Yorker. My favorite of his work was written for the latter: a short, Talk of the Town-style piece about a radically egalitarian soccer organization in Minnesota, where Max was born and raised. He currently lives with his girlfriend in San Francisco, a shining city where agriculture is something its citizens expect to be sustainable and trucked in from elsewhere.

One Saturday afternoon during his week-long stay, the two of us enjoyed the company of the Gombai Art Collective, a loose fraternity of local painters. They held a gathering by the lake. Though Max spent the majority of their visit reading (more Knausgård), he looked up when someone noticed an object falling from the sky. It splashed down a mile offshore. One painter described it as a huge, half-deflated balloon, "but with heft." Another claimed he'd conjured it through sheer force of mind. Debate ensued about whether we should swim out to identify the thing, which barely floated. But then it was swallowed by the lake. So we barbecued sausages, eggplant, and summer squash instead.

The latter two items were harvested from the garden, which is now in high season. These days my neighbors, parents, and I are enjoying nightly helpings of beans, tomatoes, sweet onions, cucumbers, beets, watermelon, and more. There's so much produce, in fact, that I might put a stand out by the road. That would mark a first, and reestablish the Woodbridge Farm as a working farm, rather than just an ancestral place name. Hawking produce is something I've thought of doing for years. It's an honest ambition—the sort of dream you stoop to.

Our June lawn party and twin launches for Diane Schoemperlen, with Marty Gervais and D.A. Lockhart

From left to right: Governor General's Award-winning author Diane Schoemperlen, Windsor Poet Laureate Marty Gervais, and author D.A. Lockhart. Photo credit: Sharon Hanna, c/o Marty Gervais

From left to right: Governor General's Award-winning author Diane Schoemperlen, Windsor Poet Laureate Marty Gervais, and author D.A. Lockhart. Photo credit: Sharon Hanna, c/o Marty Gervais

Yesterday was one of the hottest June days in the history of the Detroit-Windsor region. Temperatures reached well into the 90s. But on the lake in Kingsville, just outside the concrete sprawl of the city, it was cool enough for at least one woman to don a sweater. She was the exception among the fifty-plus people who came to enjoy readings from authors Diane Schoemperlen, Marty Gervais, and D.A. Lockhart—yet everyone felt the difference. A lakeside breeze makes even the swampiest summers tolerable.

In all, we really couldn't have asked for a better afternoon. Each of our guest authors entertained in their own way, while everyone socialized and kept refreshed during breaks. Our friend Tim Swaddling played old 78s from the 30s and 40s, dutifully flipping sides and changing records every few minutes, while the folks from Biblioasis served pie.

D.A. Lockhart started us off with some light poetry. He read pieces from a previous collections, then a sonnet from a forthcoming book he and other poets in Windsor's so-called "Group of Seven" are publishing this fall, under Black Moss Press, in celebration of Canada's 150th anniversary. Much of Lockhart's work seems grounded in the traditions of the Leni Lenape, which I find fascinating. A member of the Moravian of the Thames First Nation, located outside of Chatham, he currently lives in Windsor with his wife Emily and their young son.

Photo credit: Marty Gervais

Photo credit: Marty Gervais

About a half-hour after Lockhart read, historian Sharon Hanna introduced Windsor's Poet Laureate, Marty Gervais. Always a crowd favorite, he told anecdotes and recited a few of his more recent poems, then turned to a fascinating passage on how Windsor's car culture contributed to the destruction of the city's architectural treasures. The section was read from his forthcoming memoir, The Disappeared: Five Days Walking the Five Towns, out from Biblioasis this fall.

Finally, our guest and headliner, Diane Schoemperlen, read the preface of her newest full-length book, First Things First: Early and Uncollected Stories, also published by Biblioasis. The essay brought us through Diane's career as a young writer, ending with a reflection on the lessons she's learned. Chief among them: Be stubborn. "Whereas confidence is a flighty temperamental quality that will always wax and wane," she read, "stubbornness is a good solid thing, not always wise but certainly reliable, steadfast, and dependable."

In addition to the launch of First Things First, the event was also (in an appropriately relaxed way) the launch of our new press, Woodbridge Farm Books, and its first title: One Thing Leads to Another: An Essay on Collage, also by Diane. They all came with hand-made collage bookmarks by the author herself. Each is unique. Both her book and chapbook sold well, as did titles by Daniel and Marty. Always a welcome thing to see people loaded down with new reads.

