For decades, Hamilton was characterized as a lunch-bucket town, or worse yet as the arm-pit of the Niagara Escarpment. These days nothing could be further from the truth: Hamilton has become a hotbed of literary activity thanks to gritLIT, LitLive, and independent bookstores.
gritLIT, Hamilton’s Readers and Writers’ Festival which started in 2004, has blossomed into an event that this year, once pre-festival events are factored in, is being hosted in four venues. Literary festivals celebrate and make public the rather private acts of reading and writing. Not only do festivals expose readers to writers from far afield, they also profile local authors as gritLIT is doing with Hamilton’s own Gary Barwin, Krista Foss, and Denise Roig. The 2015 festival kicked off in early April with three pre-festival events: Battle of the Books, Poetry with the Hamilton Poetry Centre, and LitLive. Thursday April 16th is the beginning of gritLit’s long weekend’s worth of story-telling and workshops. If you love reading, being read to, or aspire to writing, then visit www.gritlit.ca and start filling your calendar with this weekend’s literary events.
Back in January I noted a reading series, Lit Live, in this blog. It has been going strong for the past twenty-one years bringing authors and poets to the stage to share their recent publications, or works in progress. The evenings are lively and entertaining, and occasionally the readings are raucous. Lit Live is hosted at Homegrown Hamilton on the first Sunday of each month from 7:30-9:30. Craft beers, Niagara vintages, and delicious hot drinks add to the coffeehouse experience.
Independent bookstores were once the backbone of the reading-writing life. They are places, which if frequented regularly, staff would know your name. However the combination of large box and on-line retailers, and readers’ tendencies to browse and click, have cut into the meagre profit margins of independent booksellers. The owners of these independents are a tenacious and creative lot who have over the years learned to do much more than sell books. Stores such as Bryan Prince Bookseller in Hamilton have a long history of supporting literary and artistic events, and promoting them through vehicles such as the on-line newsletter Between The Ladders. gritLIT is a recipient this year of support from three Hamilton independent stores: Bryan Prince Bookseller, Epic Books, and J.H. Gordon Books.
Reading and storytelling are traditions to share across the age-span. Add to your literary life by becoming a regular at one of the local independent bookstores, and by making it a habit to hear new authors at LitLive and gritLIT.