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Masterclass with David Francey

Music PEI will host a songwriting masterclass with the celebrated singer-songwriter David Francey Ja [ ... ]

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Salt Spring National Art Prize invites Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada to submit [ ... ]

Author of the Drifters

Filmmaker Susan Rodgers publishes fiction series

Summerside Scene
by Peggy Miles

Susan Rodgers (photo: Peggy Miles)People may know Susan Rodgers as Summerside’s local filmmaker, but she is fast gaining recognition as an accomplished writer of women’s fiction as the author of the Drifters e-book series. Her need to write came to the forefront two years ago when she sat down to put long time thoughts into story form. She drafted 10,000 words on the first day, and putting fingers to keyboard produced three books in six months.

The first title in the Drifters series, A Song for Josh, focuses on female character Jesse Wheeler. She’s a teen runaway from PEI who finds herself homeless in Vancouver before her talent is discovered and she becomes a popular singer-songwriter and actor. The subject befriends actor Josh Sawyer and what ensues is a story about hope and love, and the healing power of music.

The series continues with Promises, where Jesse’s past catches up with her as she is threatened by an old nemesis. And in the third book No Greater Love, the main character finds herself trying to find her way back to Josh, the love of her life.

“I feel like I have these friends who live in another town,” reflects the author of her fictional entities. “You spend so much time living with them in your head.”

Susan has a very descriptive writing style and admires authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Lucy Maud Montgomery for their unyielding ability to capture imagery through words.

She says that the Drifters series is a love story, but that it “really is about learning to love yourself. I want (readers) to go away feeling like there’s always hope; even if they feel that part of them is unloveable, there is always something to love.”

Drifters fans awaiting further titles—have no fear. The fourth book, Riptide, already exists as a first draft, and Susan has the fifth book plotted. The series is receiving favourable reviews and some fans have even described it as their favourite of the year. Susan has sold over 2,000 books to readers from around the world.

Further, her novel, A Certain Kind of Freedom, was a finalist in the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia Atlantic Writing Awards for unpublished manuscripts. A chapter from the story will soon be featured on an American anthology found at

“I’m a storyteller—whether I’m filming or writing.” Susan says succinctly. “And when I am writing, it feels like I am being true to myself…every part of me is happy.”

What’s next? Susan plans to continue writing books for the Drifters series, working toward having A Certain Kind of Freedom published online, and making a feature film from one of the screenplays she’s written.

The Drifters books are available for download on Amazon, Kindle, Good Reads, Barnes and Noble and others. A print version of A Song for Josh is available at Coles Bookstore in Summerside and the Bookmark in Charlottetown, and Promises and No Greater Love will arrive in bookstores in December.

Meet a Maker

Sarah (Benny) O’Brien can’t help creating

by Peggy Miles

Sarah (Benny) O’BrienI believe strongly that art is everywhere…everyone should be open to the beautiful things in life.”

If you’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Sarah O’Brien (perhaps at a craft fair, the farmer’s market or on Facebook) she has a way of making you feel as though you are a gleeful spectator of the ongoing street festival whirling around this peppy lover of life.

To say that this smiley redhead has an enthusiastic nature is a gross understatement. I’ve seen her express great gusto for everything from local food to the everyday antics of her toddler, and basically for her surroundings and life in general. Employed full time at an organic farm in Bedeque, she is earnest about her involvement in bringing “real, affordable food to Islanders.”

Originally from Sudbury, Ontario, Sarah now resides in Borden with her husband Owen and son Rory. She is recognizable by the tattoos that run up and down her arms.

Sarah (also known as Benny) describes herself as a “maker.” “I’m one of those people who just needs to work with their hands.” Whether you describe her as a maker, an artisan or a crafter, one of Sarah’s focuses is using reclaimed materials in order to reduce waste. She takes scratched vinyl records upon which she paints intricate mandalas (spiritual symbols), resulting in dynamic art pieces suitable for the home. She makes vinyl cuff bracelets and guitar string jewellery as well. One of the first records she painted is displayed at Back Alley Disks in Charlottetown, and they can also be found on the wall at Samuel’s Coffee House in Summerside. Sarah and her vinyl work have been featured during Culture Summerside’s Art in Motion festival.

I’m a big fan of the all-natural children’s toys she crafts, including adorable wooden gnomes and play villages made from recycled wool. The holder of a Red Seal chef certification, Sarah will be selling gourmet granola at this year’s Emerald Craft Fair. Her creative skills don’t end there. She’s also done henna tattoos, baked wedding cakes, crocheted hats, and performed tissue paper crafting. The crafty character also spent time employed with a local pottery company, gaining skills that allowed her to produce pieces for local craft fairs. “I’m just a creative person who needs to let it out sometimes,” she shares.

