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Toronto author rides the rails to Barrie for Word Up reading

'We want Barrie to be a literary destination', says event organizer

Word Up Barrie turned another page Thursday evening with a reading by Toronto author Daniel Perry at Unity Market Cafe and Studios.

“This is part of my tour,” Perry said on Unity Market’s patio in downtown Barrie.

“I love these kinds of events in general, because it gets you outside of Toronto and you find a community of readers and writers all over Ontario,” added the 35-year-old writer, who rode the train from Toronto for his reading.

“You get to have conversations with people who are doing the same thing," Perry said. “It’s hard to make a living in the arts, so it’s encouraging and inspiring to see everyone else who’s doing it.”

Perry, who hails from Middlesex County, located outside London, Ont., describes his own writing style as realist fiction.

Word Up Barrie, which began in June 2014, brings in writers who have been published by major publishers and top literary publications, while also encouraging local writers to get up and present their work to the group.

“We want Barrie to be a literary destination,” said Linda Laforge, one of Word Up’s organizers. “We want to grow the local arts community and expose the general public to the talent Canada has to offer.”

On the second Thursday of each month (except August) at Unity Market, located at 25 Toronto St., Word Up Barrie brings in writers from across Simcoe County to present their original works in an encouraging, judgment-free environment.

“The atmosphere is only quaint until the event starts,” Laforge said. “Once people begin reading, the energy changes. The audience gets to experience a depth and range of emotion that each writer brings to us through sharing their work.”

She called it a place “where professionals and amateurs of all writing genres come together where we can learn and vibe from one another.”

Laforge extends an open invitation to poets, spoken-word performers, rappers, comedians, songwriters, motivational speakers “and anyone who loves the magic of language.”

On Thursday, Perry was reading from his second book, Nobody Looks That Young Here, which was published in the spring. It’s a collection of short stories woven together over several years.

And it begins with a crash.

“It’s set somewhere in southwestern Ontario and is mostly about coming-of-age,” Perry said, adding it follows a number of voices over the course of three decades, from 1978 to 2008. “It’s set in small towns, a lot like the small towns I grew up in.”

Laforge said she wants to keep the momentum going.

“We have no plans of stopping and are still growing,” she said. “We just became a not-for-profit this year and hope to use the status to access grants and funding that will allow us to better compensate our guest readers.”

During their first year, Word Up had 18-year-old and just-published Tobias C. Hamilton from London, England as a guest reader, Laforge said. Others have included Anne Campbell, D.S. Stymeist, Monty Reid and Frances Boyle came from Ottawa to read their poetry.

“We've had many Toronto writers and poets published by independent presses like Quattro and Guernica read for us,” Laforge said, including award-winning Canadian poet and playwright George Elliott Clarke.

“And then there's local talent like Barrie's poets laureate Bruce Meyer and Damian Lopes, author Trudee Romanek, and self-published best-seller Tracy L. Ward,” she added. “I think people would be surprised at the level of talent that exists in Barrie.

Upcoming events for Word Up include: Hugh Graham and Gabriel Verveniotis on Sept. 13; Brenda Clews and Robin Blackburn McBride on Oct. 11; Kevin Craig and Marc Labriola on Nov. 8; Sky Gilbert and Darrell Epp on Dec. 13; and Heather Cadsby on Jan. 10, 2019.