A fact I hadn’t realized despite living here for more than 20 years: Muskoka is home to a thriving group of local writers. It shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the number of writers small regions have bred in literary’s past. I’m thinking Maine’s Stephen King or PEI’s Lucy Maud Montgomery. Writers like Margaret Laurence and Alice Munro are known for creating small-town settings that either give readers deja-vu or inspire a deep longing for that intimate small-town space.
Still, I ask myself: how can a writer fall in love with a hometown so deeply that they spend years building a whole fictional world around it?
Perhaps growing up here blinded me to Muskoka’s appeal for writers. I could never understand what would inspire writers about a place like Muskoka: the lack of anonymity, the small space, the inability to grow and develop. After high school it felt like I had outgrown this town—I wanted out.
It took four years in Atlantic Canada pursuing my BA to refocus the lens through which I now see and experience this town. While the size of the area for a young person searching to grow their connections and spread their wings can be feel too small, there are many perks—especially for writers.
Muskoka has a rich history in evidence in its downtown architecture, its old-style homes, and its streets named after influential residents. There’s also an interesting divide between the cottagers who lodge in massive “cottages” for a few months out of the year and the people who live here year-round trying to keep their heads above water. That divide is rich with literary possibility. The close-knit community, quaint homey vibes, and startling scenery are bonus additions. All add to a setting that can leave an impression upon a reader’s mind.
Another reason Muskoka might allure aspiring writers is its solitude. At its essence, Muskoka is a dream spot for writer’s retreats. There are so many places to get away, to find a place to sit in peace and quiet with one’s thoughts. It’s the reason I enjoy being outdoors so much. When life gets to be too much, it’s easy to find a place far away from everything and just be by myself. It’s easier to let the imagination flow in these quiet moments, and to enjoy the tranquil serenity that comes naturally to Muskoka.
One of the things I look forward to most this summer is diving deep into what makes Muskoka so unique and the ways in which it shapes the craft of local writers.
Photos by Kaitlyn Sutey
About the Reviewer: Kaitlyn Sutey lives in Bracebridge, Ontario. She completed a double major in English Literature and Creative Writing in May 2019 from Dalhousie University. Back at home, she spends most of her time reading and writing novels. Kaitlyn aspires to edit manuscripts for a publishing company, and to one day release a novel of her own. See Kaitlyn here .