As presents go, there’s much to be said for big box of assorted chocolates. There’s a deep pleasure in admiring the elegant packaging, unwrapping it slowly and savouring – one by one – the delectable morsels inside.
Thirteen Ways From Sunday, a new anthology of writing by participants in the Boularderie Island Writers’ Institute, is the literary equivalent. The contents are a delicious diversity of stories, poems, and non-fiction, flavoured with whimsy and woe, wit and wisdom. Readers will find themselves faced with the classic chocolate box dilemma: whether to savour the contents slowly, or devour them all at one sitting.
The anthology is the result of a challenge issued by Writers’ Institute director Douglas Arthur Brown to thirteen of his workshop participants. “I not only wanted to publish an anthology of their work, but to engage the group in all aspects of publication,” Brown states.
Each writer submitted several pieces of work for consideration by the group. Participants narrowed down the submissions and took responsibility for editing one or two pieces by another writer. The result, Thirteen Ways From Sunday, is a fine representation of Cape Breton writing talent.
And a talented group it is. The contributors include prize-winning authors, and nominees for awards like the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, the CBC Radio One National Poetry Face-Off, the Crime Writers’ Association (UK) Dagger Awards, Canada Writes, and the Commonwealth Short Story Competition.
Readers interested in the writing process will appreciate the inclusion of short essays, describing each author’s writing journey. These are a bit like the “map” you find in every box of chocolates – interesting, if you like to know more about what you’re going to ingest, but not necessary if you’d rather just sink your teeth into the good stuff.
As for the chocolates themselves? Well, everyone will have a favourite. Readers will laugh out loud at Tarbot author Bill Conall’s hilarious tale, The Incredible Flight of Gopher Hamilton, and find themselves reaching for a tissue during his Smooth Sailing. Baddeck author Mona Anderson plunges readers into a world of fantasy in Trapeze, and explores the bonds of friendship in The Good Thief.
For me, some of the tastiest morsels were Russell Colman’s What Angel Wakes Me, a luminescent return to the magic realms of childhood belief; Colleen Gillis’ Two-For-One Coupon, a relentlessly honest portrayal of the loneliness of aging; Julie Curwin’s Selenium Man, a wickedly absorbing story reminiscent of Stephen King’s short fiction; D.C. Troicuk’s On Tuesday, a look inside the claustrophobia of a controlling relationship, and Norma Jean MacPhee’s Silence the Soundtrack, which explores the healing and life-affirming power of music.
If you’re looking for a gift for you favourite book lover, I recommend this volume. And if you really want to be generous, there’s nothing like reading a great book while nibbling on some excellent chocolate!