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PRESIDENT'S REPORT FOR THE YEAR 2016

Presented at the Annual General Meeting of the Knowlton Literary Association on Saturday,
February 18, 2017 at the Lac-Brome Community Centre, 270 Victoria, Knowlton, Quebec


Ross Murray remarked in a column that appeared in The Sherbrooke Record shortly after our festival this past October that people who read books and go to literary festivals are "the nicest people in the world". He's wrong, of course; we readers are not all nice and Ross Murray knows it. But we would like to think reading books and talking about them and getting writers and readers together improves the world, or at least this part of it, if only by a centimeter or two. It's a very Canadian thought: modest and gently optimistic.

Here's what we did in 2016 to make, as Mr. Murray says, "the world a more liveable place".
Festival Number Seven had a lot going for it:

Ross Murray himself, rumpled and funny together with North Hatley writer the eloquent and poised Anne Fortier;
Brian D. Johnson and Marni Jackson introducing their fascinating film on the now legendary poet Al Purdy;
Elizabeth Copeland with a truly inspirational writing workshop;
Marni Jackson, solo, reading from her eerily relevant novel on how celebrities become
fictional characters in our own lives;
→ Our two Newfoundland writers, the irrepressible tag team of Michael Winter and Michael Crummey
who delighted us with stories and repartee;
Alexandre Trudeau speaking in fascinating detail of both the new and the old China and his trip there;
→ Writer Trevor Ferguson pretending to be John Farrow describing vividly how he got into the crime fiction trade;
→ The lively and entertaining Julia Spencer-Fleming from Portland, Maine, recounting how she took out
30 mystery books from the library, then wrote her own, and was going back to the Auberge Knowlton
to continue her eighth book that very evening;
Derek Grout, historian, on the grim facts of WWI and how he discovered a treasure trove of material
which led him to his book on the unsung heroes of the Canadian artillery;
→ And then, finally, Sharon Jennings who had a magical and hugely successful day
with the children of Knowlton Academy.

Twelve writers. About 550 people--not counting the kids--attending one event or another. A very satisfying take at the gate. General literary festivity all round. Knowlton a more liveable place.
And we helped bring Shakespeare once more to the beach. Despite an early afternoon storm which blew across the lake, a portent, we feared, of another retreat indoors, the stage went up, the drummers drummed, and Mark Antony got to give his/her great speech to the open sky.
We said last year that 2015 would be a hard act to follow. But it wasn't so hard after all. In fact, the show goes on. Thanks to the work of Rob Paterson, Rugge Thomson and Axion, we were able to video the highlights of the festival as well as conduct interviews on camera with Alexandre Trudeau, Michael Crummey and Michael Winter which can now be easily accessed on YouTube. We expect that this will be an ongoing feature of festivals to come.

There's quite a substructure beneath all the fun and excitement of a successful festival. We acknowledge the contribution of the following persons, organizations, and businesses:

For venues: Bishop's University's Knowlton Campus; the Brome Lake Community Centre; the Church Hall of St. Paul's Anglican Church; Le Relais of the Auberge Knowlton; and the Conference Room where we had about 2000 meetings.
For food services: Le Relais and its hardworking staff for Saturday evening dinner and Sunday morning brunch, to Eileen Menec and crew for hors d'oeuvres at the Opening Reception, to Café Floral for box lunches, the Star Café for coffee, and to the children of Knowlton Academy for their most excellent muffins. And a special thanks for the refreshments from the Yamaska Literacy Council during Tales from the Rock.
For financial aid: the Ville de Lac-Brome, the Townshippers' Foundation, the Waterloo Caisse Populaire Desjardins, the Knowlton Players, the Lions Club of Knowlton, and the people of Knowlton and area who so generously continue to support the Festival.
For design: Jamie Lawson once more came up with superb imagery and layout for Festival pamphlets, posters and banners. She also did a great poster with a stern Roman face for Julius Caesar.
For the website: Michel Gabereau and Signy Stephenson who managed it and reminded us that we too needed to keep it up to date.
For books, tickets and writer contact: Lucy, Danny, Sheila, Laura for feeding us books, selling books at the events, and providing the Festival with a ticketing centre and a place to conduct interviews. Brome Lake Books is very much the heart of the Festival.
And for reading books on our Writers Selection Committee: Jana Valasek and Jane Livingston.
For translation: Guy Coté.
For ticket taking: Josée Bourbeau.
For signing our highly persuasive fund raising letter: Janie Barakett, Jane Livingston, Debbi Eaman and Alex Paterson.
For all kinds multi-tasking, new ideas, heavy reading and much moving of furniture The KLA crew: Judith, Frank, Kathy, Sheryl, Renalee, Danny and Rob.

We are pleased that Alan Eastley and Frances Gallagher have agreed to join the Knowlton Literary Association. We are happy that they are bringing their experience and talent to the Festival. We hope that this is the beginning of a surge of fresh involvement in the project.

Here are some of the ideas we're exploring for 2017:
→ creating a more interactive festival which will explore the whole writing process inspiration,
composition, revision, editing and publishing;
→ reducing the total number of invited writers, while asking those who come to spend more
time with us as the weekend goes on;
→ cutting back on late Sunday afternoon events, ie. reducing festival fatigue;
→ continuing to develop our video recording capabilities;
→ expanding our commitment to writers from the Eastern Townships;
→ working more closely with the Quebec Writers Federation to benefit from their
financial support of Quebec anglophone writers;
→ working with École St-Edouard with a view to providing the children there the
opportunity to meet our visiting children's writer;
→ ensuring that visiting writers (and their agents or publicists) are absolutely clear on what
our requirements are regarding participation, travel, and fees;
→ extending the contact time with the mentor of our adult writing workshop;
→ continuing our drive to recruit more members to the Board of Directors;
→ following up on our promising contacts with the Canada Council and Heritage Canada;
→ restructuring the Executive to allow for a co-chairmanship thus ensuring
an equitable sharing of workload and responsibility.

"So this is Three Pines!" exclaimed Julia Spencer-Fleming as she began her talk at the Community Centre. It came out as a happy discovery, a flash of recognition, a greeting from south of the border, as if she had always suspected we were here and was delighted to find that it was really true. Of course, Louise Penny will never admit that Knowlton is Three Pines, but it is and it isn't. We are what our stories make us, so fictions are important to our sense of self and community. The thing is, the Knowlton Literary Festival is an event which invigorates the imagination, rendering this town more than meets the eye, a place where mostly nice people engage the world through literature. We start with the kids, and one day we may just have more Louise Pennys and maybe even an Alice Munro.

Philip Lanthier