Bookmarks, numbered and signed. Image courtesy of Diane Schoemperlen

Bookmarks, numbered and signed. Image courtesy of Diane Schoemperlen

Couldn't make it out? Want a copy of Diane's chapbook? You can order it here. Only the next 20 come with bookmarks—those are all we have left. And once the limited run of 100 copies is finished, it's finished for good. So snap these collectable items up. All the other authors' books are available online and at independent bookstores near you. Thanks again to Biblioasis for partnering with us on this event and providing refreshments.

Many asked when our next lawn party is taking place. Mark this in your calendars: Sunday, August 27th from 3 - 6 p.m. We'll be joined by 2015 Giller Prize-winning author André Alexis, best known for his novel Fifteen Dogs, as well as local author André Narbonne and poet Dorothy Mahoney.

Big cheers for the authors. Big cheers to all those who came out. It was an excellent way to cap off a rich, successful weekend of literary events, following the sold out, full-day workshop on memoir writing that Diane held on Saturday.

Diane's workshop students, holding copies of her Taylor Prize shortlisted memoir,  This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and Other Complications

Diane's workshop students, holding copies of her Taylor Prize shortlisted memoir, This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and Other Complications

Now time to spring back to the desk, with some pauses for tending the farm. More news soon.


A Managable Madness


We went and started a very small press.

Looking back, everything was growing toward it: the residencies, readings, workshops. What launched the effort, though, was more of a lark: over beers, I spoke with a friend about putting out a chapbook series. He agreed: it'd be fun. So I asked a few other people—people that might be able to help—and they were keen on the idea, too. To guarantee full creative ownership, we decided to do it ourselves. Not uncommon.

But so now here we are in early June, after several weeks of planning and collaboration, with the fruits of that labor: Woodbridge Farm Books' first title, "One Thing Leads to Another: An Essay on Collage," by the brilliant, GG Award-winning author Diane Schoemperlen. It's the first in the aforementioned series that we're calling Marginalia: Authors on Their Pastimes & Hobbies. Four of us hand-bound the books, which resemble very fine pamphlets, over a beautiful Sunday afternoon. When the job was done, we went for a swim in the lake and grilled hamburgers.

The edition turned out beautifully thanks to two amazing women: Diane, who not only wrote a captivating (and occasionally quite funny) essay on how collage making influenced her vocation as a writer, and vice versa, but also included original, black and white interior illustrations (including of her own work); and talented Windsor-based artist Julia "Julie" Hall, who designed, hand-lettered, and illustrated the cover. The generous use of negative space is something Julie's known for. Fits the tone of the series perfectly.

It's often easy to overlook the particular genius of professional typesetters. Most people just recognize bad typesetting; and then often only in an abstract sense: the page doesn't look quite right, or looks cheap, messy. That's not the case here. The reason—the reason for this project's realization, really—is thanks to my friend Chris Andrechek, a master of interior book design. Again: clean, minimalist, perfect.

For now, it's hard to imagine publishing anything more grand than these crisp, hand-made items. At least for the foreseeable future. The cost of running a small press—both in terms of time and money—is far greater than I'd care to spend. My focus is on my writing. But we'll see.

Might sound like hedging. It isn't. Just being careful what we wish for. Because, listen: this fun, collaborative effort, which is currently quite manageable, offers all the pleasures of publishing without many of the downsides. In other words: no throat-clenching heartbreak, all the joy of bringing a thing to life. We're starting small, devoted to quality.

You can buy our very first edition here. All are signed, and the first 20 copies come with Diane's colorful bookmarks. Each one is unique.

This Sunday marks the year's first big lawn party of the summer. Biblioasis, which appears on the verge of becoming a medium-sized press (with all the acclaimed authors and books needed to carry that prestigious, hard-won designation) will be there to launch Diane's latest book, First Things First: Early and Uncollected Stories. She'll be joined by our friends Marty Gervais, the Poet Laureate of Windsor (and memoirist, historian, publisher, photographer, journalist—the list of his talents goes on and on); and D.A. "Daniel" Lockhart, another local, multi-class literary star: poet, author, publisher.

You can find details on the party here. If you're around, I hope you'll come and celebrate Biblioasis' launch with us, and enjoy the day.