We love getting mail – and recently we took delivery of two poignant letters from Class of 2020 Inductees Ann Douglas (Literary) and Rosemary McConkey (Cultural/Community Betterment). We would like to share them with you…
Rosemary McConkey writes:
“We have drunk from the wells that others have dug
and we have been warmed by the fires that others have lit”
History deserves a memory, and memory deserves a face.
Some 23 years ago a “handful of founders” of the Peterborough Pathway of Fame made this happen. I call them the Pathfinders. They gave the
community, the county, the area’s history the face of residents, and how they gave to Peterborough.
On entering the Pathway of Fame are the words, “Here we celebrate the gift of our Creator” etched in granite. Some 23 years ago these Pathfinders
had the wisdom and the courage to greet the visitor entering the path with this prayer of thanksgiving.
As you walk the trail through Del Crary Park in the heart of our city, it is bordered with the “faces” of those who represent the citizens of the
community past and present, and yet to come – a legacy, a “face” for history. I am overwhelmed by the legacy of the seven honoured in 2020
and with whom I walk today through the Trellis. I am humbled by the honour which the Committee and the person who nominated me has
bestowed upon me; to be a member of this Peterborough Pathway of Fame group who have given so much to our community. Congratulations and
thank you for your admirable dedication which will echo down the years to come.”
Ann Douglas shares the remarks she prepared, had the burgeoning pandemic not prompted the eventual cancellation of our traditional induction ceremony in September:
It Takes a Village to Raise a Writer
“Today is an exciting day for me.
I am thrilled and honoured to be one of this year’s inductees into the Peterborough Pathway of Fame.
I am grateful that Peterborough has chosen me—just as I chose Peterborough.
My husband Neil and I made a conscious decision to move to the city back in 1988, when we were expecting our first child. We were attracted to Peterborough because of its high quality of life and because it was reasonably affordable for a young family. That way, our mortgage would be a little less crushing—although, to be fair, it still felt pretty crushing at the time!
Having a bit of financial wiggle room proved to be the game changer for me as a writer. I didn’t have to work full-time at a day job and then try to write books in the evening, after the four kids had gone to bed. I could afford to make writing my day job—to see if I actually had what it takes to establish a career as an author.
As it turns out, that gamble paid off. My books have sold over three-quarters of a million copies to date; and I just started work on a brand new book—Book 26, if anyone is keeping track.
But here’s the thing: I worry about the up-and-coming generation of writers. Will they have the same opportunity to pursue their writing dreams here in Peterborough, just as I did?
The math doesn’t seem to add up.
According to The Writers’ Union of Canada—Canadian’s national association for published authors—a typical Canadian author makes just less than $10,000 a year. That’s roughly 75 percent less than it was two decades ago, back when my very first book was being published. It’s never been easy to make a living as a writer in Canada, but in recent years it has become a whole lot harder.
And given that houses in Peterborough are getting more expensive, not less (an average home in the city now sells for well over a half-million dollars), I’m worried that the up-and-coming generation of Canadian writers simply won’t be able to afford to make Peterborough their home, like I did.
It’s pretty clear that those sky-high housing prices pose an existential threat to the local arts community. And so today I want to urge everyone in Peterborough who cares about the arts to understand the need to invest in arts funding and to ensure an adequate supply of artist-friendly housing (in other words, housing that artists can actually afford to live in).
The City of Peterborough’s 2012 Municipal Cultural Plan noted that investment in arts, culture, and heritage yields an 18-to-one return on investment. That means that every dollar that a municipality invests in arts, culture, or heritage attracts roughly $18 dollars in added investment. And that’s just considering the impact of the arts in terms of dollars and cents. It’s impossible to calculate what the arts actually contribute to our collective quality of life.
So that, in a nutshell, is my hope for Peterborough—the community where I chose to raise my family and where I had the privilege of being able to establish my career as a writer.
I hope that Peterborough will acknowledge and celebrate its arts community in the very same way that I am being celebrated today.
I may be the writer whose name is being added to the Pathway of Fame, but it truly takes a village to raise a writer.
Thank you for being my village and for continuing to be the village for other writers.
Our thanks to both Ann and Rosemary for sharing their thoughts and their words – and we thank them, too for their valued and generous contributions to our wonderful community.