Turning off onto a dirt road, the vibrant colours catch the eye.
It’ll soon be even brighter, with the addition of Mabel Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery. Sheree Fitch is opening the book store in River John on July 3.
“Thirty years after (publishing) my first book and graduating from St. Thomas (University) with a BA, I’m opening a book store on a dirt road,” she laughed.
“This is an extension of what I started 30 years ago. I started writing for my own children in my living room.”
Fitch admits she thinks she became a writer because she wanted to be in a book store, especially a children’s book store. Throughout her career, she’s spent many hours offering her signature in book stores, but it just wasn’t enough.
So after moving to River John with her husband, Gilles Plante, and making it their home, the idea of renovating an old granary came about.
“We have a 100-year-old barn, a workshop, farmhouse and the granary. I said to him, ‘it’s on a dirt road in rural Nova Scotia,’ and I started laughing. I wouldn’t have thought of it if he wasn’t handy, but it’s such a great idea.”
With other businesses such as Caldera Distillery, Seafoam Lavender Farm and the Lismore Sheep Farm nearby, Fitch really considered the idea. She said Tatamagouche is a vibrant community, and they might just get some traffic.
“That’s just how it evolved,” she said. “Within a day or two, I had posted it to Facebook (about opening) and had 1,000 ‘likes’ on my page.”
The book shoppe and dreamery will feature Canadian children’s books, as well as Atlantic Canadian books, books published by Atlantic publishers, and by writers from the area.
But it’s not your normal book shoppe, says Fitch, adding it was named after one of her favourite characters.
“There will be some open space and when people go through it, there will be doors to the meadow with picnic tables and the farm house, with a donkey,” she said. “Dreamery is a 17th century word meaning to dream in and a place to be inspired by. I want to celebrate storytelling, books, and the storytelling culture. We have a rich heritage in Atlantic Canada.”
The business, which will be open until Labour Day in September, will also be a place to write, and will offer workshops and storytelling open mics.
Fitch says a number of her friends have been offering services, including Hannah Hunziker and another local writer, Linda Little.
“It’s a very different thing, to jump into this world at the age of 60, but it’s something funky and very exciting.”
During the store’s opening at 1 p.m. July 3, Costas Halavrezos will act as emcee, with Fitch reading a poem. Wild City Roses will perform, which will be followed by the 2017 Wordplay Children’s Book Festival. Starr Dobson will emcee Wordplay, which will feature author Marie-Louise Gay and Mi’kmaq artist Alan Syliboy. Shawl dancers will be on site, as will artist Joy Laking
The store will be open Tuesday to Saturday until the long weekend in September.
With so many friends offering support, and authors approaching to have hosted readings, Fitch said the generosity has been amazing.
“The more things that open, the more vibrant and successful the communities are,” she said.
Along with the excitement of opening the book shoppe and dreamery, Fitch recently returned from a week in Cuba where she was part of a contingent of Canadian writers and publishers, such as Thomas Kegan and Margaret Atwood.
She had been at the International Book Fair in Havana for three days when she was asked to present at a conference on Canadian studies at the University of Havana.
“It was really incredible,” she said. “I was there for the opening ceremonies at the university and was very touched to be there. I hosted a conversation with one of my heroic Canadian writers. We talked about oral storytelling and the trade of storytelling.”
The children’s author was interviewed, via a translator, on live radio stations, and a Cuban newspaper also featured her and other Canadians’ works.
On the final day in Cuba, Fitch presented a performance in the Canadian pavilion.
“I can’t begin to tell you how magical it was,” she said. “The translator began to play with my words using actions and sounds. She was brilliant. If it wasn’t for her, it wouldn’t have been so magical.”
Fitch also met a publisher who wants to translate some of her work into Spanish, with Fitch hoping to work with a Cuban illustrator.
“I fell in love with Cuba in a way I hadn’t expected to. I had been to a resort before but this was a whole other side to Cuba. I met so many important women intellectuals. The music is so poetic.”
If the Spanish books come to fruition, they won’t be the only ones to soon be published – Fitch has a new book coming out this summer.
‘Polly MacCauley’s Finest Divinest Wooliest Gift of All’ is the longest installment in her children’s books – 68 pages. It’s set in River John, but many won’t realize it.
“If you open the book and think you’ll recognize it, you won’t,” admitted Fitch. “It’s about eccentric woman who needs special wool from a baby lamb. It’s about community. It’s about making things. It’s about villagers who stand up and protest about something of their own.
“I had so much fun writing it.”
But Polly MacCauley isn’t the only book of Fitch’s being released this summer.
There will be a re-issue of ‘If You Could Wear My Sneakers.’ It will be re-issued through Nimbus, which Fitch said is interested in keeping a backlist of her titles alive.
“They’re going to print it, and rebrand it under Sheree Fitch Classics. I’m thrilled. Those are now in the second generation of children. That news is a wonderful gift to me.”
During her studies, Fitch co-edited an anthology of poetry by Atlantic Canadian poets along with Ann Hunt. ‘Whispers of Mermaids and Wonderful Things’ is also being published.