Sarah’s wares can be found on Etsy at Where did the Benny reference come from? She and her best friend shared the same name in high school, thus Sarah became Benny, a nod to her maiden name, Bennetto. A few years later, driving her mother’s purple station wagon and pulled over for speeding, the police officer likened the car to a jet. Thus in Sarah’s festival of life, Benny and the Jet was born.

You can connect with Sarah on her Facebook page (Benny and the Jet) or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She also alludes to a potential “super cool” craft show that may surface in November in which she may be involved.

The Birch Hill Alpacas

by Peggy Miles

Birch Hill alpacas (photo: Peggy Miles)Let me tell you about a neat spot in Birch Hill where you can pack a lunch and visit alpacas. A member of the camel family, the alpaca has a similar look to a llama, but is roughly half the size. While llamas were bred as pack animals, alpacas have been bred for thousands of years for their luxury fibre.

Janet Ogilvie is the face of Green Gable Alpacas, a well-kept property on a century old farm where she cohabitates with a group of 45 alpacas. In addition to breeding and selling the animals to clients across the country, for a small fee the farmer offers daily tours. Families can visit with new alpaca babies, participate in daily bath time, and feed Grizwal, the farms’ lone llama.

Also on site is the Fibre House Boutique, a rustic retail shop housed in the former dairy farm’s milk house. Open to the public, it features a broad selection of raw fibre and yarns, as well as alpaca fashions including knitted and woven items. Alpaca fleece is harvested annually and it is oh so soft. Resistant to odors, items made from alpaca don’t require frequent washing and is not prickly like sheep’s wool. Alpacas produce fibre in 22 natural colours.

Green Gables Alpacas was established in 2009; Janet and her daughter Rachel moved to the 11-acre farm from Hamilton, Ontario in January of 2010. Six weeks later their first shipment of alpacas arrived in PEI.

The entrepreneur’s background as a Registered Veterinary Technician has been helpful, but Janet says that alpaca farming is not as rigorous as other types of traditional farm operations. “The most elaborate equipment I have is an ATV, trailer, rake and a shovel.”

She says that the adjustment to rural Island life has not been as overwhelming as some might expect. “There is a calmness here. The people, geography and pace are all really therapeutic.”

Ogilvie lost her daughter Amanda suddenly in 2007. The tragedy has had a profound effect and has shifted the way she approaches life. In setting up the farm her attitude became, “What have I got to lose? If I have to go back (to Ontario), so what?” It appears Ogilvie is far from leaving behind the successful business and way of life she’s established. During a recent Open Farm Day, hundreds of visitors to her property explored with interest as she confidently shared with them the story of her farm.

“I don’t like to look too far ahead into the future. But I plan to be here.” says Ogilvie. She is pleased that her livelihood provides a means for putting her daughter Rachel through university. And Amanda is never far from her thoughts. “She would have loved it. She was an animal lover. It’s only because of her.”

Follow Your Bliss

Jennifer Brown’s new book is about a theatre cat

by Peggy Miles

Jennifer Brown (photo: Buzz)I have an aversion to cats. But one special feline has won me over and her name is Tallulah. She’s a fictitious tabby that serves as the main character in the children’s book by Jennifer Brown entitled Tallulah the Theatre Cat. Well, she’s not exactly a made up kitty and as Brown explains, “you sometimes need to give reality a tweak.”

Tallulah is based on a real life cat named Monica who resided in beautiful Victoria-by-the-Sea and could often be found confidently roaming the interior of the Victoria Playhouse. After seventeen and a half years living the good life in this creative little community, Monica recently passed on to kitty heaven. However, she holds a place in the hearts of the people of Victoria and Brown’s new book (her first children’s publication) serves as a memoire of sorts.

“She spent her whole life at the theatre.” shares Brown. “She’d lie on the picnic table at the Landmark Café and wait for the box office to open.” The curious cat could be found wandering the costume department, in the lighting booth or even on stage during rehearsal. “She was a persistent cat.” smiles Brown.

What is the author’s connection to Victoria and the Playhouse? Brown moved to PEI from Montreal a number of years ago and learned that one of her school chums also lived in the area—that being Pat Smith, General Manager of the Playhouse. The two quickly reconnected and Brown became a regular face in Victoria.

Once familiar with the village mouser, the author thought to herself, “Why hasn’t this been written down? I guess I’ll write it.” She does not shy away from grown up vocabulary (“the puss with éclat”) and the story unfolds through rhyme.

