Writers festivals: bringing writers of all kinds together

Authors immerse themselves in their work and, more often than not, they do so alone.

However, Canadian writers festivals bring authors together, helping to establish connections between them. These connections can be beneficial for advancing in their craft or simply for acquainting with others in the community of Canadian authors.

“I’ve always been more excited by the writing and the writers themselves, and wanting to connect with what I might not have had the opportunity to before,” said rob mclennan, an Ottawa author, editor and publisher. However, mclennan stressed he doesn’t foster connections for the sake of his career but purely because he’s interested in others and their work. He said he’s had many memorable conversations with fellow authors at Ottawa’s International Writers Festival.

The festival, which occurs once in the fall and once in the spring, will take place April 25 until April 30. All kinds of writers come together, including poetry, fiction and non-fiction writers. Long-time and new authors are invited.

“For me, one of the greatest feelings [is had] by supporting someone early on, getting [them] invited to a festival. [This] lets them know their work is appreciated and admired, which can be very, very important for new writers – to be made aware what they are doing is working,” said Sean Wilson, the artistic director for the festival.

Besides gaining support, new writers attending might better their own work through “osmosis,” hearing accomplished authors read, said Wilson, adding the “higher the calibre of input, the better the output.” He tends to pair well-known with lesser-known authors for the on-stage readings.

“In the case of younger authors, many of them have said it’s been a marvelous opportunity for them to connect with more experienced people in the field,” said Stephanie Ford Forrester, who has been the chair of the Lakefield Literary Festival for seven years. “We have a young writers program, a contest really, [where] the winning stories [and] the students who wrote them are presented that evening at the dinner, so there’s a fair amount of acknowledgement there.”

This mixing doesn’t solely benefit new authors but long-time writers get to converse with one another as well. All authors chat at the Lakefield Literary Festival’s gala dinner and reception, in addition to any after-programming events, said Forrester.

Nadine McInnis read at Ottawa’s International Writers Festival in October 2012. She was invited just after the launch of her book of short stories titled Blood Secrets, which is her eighth published book.

McInnis said, because the festival draws a larger community of authors, she connects with writers she would not otherwise have the chance to at smaller writers’ circles in Ottawa. Not often does she mingle with political writers but she does so at the festival, she said. Even supposing this doesn’t directly benefit her fiction and poetry writing, she said she enjoys learning what they’re up to with their work.

Attending the festival does advantage McInnis’ own work in another way though: getting together with and listening to other authors can help stir creativity and provide her feedback to work with, she said.


Hi readers,

I do apologize for vanishing without a trace on here. I’m currently finishing up the last year of my degree and completing an 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. placement at United Way Ottawa, in communications and media relations (wonderful experience, for the record). On top of this, I’ve been apartment hunting, job hunting and slowly but surely putting together an online portfolio of my work. Needless to say, life has been quite busy. However, I do intend on getting back into the swing of things, posting here, and I have some ideas up my sleeve. Please stay tuned!

Have a wonderful weekend,

Lucy Morrissey