Whistler's word nerds breathed a collective sigh of relief earlier this year when it was announced that the Whistler Readers & Writers Festival was, in fact, returning for a ninth year.
In case you didn't hear, the Vicious Circle (the group that organizes the festival) had actually pulled the plug on the annual event late last year after they concluded they simply couldn't cover the operating costs associated with hosting the festival. The cancellation led to an outcry, not only from the local literary community but from down in Vancouver, where the news reached Hal Wake, director of the Vancouver International Writers Festival (VIWF). After some discussion, the two organizations decided to partner, with VIWF covering the costs of bringing writers to Vancouver, and the Vicious Circle stepping in to bring writers to Whistler for the Oct. 14-16 festival.
So what does that mean for the Whistler's Readers & Writers Festival?
Well, for one, we're being given access to some very impressive names in the literary world. Kate Pullinger, author of The Mistress Of Nothing and winner of the 2009 Governor General Award; two-time Governor General nominee, Patricia Young, author of An Autoerotic History of Swings; 2009 winner of the Writers Trust of Canada Non-Fiction prize and the B.C. Booksellers' Choice Award, Brian Brett, who wrote Trauma Farm; Russell Wangersky, the award-winning author of The Glass Harmonica; City of Victoria Butler Book Prize-winning author, Terence Young; short-story author Jenn Farrell; writing couple and former Whistler writers in residence, Merilyn Simonds and Wayne Grady; and two-time Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize-winning author Caroline Adderson, are a few of the big names heading our way in just a few weeks.
Of course, we'll also be hearing from some of our local writers: Leslie Anthony, Stephen Vogler, Michel Beaudry and Lisa Richardson are also on the schedule.
Aside from the quality of the lineup, this year's festival features some very fun events designed to help people dive right into the world of words. And the best part is, everyone can get in on the action - readers and writers of all levels are welcome.
Organizers have changed the format a bit, opting to offer two complete "streams" of programming on Saturday for $110, rather than hosting individual workshop sessions and allowing people to cherry-pick just one or two (though you can opt for just a few classes, just at a higher individual price of $25 per class). While this might mean a bit of a bigger investment, it also means that you'll probably get a lot more out of your involvement in the festival.
So, the big question is: are you interested in learning about how traditional and digital media can work together, or do you want to find out how to craft great stories? (The full program for the festival, complete with detailed workshop descriptions, is available at www.theviciouscircle.ca.) There are quite a few workshops and seminars that have captured my attention; unfortunately, they seem to be evenly split between the two streams, so I may have to be a bit ruthless with my decision-making. The State of Book Publishing Today and The New Paradigm: The Book Is Dead And Who Is In The Nursery? strike me as two particularly intriguing sessions that delve into aspects of the industry, while The Prickly Art of Self Editing with Rebecca Wood Barrett and Michel Beaudry's The Power Of A Good Story, promise to be practical skill-builders. Oh, too many choices! It's almost as bad as the shampoo section of the grocery store...