Writing In The North
I know I’m not alone in feeling a bit of resentment with the presumption of those writers who think their ‘town’ is the literary centre of the universe and anyone living and writing outside of city limits has to be a hick and a hack. Gosh, could I be referring to Torontonians?
I shouldn’t have limited that observation to writers. It may be an unjustified belief, but most Ontario residents who don’t live in Toronto have the impression that Torontonians dismiss the rest of Ontario as a backwater.
So it’s amusing that when I moved to Toronto from Chicago, I thought of Toronto as a bit of a backwater. In The States we sometimes used the phrase—probably of Roman origin—“sent to the provinces” to mean exiled to the sticks. So here I was literally in a province. And I’d already thought of Chicago as culturally insignificant compared to New York.
Now Toronto is promoted as a “world class city” up there with New York or Paris or London. Well, the antics of Toronto’s mayor is certainly getting the city a lot international press, so perhaps it is an important city. International news agencies wouldn’t bother to cover similarly outrageous behaviour of the mayor of a small town.
Torontonians do, of course, have good reason to be proud of their city’s culture—if not of their stupid electorate that put their current mayor in office. And it does have a rich and thriving literary community. But writers can write anywhere, and many prefer to do so far from the madding crowd.
In North Bay, we do quite well, at least per capita. We have an independent bookstore, Gulliver’s. We have a literary group, The Conspiracy of Three, which has for more than three decades met once a month to hear new and established writers read from their works. We have a branch of The Writers Union of Canada (Canada’s professional writers’ organization): NOLL, as well as a number of poets that belong to the The League Of Canadian Poets.