Spain Remembers

Spain Remembers

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Remarks by Jim Foulds in presenting the NOWW Kouhi Award to Margaret Phillips for her outstanding contribution to the writing of Northwestern Ontario, June 10, 2008

I can think of few people who have helped and promoted the writers and the writing of Northwestern Ontario more than this year’s winner – Margaret Phillips of the Northern Woman’s Bookstore.

It is impossible to think of the literature of Northwestern Ontario without thinking of Margaret Phillips and the Bookstore. Together they have promoted and sustained the writers of our region since 1983. Twenty-five years ago, without Margaret Phillips and the Northern Woman’s Bookstore there simply would not have been an outlet, a market, and therefore an audience for many of our writers.

Although the core of the Northern Woman’s Bookstore has always been feminist, the diversity of selections – in children’s literature, aboriginal writing, and Northwestern Ontario regional writing is truly astounding. In browsing through the store recently I counted more than100 titles from and about Northwestern Ontario. What other institution, aside from the Thunder Bay Public Library can make that claim? Just to name a few: Elizabeth Kouhi, Duncan Weller, Penny Petrone, Joe Fiorito, Jean Pendziwol, Mary Frost, Holly Haggarty, Charles Wilkins, Margie Taylor, and Ruby Slipperjack.

Has any other single place in Thunder Bay hosted more literary readings, book launches, discussions and happenings over the years than the Northern Woman’s Bookstore? One loses count in the mists of time, but I would venture a guess at something well in excess of 200. Hardly a season goes by without an event promoting Northwestern Ontario writing.
I think it fair to say that Margaret sees the bookstore as a social responsibility – to women, to regional writers, and to the community.

Before NOWW existed, there were two places that the Ontario Arts Council contacted when trying to find out what was happening in the writing communities of Northwestern Ontario and Thunder Bay. One was the Public Library; the other was the Northern Woman’s Bookstore and Margaret Phillips.

Without Margaret Phillips and the bookstore I think it is fair to say half the entire body of published Northwestern Ontario work would not have been available (and would not now be available ) to the public. Without the bookstore half the writers in Northwestern Ontario would not have sold nearly as many books as they have.

To be a writer in Northwestern Ontario requires integrity, tenacity, and preserverence. To be an independent bookstore owner helping to promote and encourage those writers requires, if anything, even more integrity, tenacity, and preserverence. So, if writers in Northwestern Ontario feel they have difficulty getting published and recognized, they should try, in this day of multi-nationals and big box stores, running an independent bookstore actually trying to promote literature rather than using (and sometime perverting) literature merely to make money. Where else could you find a copy of Elizabeth Kouhi’s (and Judy Peneman’s) North Country Spring, the delightful and thoughtful history of women’s hockey, She Shoots, She Scores, as well as Jacqueline D’Acre’s new book, Foreclosure? The Northern Woman’s Bookstore makes a special effort to stock literary magazines that contain the work of our writers. Where else can you go to buy a copy of Room of One’s Own (now Room) to find a story by Nancy Bjorgo or Debbie deBakker?

What the Shakespeare and Company bookstore was to the American writers living in Paris from the nineteen twenties to the nineteen sixties, the Northern Woman’s Bookstore has been to women and to the writing community of Northwestern Ontario for the past twenty five years – a safe and supporting place to gather and strengthen their voices. Margaret Phillips has been a builder and promoter of Northwestern Ontario writing par excellence. Her contribution meets all of the criteria for the Kouhi award. Truly she deserves it. I am sure we are all pleased that NOWW and the writing community are recognizing Margaret Phillips’s outstanding achievement this evening.

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