Taking a stroll along the Writers’ Block — from the corner of 8th Avenue and Hanson Street to the corner of 8th and Firth — you find yourself sandwiched between Berton House and Robert Service’s Cabin at the top end. Moving south and then west, you close the block at Jack London Square, with the museum that was founded by Yukon journalist, Dick North.
My term for it is a terrible pun, of course, since this block commemorates the careers of four very prolific authors, each of whom created a great deal of their work as a result of their Klondike experiences.
On August 15 this street will be the site of the annual Authors on Eighth Walking Tour, as well as the culmination of the writing contest that accompanies it.
This is a splendid example of cooperation between Parks Canada, which owns and operates Service’s Cabin, and the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA), which owns and operates the London Museum. The KVA is also a partner, along with with the Writers’ Trust of Canada and the Dawson Community Library Board, in the Berton House Writers’ Retreat program.
The annual writing contest asks contestants to submit work in the style of one of the four writers. It can be prose, fiction, non-fiction or poetry. Some sort of theme is suggested. Last year it was animals. This year it is luck.
Judges for the contest include local writers and the current Berton House resident.
The winners (who receive books, naturally) will all have their work published in the Klondike Sun. The 2012 stack of submissions took until early spring to finish being printed. It was a bumper year.
The walking tour begins at the London Museum, where Dawne Mitchell gives a presentation and invites her audience to participate in a group writing exercise that always produces hilarious results.
Then it’s a short walk to the Service cabin, which the poet rented for several years just before World War I, and where he produced several volumes of poetry and a novel before saying farewell to the Yukon. Here one of the Parks guides gives a presentation on the poet’s life. Folks are invited to peek into the two rooms that have been drawing visitors to Dawson for about a century.
The tour ends at Berton House, where current writer-in-residence Colleen Murphy reports a steady flow of people circling the place this year. It is not generally open to the public, but the exception is the day of the walking tour.
There is always a reading by the resident and sometimes the winning contest entries are read, too. The KVA provides an assortment of goodies and drinks, and a canopy or two if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Recent years have seen from 40 to 50 folks tagging along for the entire tour. Hope to see some of you there.