Monday, August 20, 2007

Berton House under siege

Back from Champagne to discover that Berton House, the wonderful writers' retreat where I spent last winter, has had its funding application rejected by the Canada Council. This means the retreat will have to raise its entire budget (about $50,000.) through individual fundraising efforts--there's an annual fundraising dinner every November, so mark your calendars.

Until recently, the Council funded Berton House under a special grant program, but that's been cut. As of this year, each author needs to be individually funded by the Council. This makes for two problems--first, Berton House doesn't know from one season to the next what's happening with its funding, leading to the disaster we're currently looking at; and second, how can Berton House be an independent retreat, inviting the authors it feels most appropriate for Dawson City, when each author needs individual approval from the Council?

This is happening right when Prime Minister Harper is emphasizing the importance of the North for Canada (upping the military presence against international incursions, etc)--doesn't this include the North's phenomenal cultural & historical heritage? Will this unique Northern creation, the childhood home of Canadian extraordinaire, Pierre Berton, simply disappear? The current Berton writer-in-residence, Robert J. Sawyer, suggests that the newly-appointed Minister for Canadian Heritage Josee Verner take a stand on saving Berton House. A darn good idea.
(this is a photograph I took of the bookcase in Berton House, with some of Pierre Berton's 50 published books)

Sunday, August 19, 2007


a weekend in Reims...and though it seems to be raining everywhere in France right now, the sun made enough of an appearance for a champagne breakfast in a sidewalk cafe.
i visited champagne caves (of course!) but also spent time in the Cathedral, which has risen from the ashes twice, most impressively after World War I. these gargoyles were once on the cathedral...their lead lining melted during one of the conflagrations & they now lie, spitting solid lead, in the Palais du Tau, where the kings of France used to stay on the night of their coronation.