Atlin Lit Up! lights up the Yukon writing scene

The second-annual Atlin Lit Up festival is on July 7 and 8 at St. Martin’s Anglican Church in Atlin, B.C.

The Atlin writers’ festival not only offers music but also offers literature, readings and workshops. Yukon author Lily Gontard organizes the festival in cooperation with Yukon Writers` Collective Ink. They receive funding and sponsoring from local businesses and bring authors from Outside into the territory.

“The mix of Yukon and outside writers is a way for local authors to network and evolve as artists,” Gontard said.

One of the festival highlights will be author Bev Sellars, a former chief and councillor of Xat´sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake, B.C. Her memoir, They Called me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School, is about her traumatic experience in residential school. She will give a reading and a talk, and answer questions.

She said that writing her life story was difficult but therapeutic. “I cried enough tears to fill a swimming pool, but it was good. It allowed me to put it all in perspective.”

Jan Redford, a Squamish-based author, will share her experience, in a workshop, of writing her memoir, End of the Rope: Mountains, Marriage, and Motherhood. To write about hardship and loss, Redford went away to spend time in a cabin. “I poured out words and tears for ten days. I needed to be completely alone, undisturbed and in a quiet space for the tough stuff.

“In general, what works for me is to write emotionally and intensely in the first draft, put it away for a bit and go to other chapters, then come back to edit the maudlin aspects out of it,” said Redford.

Writing a memoir takes time, she continues, “I think it’s good to take as long as is needed. With memoir writing, the process is more important than the product.”

Redford will share her experience in a workshop, during the festival, explaining how she overcame many “brick walls” that she hit while working on the book: “In the workshop we’ll test out a couple of my structuring methods, with Crayola markers, rolls of paper and sticky notes.

“Ultimately, we’ll have our biggest aha moments as we put our heads together and share our own brick walls, then brainstorm methods of overcoming them.”

It took Redford 12 years to write her book. In the workshop, she will teach participants how to write a memoir in less than 12 years. She will also share how she got over some obstacles, on the way, and landed a book deal with Random House of Canada (now Penguin Random House Canada).

The topic of two workshops, with agent Marilyn Biderman from Transatlantic Agency in Toronto, will be about how to get published. Writers can sign up for a 15-minute one-on-one session where they can pitch their manuscript to her.

Kate Harris (from Atlin) will give a workshop about the art of science writing. She recently published her book, Lands of lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road, which is about a bicycle trip down the Silk Road in Asia.

Yukon authors Michele Genest and Peter Jickling will talk about making their way as writers and poets, and about how they took their work outside the territory. Joanna Lilley, who is a Yukon-based author, will host this conversation.

Peter Jickling moved to Toronto, in 2016, and wrote his poetry collection, Downtown Flirt, which will be published by Guernica Editions, in 2019. The festival is growing and plans are already underway for 2019, Gontard said.

Atlin Lit Up! takes place on July 7 and 8. To register for workshops or for one-on-one sessions to pitch your manuscript, contact [email protected] Or visit for more details.

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