25th Trillium Award

Kingston Writersfest 2013: Something for Everyone

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In Other Worlds: Margaret Atwood, Corey Redekop, moderated by Merilyn Simonds

Put Margaret Atwood, Corey Redekop, and Madeline Ashby on the stage together and you?re asking for it. When told it was his turn to read, Corey joked, ?Aw, I was hoping she?d read first. Then I could say, ?Yeah, Atwood opened for me.??

Moderated by Merilyn Simonds, the Thursday afternoon session was as funny and thought-provoking as it was gruesome. In the zombie and post-apocalyptic universes these authors? characters inhabit, blood and guts are commonplace, but so are newly imagined technologies and philosophies of being. Just in case the conversation got a little too serious, Atwood could be counted on to liven things up, as when she pulled a fan?s gift, a voodoo doll of herself, out of her bag and held it up to speak in the microphone!

Many attendees cringed at the gore in some of the passages that were read, but by the end of the conversation the room was filled with converted fans to the dystopian worlds these authors brought to life (and death!) on the stage.

Author! Author!: Joseph Boyden with Shelagh Rogers
The Islandview Room filled quickly in anticipation of the event. The orange scarves flashed by as chairs were brought in, benches slid into the place to fill the room to capacity. Even the bookstore was filled with benches. What a turnout!

Everyone was comfortable and seated as the lights went down and award-winning author Joseph Boyden and CBC radio personality Shelagh Rogers took the stage. For the next hour the crowd sat rapt.

?Canadians think 1867 happened and Canada was birthed out like a calf,? the author explained, but The Orenda, written about First Nations and European first contact in the 17th century, is meant to show how far back Canadian history really extends. And how complex that history is.

Author and interviewer went back and forth, sometimes into the darker elements of the book, but also into the practicalities of writing the 17th-century. ?You fall out of a canoe in a black robe?you?re going down. They should have worn Speedos,? Boyden laughed.

In the end, Rogers was curious about the word orenda, which is often translated as the spirit in all things. ?Does history have an orenda?? she asked. Boyden answered, ?I think history IS the orenda in so many ways.?

The crowd raced to the bookstore to grab copies of the book and the hallways were filled with audience members hotly debating the conversation they?d just heard. It was an electric event, like many at KWF, that only begins with the words that are spoken on the stage.

Workshop: Wayne Grady, Writing Family into Fiction
Early Saturday morning, a serious group, pens and notebooks poised, gathered to hear Wayne Grady, author of Emancipation Day, discuss the process and potential pitfalls of including family (and others the author may know) in fiction. Rather than a lecture on genealogy and writing, the experience was truly a collaborative one with questions, suggestion, exercises and conversations among the participants and the instructor.

After years researching and writing his own family history, Grady was ready for every question and made each attendee feel it was a mentoring session as much as a class. The excitement among the crowd was for getting home and getting started. Inspiring writers across genres is part of what makes KWF workshops an invaluable part of the festival experience.

Workshop: Writing for the Screen with Andrew Kaufman
In a late Saturday afternoon workshop, a group of all ages gathered, ostensibly to learn how to write a screenplay. What screenwriter and author Andrew Kaufman did in the process of fulfilling that expectation was change the way everyone in the room watches television and movies. In two hours, he deconstructed scripts of all types and delivered in his urgent, brilliant way the keys to start writing successfully for the screen.

?I would pay again to stay for two more hours,? one woman said to her friend as she left. From the conversations that spilled into the hall after, she wasn?t the only one.

Short Fiction Debuts
Moderator Diane Schoemperlen took to the stage on Sunday morning with Colette Maitland (Keeping the Peace) and Nancy Jo Cullen ( Canary), both publishing their first books of short fiction this year. All three women are mothers and the subject of balancing writing with familial responsibilities came up often. Each writer shared her writing schedule and even how the writing continues within when the computer is off. ?When I?m doing other things, I?m telling myself what I need to work through in the story,? Colette said.

Schoemperlen had the audience laughing with her ?hot flash fan? as the three authors celebrated the fact that these two debuts were by women over fifty. They closed by encouraging writers to use the years they may bring to their work to inform it and mold it, not as a reason to give up the dream of writing.

And as the festival came to a close it seemed a fitting reminder that writing and reading are lifelong endeavours. From baby board books and teen fiction to poetry, unforgettable nonfiction and memoirs of long and fascinating lives (don?t miss Laurie Lewis? Love, and all that jazz), Kingston Writersfest once again delivered an experience for all readers, all ages, in all genres. If the written word intrigues you in any form, you will find food for your soul at Kingston Writersfest.

And if next year seems too far away, visit the Devour Book Club to get your local literary fix!

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