East York celebrated in six words

Poets and playwrights exhibit during Weekend of Words at civic centre

“Jumping the divide, I became myself” was Kate Gecolea’s six-word story on display for the My City My Six Event.

East York celebrated literary arts and language from Sept. 15 to 17 at the East York Civic Centre through the second annual Weekend of Words event.

Weekend of Words is an exhibition of words poetry and playwrights to showcase literary culture in East York. It featured the works of East Yorkers, prominent East York and Canadian playwrights like Sharon Smith, Briana Brown, Emil Sher and Lia. D Munroe.

Gecolea’s story has a deep meaning.

“That translates to when I moved from Vancouver to Toronto, I felt like I had the space to be myself, I did not have any obligation to anyone, I didn’t know anyone, I left my family but I made a life for myself,” Gecolea said.

The three-day celebration was filled with nine reading, discussion and workshop events, it opened with the My City My Six Exhibition on September 15 at 7pm. The ceremony featured a display of 200 six-word stories submitted by East Torontonians, in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

“Proud, exhilarated, inspired, appreciative, reflective,” is how Beaches-East York councillor Janet Davis described the event — also in in six-words.

“I try to always support the cultural events and artists in our community,” Davis said. “The cultural community is important to our city and to making Toronto a more interesting place.”

She also expressed her elation that East York is becoming recognized as a hotbed of culture.

“I am very pleased that the City of Toronto made East York its hotspot this year, the cultural division invested money and resources to highlight areas of the city and the cultural lives of those communities — it reflects the cultural life of East York,” Davis said.

The event struck the hearts of East Yorkers like Gecolea who connected to event at an emotional level.

“As a person who paints and photography literal arts is an extension of my spirit, feelings, vibes, emotions and stories,” Gecolea said. “To be able to put them into words is transformative.”

Nadira Patterson, 58, manager for the arts services section for the city of Toronto’s economic development and culture division, says art can be a tool for building community.

“I see it in the way the people are using the six-word stories to come together, tell their story and learn more about each other,” Patterson said.

Day two of the event began with two free separate workshops from 12pm till 2pm, Balancing of Words, led by Charles C. Smith focused on creative writing and movement. While Getting Your Ideas into Print led by Tatum Dooley focused on pitching stories, brainstorming topics and how to get stories published.

From 2 to 4 p.m., Toronto Poet laurate Anne Michaels, with poets Karen Mulhallen and Paul Dutton, was featured in Still Dancing: A Celebration of Canadian Poetry and Song. The event showcased Canadian literature through music, poems and stories before giving way for D.I.Y. Self-Publishing Panel Discussion, which featured self-published authors like Sharon Smith, Lia D. Munro and Nathalie Prezeau and local authors who will give advice on self-publishing through their experiences.

Day two is closed with Writers’ Mix and Mingle with Firefly Creative Writing at Firefly Creative Writing.

The final day opened with Talk + Q & A: #JacksLibraryTour from 12 to 1:30 p.m. where Lanrick Bennett Jr. and his six-year old son Jackson Bennett, who visited the 100 Toronto Public Library branches in six months, spoke to East Yorkers about why Toronto Public Libraries are essential to the community.

He also pointed out as the commute with the TTC was the biggest challenge of the tour.

“You never know with the TTC, some days the traffic is fluid, other times it isn’t,” Lanrick Bennett said.

He was full of praise for Jackson.

“Before we started, I constantly asked him if he was sure, after all it was 100 libraries and if he wanted to stop we would stop. But sometimes my son would be up at 5 a.m. peeling my eyes off asking if we were ready to go,” he said.