The book bursts with colour, with artwork developed by Brown using coloured tissue paper layered onto rice paper. Tallulah herself is hand sketched using a black and white effect, which makes the tabby’s presence pop from each page. Leafing through, readers will recognize the familiar streetscape of Victoria.

“I always liked the combination of words and images,” says Brown. Early creative influencers include her parents. Her mother taught literature and did watercolours and her father’s UK humour had an ability to make the English language dance. A Fine Arts graduate of Concordia University, Brown taught art in Montreal schools for 30 years.

Exhibited by Tallulah’s adventures throughout the theatre, the story shares all that goes into pulling together a stage production. The tabby’s desire to be a part of the action is rewarded at the conclusion of the book. Brown expresses the message is to “Follow your bliss. That’s important for kids to learn. Persevere and find where you fit in.”

Tallulah the Theatre Cat is available at the Victoria Playhouse and at other shops in the village, at Indigo in Charlottetown, Montreal’s Babar Books and online at

Jennifer Brown is currently working on two other books for children.

High Energy Harmony

Forever Plaid

Review by Peggy Miles

A blend of harmonies echo from the stage of the Harbourfront Theatre this summer.

The Summerside venue is developing a knack for staging pared down productions packed with high performance value. A handful of dynamic performers replace the need for a large acting troupe or elaborate set changes. The fact that Catherine O’Brien has come on as the theatre’s Artistic Director of Summer Programming for the second year in a row is no doubt a contributing factor to this season’s strong line-up.

Forever Plaid is a blast from start to finish. From touching moments to outright hilarity, there’s never a dull moment. The show ran at the Harbourfront in June and July, and tells the story of a squeaky clean singing quartet known as the Plaids, who are killed in a car accident in the 1950’s. They resurface on earth to give their fans one final performance.

The fixed set resembles a 1950’s lounge, with burgundy paint and mirrors on the walls. A grand piano sits off to one side and four microphone stands appear in the middle of the stage.

The Plaids burst into the limelight in white dinner jackets, complete with plaid cummerbunds and boutonnières (they later change into full-on plaid coats). The choreography is reminiscent of the era, with an added level of intense enthusiasm and flair (think synchronized swimming for the stage). The quartet’s high energy dance moves are as enjoyable as the songs they sing. You can tell the Plaids are working up a sweat as exhibited by the occasional wipe of the brow with their handkerchiefs.

Mark Allan plays the character of Frankie, the group’s leader who coaxes everyone with their cues, and retains the group’s morale. Allan is an old hand at the show, performing in over seven productions of Forever Plaid throughout Ontario.

Nathan Carroll plays Sparky, who’s always up for a laugh. His retainer gives him a slight speech impediment, adding to the comic relief.

The character Smudge is played by Sam Plett, the group’s worry wart, whose dance moves are always a little bit out of sync with the others.

Islander Ian Cheverie plays wide eyed Jinx, who is fearful of, well, life in general. Jinx occasionally gets a nose bleed on the high notes, but is able to pull through when it really counts.

The harmonies are impeccable. Each actor skilfully performs his respective role, while complimenting the other characters. The group is accompanied onstage by their piano player Patrick Burwell, who is also the show’s Musical Director.

The show flows nicely and the performers are fun to watch. And just to keep things lively, every now and then the group heads out into the crowd to interact with the audience. If you appreciate fun pop tunes from the 1950s, you’d be pleased with this show. While the Harbourfront’s run of Forever Plaid is over for the summer, you can find a similar brand of comedic relief in August with Nunsense.

Sharp and Sweet

Anne of Green Gables—The Musical

Review by Peggy Miles

It’s a truly Canadian cast for this season’s production of Anne of Green Gables—The Musical, with performers hailing from a multitude of hometowns across the country: Vancouver to Middle Cove, Newfoundland, and Quispamsis to Killarney, Manitoba.

At Charlottetown’s historic Confederation Centre on opening night, with the Premier sitting in the seat directly in front of me, the 49th consecutive season of Anne was launched on the mainstage. And all of that national talent culminated in a marvellous celebration of Canada’s smallest province.

The musical’s artistic director is Anne Allan, and the show’s music director is Donald Fraser.

I’ve seen the Anne musical a handful of times. So as the full company drifted onto the stage for the opening number, and the bray of the horned instruments began, my ears delighted in the familiar sounds and my eyes smiled. For a return visitor, it is easy to connect with those recognizable lyrics, iconic costumes, and customary set pieces.

Shortly after the start of the opening number, the stage was set up to mimic an outdoor market and the ladies of Avonlea harmonized in “Great Workers for the Cause.” I was taken by the vibrancy of the scene, and the ease of how the set pieces had all been placed on stage.

