Celebrate Northern literature on August 13 during Authors on 8th, a literary walking tour through the lives of Klondike authors Jack London, Robert Service and the Bertons, Laura and Pierre.
“There’s a huge mythology about the North that both Jack London and Robert Service created,” says Rachel Wiegers, the marketing and special events co-ordinator for the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA), which sponsors the event.
“Our visitors are enamored by that mythology, and it’s important to recognize that influence in our culture,” Wiegers says.
Starting at 2:30 p.m. at the Jack London Interpretive Centre, interpreter Dawne Mitchell introduces Jack London’s Yukon, starting with a show of hands.
“It’s amazing how many people identify themselves as writers,” Mitchell said. “I like to hear those stories as well.”
Mitchell talks; her audience writes. She circulates a progressive poem through the audience (of up to 60 people) to add a line of poetry to the one above. Then she reads it aloud.
Before sending the audience to the home of Yukon bard Robert Service, Mitchell encourages them to enter the poetry and prose competition held in conjunction with Authors on 8th.
“I’ve been telling people about it, regardless of nationality,” says Mitchell. “Many ask if they can submit in their first language and that’s perfectly okay,” as attested to by the French entry that took last year’s poetry prize.
Fiction and non-fiction prizes are awarded in the Cheechako and Sourdough classes. Dawson writer and ODDGallery director, Lance Blomgren, and Berton House writer-in-residence Pasha Malla are this year’s judges.
From Robert Service cabin, the walking tour crosses the street to Berton House, home of Canadian author Laura Berton and her son Pierre.
Usually Berton House is occupied by a writer selected by the Writers’ Trust of Canada, which also sponsors Authors on 8th. This year, Malla will generously open Berton House to the public.
Malla arrived in Dawson City in July. He won both the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and the Arthur Ellis short story award, in May, followed by the Trillium Book Award, in June, for his latest collection of short stories, Withdrawal Method.
After speaking about what it’s like to live in the home of an iconic Canadian author, Malla will open the readings, followed by the contest winners whose work will appear in the Klondike Sun. Authors will receive a collection of Yukon titles donated by PR Services.
“They have been very supportive with book donations, for several years,” says Wiegers. What she doesn’t say is that sometimes the donated volumes are signed by the author with words of encouragement to keep writing.
More than a celebration of Yukon literary history, Authors on 8th stimulates Northern writing now and for the future.