A recap of 2017, and news from friends

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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.