Marina Endicott's novel Good to a Fault, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book, Canada/Caribbean. Her latest, The Little Shadows, was short-listed for the Governor General’s award. Marina is currently writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and finishing a new novel, Hughtopia. Marina says Bookmark is not just for the readers among us, but for those who could be. Join Marina and become a Page Turner today. Not just because it's the last day of our campaign, not only because you could win The Little Shadows, but because you, too can make stories spring up in our spaces.
I hope you will contribute $20, like I’m doing, to Project Bookmark, an ongoing campaign that identifies and honours literary landmarks all across Canada. There are twelve Bookmarks so far—ceramic plaques that set stories and poems right in the landscape where they belong.
Take a look at the Bookmarks that are already in place. There are writers you know and writers you won’t have heard of; there are poets—hurray, Bronwen Wallace! I like what Shawn Micallef, an earlier Page Turner, said about our “Canadian affliction where we pass through so many spaces without much regard for them. Important things haven’t happened here, we inadvertently tell ourselves; those things happen somewhere else.” These beautiful texts, rooted in place, surprise passersby into glancing at the text and seeing what has happened here.
This campaign is not just for you and me—we’re already converted. Project Bookmark is also a way to reach people who don’t read much. Who were assigned only American novels in school, who passed from Archie comics to Catcher in the Rye (twice) and To Kill a Mockingbird (three times). Who find New York and Los Angeles perfectly familiar from books and movies, but may not recognize the lively, engaged, contentious and hilarious argument about life we have going on right here in Canada.
It’s for Claire Cameron’s young readers, finding “Canada” and their own letters on the Fugitive Pieces plaque they walk by every day. Like Angie Abdou reminded us, people love to find their own places in fiction and poetry. People will read a book simply because it’s set in their city, their town. Angie argues that the fictionalization of a place can make that actual place more real. I think she’s right.
Another Page Turner, Kristen den Hartog, talked about stopping at historical markers as a kid, “stretching our legs while reading about some historic battle or church or settlement. Looking at the spot we were in and trying to imagine the thing happening there long ago.” This whole project is a literary boobytrap for people walking along, all unsuspecting, people who will see a plaque and realize that something important must have happened here. Right! A story happened, a poem happened: our lives were set down, examined, celebrated.
We can’t count on those plaques springing up like Heritage Moments or Hinterland Who’s Who—unless our donations make them possible. Donate $20, and you’ll be put in the draw to win a copy of my book, The Little Shadows. Project Bookmark is a registered charity, so you will receive a tax receipt.
You can also suggest what plaques ought to come next. The main rule is, “The reader must be able to stand in the place where the characters or narrators stand in the story.” Which is what we are always trying to do, in fiction and poetry: to let the reader stand in the story.
You’re probably convinced by now. But go watch Sheree Fitch’s spectacular Page Turner video. She will make you happy about peeling off that twenty and pitching in with her, with the community of writers and readers she roped in at River John, and with all of us.