Artin’ Around with Author Donna Litt

Waterloo Region is well-known for its thriving, innovative tech sector. The region has made an incredible move from being a manufacturing hub to a place that regularly announces new start-ups and local inventions. There is, without a doubt, a large amount of money, time and talent being poured into this sector.

But what many people often overlook is the creative flair that these companies need in order to keep pushing forward. Focusing on the four STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects is no longer enough. Now, people are focusing on STEAM — all those, plus the arts.

Blending traditional science and art is not a new concept, but many people are only now appreciating the importance of using these fields together.

Donna Litt, a local author who recently left the tech-sector to pursue a career in creative writing, is using a crowdfunding campaign to draw attention to the intrinsic use of the arts and sciences together whilst promoting her newest novel, Where the Sun Sets.

“It just seemed like a really interesting opportunity to try to take something that I’ve worked on for a long time, and turn it into something that could generate opportunities for other people as well as myself,” she explained.

She is currently crowdfunding on a platform called Inkshares. After receiving 250 backers, the novel will be published, and after 750 backers she will start receiving royalties. Litt’s long-term plan is to donate a portion of the book sales to local non-profit organizations that actively blend the arts and sciences. She seeks to support organizations like Diyode, based in Guelph, Pat the Dog Theatre Creation, which operates across Ontario, and Kwartzlab, which is located close to downtown Kitchener. The goal is to use percentages of royalties to provide long-term, sustainable funding for these groups.

“When I was a student in school I worked for a number of different non-profits… and one of the biggest [or most] valuable kinds of donors we looked for were those that could provide sustainable sources of funding,” she continued. “The idea is to also help spread awareness about these causes as well.”

One program at Diyode that the donations from this campaign will fund, called Precious Plastic, focuses on reusing plastic materials, and upcycling them to be reused in Haiti in ways that will benefit the local, sustainable economy.

“I have learned that just giving funds willy-nilly isn’t really something that will benefit that community,” Litt explained. “[Organizations] need the time, the attention and the support, so I’m focusing the immediate fund benefit on Diyode, one of the organizations where there is an immediate campaign and an immediate need for funds.”

“The makerspaces, like Diyode and like Kwartzlab, they enable creators to essentially just be curious and follow their passion and ask those important questions, so I came to those organizations because they’re, from my understanding, innovators who are creating in a way that does address some of the more human side of innovation,” she continued.

While her crowdfunding campaign is drawing attention to organizations that work with and perpetuate STEAM fields, it is also advertising her own creative work. An excerpt of Where the Sun Sets is available to read online, for those who are interested in her project.

This love story, which is cast in the world of magical realism, is beautifully written. While it centres around love and human emotion, it also contains elements of time-travel, which adds surprising sparks, and promises to weave a wonderful adventure. Its contents without a doubt blend aspects of the arts and sciences, just like Litt’s overall mission.

“It showcases an old, aging southern Ontario couple, and it’s not your typical protagonist, it’s not your typical scenario, and it’s part of Canadian literature,” she explained. “But then on the flip side, once you get into the story, what you discover is that the protagonist is a bit of a maker himself… he needs to be quite clever, and you see more of the science aspect come out.”

The story behind Where the Sun Sets and the story written on its pages bring seemingly opposite themes and ideas together, but illustrate the ever-changing, innovative world that we live in.