Authors on Eighth overcome COVID-19

Each year there is a writing contest called Authors on Eighth connected to an annual walk along the Writers’ Block along Eighth Avenue that links Jack London’s Cabin, operated by the Klondike Visitors Association; the Robert Service Cabin, operated by Klondike National Historic Sites; and Pierre Berton House, operated by the Writers’ Trust of Canada with the KVA and the Dawson Community Library.

The contest, often entered by 40 or more people, invites folks to write on a Klondike related theme similar to the works of London, Service, Berton or Dick North, the Yukon journalist and historian who founded the Jack London Museum. Entries may be fiction, non-fiction or poetry, and are adjudicated by selected local writers. This year the judges are public librarian Dan Dowhal, himself a former Berton House writer in residence, and Greg Bechtel, the current resident, who is enjoying an extended residency here (7 months and counting) due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.  

The walking tour has usually been the Thursday afternoon before the Discovery Days weekend, and has attracted an average of 25 to 35 people to each of the three sites during the event. This year, to cope with group size restrictions, KVA Marketing Manager Paul Robitaille says the plan is for the three groups to extend three smaller walking tours over a three day period: Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, August 14 to 16. Yukon’s COVID-19 recommendations under Phase 3 will allow up to 15 people in a group, with masks and distancing recommended. 

At each site during these free events, there will be an abbreviated version of the standard presentation by the guides. At one there will be a reading by Bechtel and at one the awards for the three writing categories will be announced. The number of entries, which usually come in from all over the English speaking world, is down this year from last year’s 45. By the July 19 deadline there were seven prose entries, fifteen poetry entries and two in a youth category which is new for this year. 

Robitaille feels this is pretty good interest for an event which got minimal promotion this year due to the uncertain times.

Both the winners, who take home some gold and a selection of books, and the other entrants, will be able to see their work published in the Klondike Sun, beginning in the fall, once the works from 2019 have all made it into print. It’s been tough to fit 45 entries into 24 bi-weekly issues. Some of the contestants have gone on to publish books containing their entries later on.

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