25th Trillium Award

The Festival Series: Five Questions with Heather Jessup

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Heather Jessup

Another wonderful season of literary festivals is on the way and what better way to celebrate than with a series about festivals.

Open Book speaks with Heather Jessup, the author of The Lightning Field. She attended the Ottawa Writers Festival last April and shares with us her thoughts on festivals.

Open Book:

Tell us about the first literary festival you attended.

Heather Jessup:

The first literary festival I attended was the Vancouver International Writer?s Festival. Our high school English teacher (the remarkable Ms Sullings!) would take us each year. I cannot tell you what a thrill it was to read at the festival?s Incite series last year ? I had been dreaming of that moment since grade 10!


What was your favourite moment at the Ottawa Writers Festival?


I loved both of the readings at the Manx ? both the poetry cabaret, and the fiction
cabaret where I had the chance to read with the lovely Claire Tacon. The Manx is such a cozy location, David O?Meara is such a genuine host, the readings felt really personal, and the veggie tacos were out of this world!


Why do you think literary festivals are important?


Ever since I met my first author in person as a child (Kit Pearson, the Vancouver
Public Library on West 4th, grade 2), hearing authors read from their work has been extremely inspiring to me. Elizabeth Barrett Browning once lamented that as a female poet she lacked ?grandmothers? ? woman writers to whom she could look for guidance and inspiration. Literary festivals let inspiring writers meet their inspirations in person, mismatched socks and all. It lets all of us who?ve had manuscripts in drawers think ?it can be done!?


When it?s time to take the stage, what do you like most about being in the spotlight?


I just really love the chance to meet other writers and to hear their words and have interesting conversations about craft and the meaning of our vocations: so the ?spotlight? for me is always best when it?s shared in a kitchen-table kind of conversation. The best part of a reading is definitely out of the spotlight, though: the chance to meet readers in person (mismatched socks and all!).


Will you be attending any other festivals this year?


I was just in Saint John?s for the Atlantic Book Awards and read around Nova Scotia for Atlantic Book Week. I?ll be doing more readings around the Atlantic this summer, which I?ll try to post to my website and I?ll be a reader at Gaspereau Press?s annual Wayzgoose (their magical printers? open-house) in beautiful Kentville, Nova Scotia, which is usually held the third weekend in October.

Heather Jessup grew up in Vancouver and now lives in Halifax. She currently teaches Creative Writing at Dalhousie University and is a doctoral student in English Literature at the University of Toronto. The Lightning Field is her first novel. More information about Heather is available on her website.

Visit the Open Book Archives for more Festival Series interviews.

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