Ontario native Katie Kerr is this year’s Anne, and brings a youthfulness and dynamism to the role unlike I’ve seen before. The actress capably demonstrates all that Anne represents: a girl who is bright and quick, talkative and imaginative. Extremely animated, Kerr shone in “The Apology” to nosy neighbour Mrs. Lynde.

I greatly enjoyed the interactions Kerr (as Anne) had with the character of bashful Matthew, played by Tim Koetting. The actor skilfully displays through actions (and occasionally words) why he is captured by this lively young orphan. These two performers delivered a sweet and charming rendition of “Humble Pie.”

As much as I’ve mentioned how the cast represents all of Canada, I must highlight the array of homegrown talent that’s present in this year’s production.

Jessica Gallant is a real charmer as Diana Barry and produces a very comical performance during the tea party scene, when the raven-haired girl mistakenly indulges in current wine during her afternoon social with Anne. Originally from Ten Mile House, her Island charm shines through.

And who doesn’t love seeing Charlottetown native Glenda Landry breeze onto the stage? Landry has played a variety of Anne—The Musical characters over the years, most notably as Diana. She is celebrating her 43rd season with the Charlottetown Festival.

Island resident Marlane O’Brien is a familiar face to Island audiences, and portrays Marilla Cuthbert in this year’s production. The lyrically clever “We Clearly Requested a Boy,” sung by the characters of Marilla, Matthew and Anne is a wistful favourite.

This year’s production is vibrant and sharp. If you’re looking for a taste of high life in Charlottetown, plan to see Anne of Green Gables—The Musical this season.

The Juice of the Berry

A visit to PEI Juice Works in Alberton

by Peggy Miles

Kyla Ellis at PEI Juice Works (photo: Peggy Miles)"I found my thrill, on Blueberry Hill…” I couldn’t help humming as I drove into the Bloomfield Industrial Park near Alberton. I was stopping in to visit the folks at PEI Juice Works. They make 100% pure wild blueberry juice products, made without any added water, sugar or preservatives; one pound of wild blueberries is used to produce every 375 ml bottle of juice!

The staff greeted me as I stepped into their baby blue office. Attached to the administrative space is the production plant where juice is bottled and shipped to locations across PEI, Canada and around the world.

Hailed as a powerful antioxidant, blueberries are known to help with a variety of chronic diseases and the company advises people drink 2 ounces of their juice daily. Feedback indicates that consumers appreciate the taste and that the juice leaves them feeling better about their health.

The company is owned by 4 shareholders—individuals from the West Prince area who were seeking to diversify their existing agricultural operations. They were exposed to an ancient European juicing process, perfected by a Mennonite family in Eastern Europe.

The shareholders took their concept to Bio | Food | Tech (PEI Food Technology Centre) in Charlottetown, which specializes in helping entrepreneurs develop a process which will take a new product from kitchen to commercial-scale. “The shareholders worked with scientists to refine the taste, consistency and actual process of making the product,” say company representatives. The blend is approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as well as HACCP (a food safety organization).

The product line includes three different juice products: Wild Blueberry and Tart Cherry, Wild Blueberry and Rhubarb, and 100% Pure Wild Blueberry.

There are approximately 125 wild blueberry growers on PEI, many of whom supply their fruit to PEI Juice Works; the company imports from Oxford, Nova Scotia when necessary. The plant has the capacity to produce 200,000 bottles of juice each year, some of which is sold on PEI at health food stores, pharmacies, Atlantic Co-op stores and at the Summerside Superstore. Products are also sold throughout Atlantic Canada at places such as Pete’s Frootique.

PEI Juice Works is experiencing success in the export market, having made valuable contacts on trade missions to Asia. The company says that the provincial government has been helpful in providing advice related to labeling, shipping and pricing for the international market. The business further credits agencies such as ACOA and the PEI ADAPT Council with helping the business succeed.

Business representatives are pleased to be supporting local farmers, as well as contributing to job creation in the West Prince area.

PEI Juice Works wants to strengthen its presence in the local market while developing new export channels. Visit their website for recipes: at or find their sampling station at local festivals and grocery stores.

Fostering Growth

by Peggy Miles

Summerside Scene

As the Buzz reporter for Prince County, I cover happenings in my hometown of Summerside and the western region. A few years ago during a time when I was making some changes in my professional life, writing for The Buzz seemed like a good way to exercise my creative side.

I knew ‘Buzz man’ Peter Richards through advertising I’d booked for work projects. One day Peter dropped into my workplace in Summerside and I mentioned casually that I wouldn’t mind being a regular contributor to the newspaper if the need ever arose. The timing was right, as Peter was in the process of searching for someone to fulfill the Prince County portfolio.

