Saturday, August 31, 2013

Eden Mills Writers’ Festival – A Reality

Poet Debbie Okun Hill asked if anyone was interested in accompanying her to the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. I jumped at the chance. It was 2011 and she was attending the festival near Guelph as a Fringe reader. Though she was a member of my writing group, I didn’t know Debbie very well. Of course, all that changed over the course of a couple of days.

While I relaxed in the hotel room with a book in one hand and the other burrowing its way through a bag of peanuts, Debbie mingled with award winning authors and poets at the Saturday evening reception. I could hardly wait for her return. I wanted to know EVERYTHING.

The next day we left our Guelph hotel and bebopped over to Eden Mills. We’ve all heard the expression there was excitement in the air. Well, that describes the scene perfectly. The activity only added to the butterflies I was experiencing. Debbie remained her calm self.

As we wandered Publishers’ Way, stopping at various booths manned by authors and publishers, my friend generously introduced me to every acquaintance we came across that she’d met the evening before at the soiree.
One of the authors was Allan Casey, recipient of the Governor General’s Award for his book Lakeland. Allan was a very personable fellow and spent a few minutes talking to us about the complexity and mysteries of the publishing industry. I searched out Allan Casey’s book and carried it with me until I spotted him later in the afternoon and begged a personalized autograph. He graciously complied. This picture of me with the author was on the Eden Mills website.

I wandered Eden Mills capturing the flavour of the venue with pictures of the parade, various booths, and audience-dotted lawns with authors at the podiums. My camera remained at the ready, recording Debbie’s journey as a Fringe reader. Here she chats with Trudi and George Down of The Book Band.

Wolfing down a burger at the food court along the main street, I imagined Debbie snacking in the coveted writers’ lounge enjoying small talk with her favourite poets. I was thrilled for her.

It was an uplifting and inspirational experience and I was thankful for the opportunity to tag along.

Debbie read her poetry in her trademark cadence as I snapped picture after picture, all the while wondering how she could perform in front of a large audience in such a calm and professional manner. I was a bag of nerves for her.

At the end of the weekend, heading back home, Deb encouraged me to submit a story, saying that the next time we go to Eden Mills she would be on the other side of the camera, and I’d be at the podium. Riiiiiiight....

And so it shall be.

On Sunday evening, I received a phone call from the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. They put me on speakerphone. I wondered if they could hear my heart pounding as I repeated “How exciting. That’s so exciting. Thank you. Thank you.”
Eden Mills Writers' Festival September 13 - 15, 2013 Twenty-Fifth Anniversary


  1. Cool News! Looking forward to reading about your experience.

    1. Thanks Terry. I'll be meeting so many great authors, I'm feeling a little star struck.

  2. Replies
    1. Patricia, do you attend the Eden Mills Festival? If you're there this year and spot me wandering around, say hi. I'd love to meet you.

  3. Phyllis...what an exciting time you had in 2011 and great news (I take it you're going to be a speaker in September?)!


    M.L. Swift, Writer

    1. Yes Mike. I submitted a story and have been chosen as a Fringe reader at the annual event. The most exciting part is schmoozing with the celebrity authors. A couple of my favourites will be in attendance.

  4. I am so excited for you Phyllis! I know you will charm your audience. You deserve this just award. Your dedication to your craft is as amazing as you are.

    1. Thanks so much Kathy. I've always appreciated your support over the years.