Why writers are retreating to Windsor region

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Toronto Star/Deborah Dundas




The stretch of Highway 401 between London and Windsor is relentlessly boring. Field after flat field, the landscape broken only by giant white wind turbines, their twirling blades cutting the moist, warm air.

It is not, perhaps, the likeliest place to find a literary scene that keeps coming up in conversations amongst the chattering classes from Vancouver to Toronto to Halifax, but turn off one of the on-ramps and head south this summer and fall and there’s plenty to get excited about.

Margaret Atwood, André Alexis, Alissa York and Diane Schoemperlen are among the names adding writerly star power to new reading series, writers’ retreats and conferences breathing life into the Windsor/Essex area.

They’re headed to the newly minted Pelee Island Book House and Writers Retreat or to Woodbridge Farm, another new retreat and summer reading series in nearby Kingsville, or to the independent bookstore and publisher Biblioasis in downtown Windsor, to name a few destinations.

They might even be down here after reading about the area in Emily Schulz’s recent book Men Walking on Water — or Alexander MacLeod’s Giller-nominated Light Lifting or some of Nino Ricci’s early work.

“Clearly we’re doing something unique and exciting,” says Pamela Goldstein, with a twinkle in her eye. Goldstein was one of the participants in last month’s very first Book House retreat, a weeklong session including workshops led by York.

The retreat is the brainchild of Dawn Marie Kresan —a well-known figure in the area’s book community both as poet and writer and as the founder of poetry publisher Palimpsest Press.

Kresan had long wanted to launch a retreat on Pelee Island and, when she saw Atwood tweet about the quiet Lake Erie destination — Canada’s southernmost point — on an impulse, she took to Twitter herself.