I submitted my first story for the April 2008 issue of The Buzz, and featured Richard Kays, the owner of Avonlea Bookstore in downtown Summerside. I painstakingly prepared my interview questions before heading out to the bookstore. Two and a half hours later (Kays is a talker) I headed home to compile the story—another arduous process, wanting to get it just right for my debut to the Island wide Buzz readership. If I had calculated all the time I put into that initial story, I’m sure it equalled a buck twenty-five an hour. But wow, what a thrill to see my name listed amongst the contributors that month in The Buzz.

In the subsequent stories since, I’ve managed to develop a system that allows me to complete my submissions in a more realistic timeframe. I’ll confess here that it’s uncommon for me to have my story done and submitted by the 4 pm deadline that looms on the 15th of every month. I usually submit my story not long after, but hitting that cut-off date is a tough one for me. Most of my emails to Peter are prefaced with “Sorry for the delay”. I like to think of myself as a creative type, not bound by the world’s deadlines. But then reality reigns me back in, as well as the thought of Peter laying out the next month’s issue, with a  blank spot where my story is intended to go.

Over these last five years I’ve interviewed artists, musicians, authors and crafters. I’ve talked to businesses, cultural organizations and schools who have initiated exciting projects in their communities. I’ve reviewed theatre shows, and taken photos of performers, buildings and art pieces.

Sometimes stories practically write themselves. Occasionally it’s a bit more of a struggle. Like the time Peter asked me to write about a couple of filmmakers from Summerside whose wacky YouTube videos were “about nothing in particular”.

Another memory is the interview I conducted with a painter at her home and artist studio in the Evangeline region. She welcomed me with tea and sweets, and at the end of the interview she ceremoniously handed me a flower from her garden and a blank greeting card featuring one of her paintings.

The people I interview for The Buzz really understand the significance of having their story published in The Buzz. And they are quick to show their appreciation. It’s always unexpected, but very nice, to get a thank you email from an interview subject who’s just read their published story.

I’ve gained a new appreciation for a wide variety of topics as a result of the stories I’ve covered these last five years. Sometimes people are nervous when they show up for the interview. I try to keep things light and provide interview subjects with a level of comfort. I’ll smile and say, “Don’t worry, this is not hard hitting news. It’s The Buzz—the purpose is to support great stuff happening in the community.”

I have a good handle on happenings in the place where I live. My personal and professional interests extend to the cultural scene at this end of the Island. The fact that I can help my community to promote its offerings via The Buzz is something that I feel good about. I am grateful to The Buzz for fostering my growth as a writer and community enthusiast.

Peggy Miles is…

Peggy MilesPeggy Miles lives in Summerside and is a marketing entrepreneur, community enthusiast, nature defender, Jim Hensen fan and dairy bar devotee.

Her business, RED ENVELOPE Marketing & Communications, specializes in media planning and public relations services for community organizations and small business operators.

For approximately 15 years, her work and volunteer experience has centered on community focused projects as well as projects related to tourism and culture. In addition to The Buzz, Peggy writes for the Employment Journey newspaper. She also instructs Aquafit at Credit Union Place on a weekly basis. Peggy is currently the volunteer chairperson for the Summerside Chamber of Commerce Young Business Alliance. She contributes volunteer time towards programming initiatives at Summerside municipal parks with the idea that connecting people in neighbourhoods breeds better connected communities that are healthy places to live. Peggy prides herself on her reputation as a party planner extraordinaire, and hosts an annual Robbie Burns gathering, as well as an outdoor dinner party at the park across the street from her house. 

Events Calendar

January 2019
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Some Upcoming Events

Bluegrass at the Carriage House

February 3
Beaconsfield Carriage House Janet McGarry and Wildwood, a favourite PEI band, will be fea [ ... ]

Rolston String Quartet

February 21
The Mack The Rolston String Quartet is bringing a storm of classical music to The Mack t [ ... ]

PEI Symphony Orchestra

Guest conductor Dina Gilbert will lead  February 24
Zion Church  The PEI Symphony Or [ ... ]

Recent News & Articles

A gift of Island poetry: Judy Gaudet

Curated by Deidre Kessler Anticipation Outside my window the world is hovering
on hummingbird wings [ ... ]

Coy—power trio

Talking Bands by Evan James Ceretti Story Sheidow (guitar, vocals), Emilee Sorrey (drums, vocals), [ ... ]

Distinguished alumni

Holland College awards Jan Cowper, Irwin MacKinnon, David Poirier The Holland College Foundation ha [ ... ]