Just like Newfoundland and Labrador’s spectacular natural landscape, our literary landscape is vast, diverse and filled with hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Consisting of an impressive array of emerging and established writers, who each help shed a unique light on this place we call home, our literary community is lauded for good reason. And thanks to an innovative initiative from Fishers’ Loft Inn in Port Rexton, more people are becoming exposed to their work.
This past summer, Fishers’ Loft began placing works by Newfoundland and Labrador authors in all of their 33 rooms and suites to promote and support local writers and publishers, while giving their guests an easy way to sample local literary talent. And for those who wish to delve deeper, all of the books in the “in-room libraries” are also available for purchase from the inn’s craft and book shop.
“Authenticity and uniqueness of place are central to a successful tourism industry,” says John Fisher who, along with his family, built and operates Fishers’ Loft Inn.
Fisher says the inn’s relationship with the province’s literary community began about 20 years ago, with the creation and publication of the literary journal TickleAce.
“We placed it on every bedside table. While a guest likely can’t read a novel in a two-night stay, the essays and poems of a literary journal perfectly fit a short stay. When TickleAce ceased publishing, Fishers’ Loft worked in partnership with writers and businesses to launch Riddle Fence…and we were back in business with a journal for our bedside tables and new, state-of-the-art reading lamps,” he says.
The in-room libraries are a natural extension of that initial endeavour. Rebecca Rose, President of Breakwater Books Ltd., says it’s a model she’d like to see more inns and B&Bs in the province adopt.
“They’re the ones hosting the visitors and the visitors are here to experience our culture and heritage. And an awful lot of the books we publish reflect that and, I think, offer those visitors an authenticity of voice and place and experience,” she says.
Rose says offering up local literature is an affordable way for those in the hospitality industry to add value to their guests’ experiences, while promoting literacy and local writers at the same time.
“There are so many books available out there and if you’re a visitor here for a short period of time, it’s probably difficult to mine your way though the offerings and get something that might really help you better appreciate your experience. Lots of places like Fishers’ Loft Inn and such are making some books available in their shops, which we’re hugely grateful for. But I think the in-room libraries suggests a recommendation of sorts, to really help visitors see what’s available from local authors and publishers…and that reflects the things that they’re here to appreciate.”
One of the newest additions to Fishers’ Loft in-room libraries is Pam Hall’s “Towards an Encyclopedia of Local Knowledge.” The expansive work is a celebration of traditional knowledge (everything from boat-building and berry-picking to gardening, hunting and trapping) in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Hall says having her book placed in each of Fishers’ Loft’s guest rooms provides “wonderful access” to a reading audience to which a lot of writers don’t normally get.
This past summer, Hall spent about a month on the Bonavista Peninsula (including a community residency in Keels) for the Bonavista Biennale. She says some people came to Keels specifically to see the original Encyclopedia artwork because they had seen the book at Fishers’ Loft. And then there were those who came to Keels, viewed the artwork and then inquired as to where to purchase the book.
“To have this work available in the kinds of environments from which it emerges – it’s really important,” she says.
“I don’t want to have to say, ‘Oh, you have to go to Amazon to buy that book.’ I want to be able to say, ‘Just run down the road to Fishers’ Loft!’”
Hall hopes having her work available will help enrich visitors’ experiences and indeed, she says, some visitors have been using it as a travel guide of sorts.
“As an author and artist who’s been working on this since 2011, I understand how dense this book is. It’s got a huge amount of substance in it,” she says.
“To have individuals be able to spend the night with the book is really meaningful, because it means that they can browse more deeply than they ever could in a bookstore or a gift store…it becomes more useful the more time you have with it. And I think that’s a great gift that John is giving to his visitors.”