I spent an engaging evening at the Paris Lectures hosted by Cassie McDaniel and Mark Staplehurst. If you have never heard of this initiative, it is time to check it out as it inspires creativity and connection! It is held locally in Paris, “the prettiest little town in Ontario”! This dynamic couple are the creators of the fantastic blog Jane & Jury which combines their beautiful photography and descriptions of design and local living in Paris. Thanks to Jennifer Budd of Woolscapes (a past lecturer and artist) who recommended the Paris Lectures.
The evening started with Mark sharing his passion for local history in a setting with its’ own unique story. The evening was held in the Dominion Telegraph Event Centre which was the very location where the first long distance call was made by Alexander Graham Bell (I find this fascinating, especially having spent my teenage years living down the road from the Bell Homestead). The building has been renovated keeping the existing hardwood floors, exposed brick walls and beautiful view of the Grand River from a balcony at the back. He shared photos from the Paris Museum and Historical Society of the streetscape following the fire in the 1900s which encourage me to take advantage of a Paris walking in the future to learn more.
While tonight’s lecture was #11, Mark shared that this lecture series truly started in the early 1900s taking a very long break before being reinvigorated by this couple who had moved to Paris several years ago. The original lecture series began in the Paris Mechanics Institute which was part library, part lectures and part night school, arranged as an alternative to gambling and drinking. Historically the lecturers were local and mostly religious leaders while today the topics reflect local creativity. Now, 165 years later, a group of approximately 80 individuals were gathered together to hear author Krista Foss speak about creativity in settings.
Krista encourage the audience to reflect on the creativity of childhood. She had grown up in 1970s Ancaster, coincidentally right next door to Jerseyville where I grew up, with the freedom to play outside and explore all day. She was the 5th child in a busy family and spent a lot of time with her sister traversing nature. She shared a slide with pictures of plants such as Jack in a pulpit, deadly night shade and dog strangling vines which had names which inspired creativity and play. She focused on the “revulsion mixed with fascination” that children share when exploring nature and bugs – who knew that the giant water bug can exsanguinate a frog?- and encouraged the audience to consider their settings with the curiosity of children.
It was interesting to hear her speak of her novel Smoke River which I am in the midst of reading. While I have been identifying the setting as based in Caledonia, she indicated that “any place closely observed is every place” and that she had used her experience in many First Nations communities, not just Caledonia, in writing her story. She shared that many “issues have the same pattern and same template” which allows the reader to identify communities that they are familiar with.
The evening ended with information about Krista Foss as writer in residence at the County of Brant Library in Paris. I have attended her first lecture which was a reflection of Seven Habits of Highly Effective Writers and am looking forward to future sessions. She is also available for mentoring and manuscript reviews by appointment only.
The next Paris Lectures are taking place in September and October and I encourage you to try something different and be inspired! I will certainly be returning and look forward to an evening of creativity and community!