Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Waterloo's Own Lit Fest: The Wild Writers Literary Festival

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Wild Writers Literary Festival

Open Book loves nothing more than the launch of a new Writers Festival — and the Wild Writers Literary Festival, held in Waterloo for the first time in November 2012, has the makings to become one of the premier festivals of the season. The Wild Writers Festival invites "the unbridled lovers of the written word" for readings, panel discussions, writer's craft classes — even a Speakeasy on how to write great sex scenes.

We spoke with TNQ editor and festival organizer Pamela Mulloy for a sneak preview of the festival and tips on how to best soak up the literary scene in Waterloo.

Open Book:

Tell us about the "Wild Writers" theme for the Waterloo Literary Festival. Why did you decide on this theme, and what makes a "wild writer"?

Pamela Mulloy:

The New Quarterly actually ran a symposium back in 2000 entitled “Wild Writers We Have Known,” with a gathering of writers including Michael Crummey, Russell Smith and Diane Schoemperlen, all of whom will be joining us again this year.

When thinking of a name for our annual festival, this past event was on our mind, but we also contemplated the idea of “wild” and how it related to the writers and their work and to the festival itself. The word “wild” has many meanings: untamed, unrestrained, uninhibited, unconventional, enthusiastic, excellent. For us, all these definitions apply. The writers who take chances, explore new territory, those who do something out of the ordinary, are the ones we are drawn to, the ones about whose work we become enthusiastic. The wild ones. And the festival, we expect, will have its own version of wild.


Who are some of the authors who will be participating?


We’ve got Terry Fallis doing a reading and also talking about how to get published. There will be panel discussions with Alison Pick, Miranda Hill, Carrie Snyder, Kerry-Lee Powell, Alexander MacLeod, Andrew Hood, Tamas Dobozy. We have Michael Helm, Michael Redhill and Michael Crummey talking about finding their way to an ending. There will be writer’s craft classes with Elizabeth Hay, Helen Humphreys, Patricia Young, Kerry Clare, Merilyn Simonds and Diane Schoemperlen. Finally, the festival closes with a speakeasy focused on love and longing, which will feature a panel discussion with Russell Smith, Martha Schabas and Tamara Faith Berger about the secret of writing sex scenes, followed by readings and live jazz.


What part of the Wild Writers festival are you most looking forward to?


The discussions. Between writers and other writers, writers and festival-goers, all those moments when people connect with the work, or with the writers. We want this to be an intimate festival, which is why we’ve set it up with lots of opportunities to interact, along with the chance to just sit back and listen.

And, of course, you can’t go wrong with a Speakeasy where we talk about writing great sex scenes!


Describe the literary scene in Waterloo. What do you love about being a writer and reader in this community?


After living in Europe for twelve years, the first thing I did when I moved here in 2004 was check out the literary scene. At the time there was an amazing annual festival held on International Women’s Day called Calamity Jane offering readings from the likes of Helen Humphreys and Jane Urquhart. Around the same time I attended a TNQ event with Michael Winter. Both these events were a great reintroduction to the world of Canadian literature. Since then I’ve discovered the regular reading series at our local independent bookstore, Words Worth Books, along with that of St Jerome’s University, which is called Can Lit Kicks Ass. There are also lots of other writer-supportive initiatives like Storywell that offers mentoring and editing services, as well as writers workshops.


Can you name a few local establishments that visiting book-lovers should be sure to check out?


Our independent bookstore for great books and friendly, helpful staff is Words Worth Books on King Street in Waterloo. For second hand books, A Second Look, K-W Bookstore, and Old Goat Books. For a quiet cafe to read, A Matter of Taste and The Silver Spoon both on King Street in Kitchener, and Café 1842 at the Huether on King Street in Waterloo. For great art and meditative space, Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery is worth a visit.


What do you hope festival-goers will come away with when the weekend is over?


What do we hope for? A festival that is intimate, fun, lively, where conversation between writers and readers flows through and across the sessions. We hope that people will feel they’ve discovered something or someone new, learned more about the craft of writing, and the world of publishing. We want people to feel connected to the writers, to their work, and feel the warm rush of being part of something unique and expansive. That’s not too much to ask is it?

For more information about The Wild Writers Literary Festival please visit their website. Donations to support the festival can be made here.

Pamela Mulloy is Editor of The New Quarterly, a magazine of Canadian fiction, poetry, and essays primarily about the writer’s craft that has been publishing out of Waterloo, Ontario for 31 years. Their mandate is to nurture emerging writers by publishing and promoting their work alongside that of well-established writers they admire, and to provide an editorial context in which both can be read. They try to balance serious consideration of matters literary with playfulness and invention. TNQ writers have gone on to be nominated for Giller prizes, Governor General’s Awards, Griffin Poetry Prizes, Writer’s Trust Notable Author awards, Journey prizes, Commonwealth prizes, National Magazine Awards and more.

TNQ is working with Words Worth Books, The Jazz Room and The Balsillie School to present Waterloo's first writers festival.

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