Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Open Book on the Road: Kingston WritersFest (Part One of Four)

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Kingston WritersFest is proving to be one of the top literary festivals in Canada. This year, the festival ran from September 22-25, and attendance topped 4,000, with an audience that included local, national and international guest. Open Book editors Grace O'Connell and Clelia Scala travelled to the Limestone City to take in the weekend's festivities. We saw many wonderful readings and had dozens of marvelous conversations. We'd like to share with you a few of the festival highlights.

September 22: Opening Night Reception and Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee

On the evening of Thursday, September 22, the beautifully refurbished Grand Theatre on Princess Street in Kingston was packed with book lovers ready to celebrate the first day of Kingston WritersFest and to see two literary luminaries, Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee, in conversation. As the crowd gathered for the opening night reception, the room hushed, and we were welcomed by the festival's Artistic Director, Merilyn Simonds. We were then treated to a very punny speech by Wayne Grady, which was followed by a poem written for the occasion by Kingston's Poet Laureate, Eric Folsom.

By 8 p.m., we had all found our seats in the theatre space for the sold-out Mainstage Event. We were again warmly welcomed by Simonds, who then announced the three finalists of the So You Think You Can Write High School Writing Contest. Congratulations to finalists Hannah Ascough, Javen Wilson and Miriam Rutledge!

For Mainstage Event, Auster and Coetzee presented, for the first time ever, a reading from their epistolary collaboration. Their letters ranged in topic from observations about male friendship ("The best and most fulfilling friendships are based on mutual admiration," asserted Auster), to food and tradition, to the naming of characters, to fan mail (Coetzee has a fan who writes him 30-page letters). Especially touching was an exchange toward the end of the evening in which the two writers spoke specifically of their friendship. When the lights went up, many members of the audience gave a standing ovation. But how do two writers do an encore? The book-signing line grew quickly and stretched out the door. — Clelia Scala

Top photo: J.M. Coetzee and Paul Auster. Photo by Bernard Clark, courtesy of Kingston WritersFest.
Middle photo: Open Book's Grace O'Connell and Kingston WritersFest's Danika Lochhead. Photo by Open Book.
Bottom photo: Open Book's Clelia Scala and Barbara Bell, Producer of Kingston WritersFest. Photo by Open Book.

Check back tomorrow for part two of our coverage of Kingston WritersFest.

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