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An exploration of the written word

Whistler Readers and Writers Festival offers up extravaganza of learning opportunities for literary lovers

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Another new feature of this year's festival is The Pitching Mound, a lunchtime session presented by the Association of B.C. Magazine Publishers, which will see five of Canada's leading magazine editors (James Little from Explore, Leslie Anthony from Skier, Sandro Grayson from Color, Matt O'Grady from B.C. Business and Charlene Rooke from Western Living) field story ideas from a limited number of aspiring magazine and non-fiction writers.

Over and above the training opportunities on offer, the festival will also feature some seriously fun events, including a preview of "Snow: The Musical" a work that is currently in development as part of the Cultural Capitals of Canada Program by local writers, Leslie Anthony, G.D. Maxwell, Grant Stoddard and Lisa Richardson. They'll be giving a cold read of their song and dance number, looking to fine tune this work-in-progress with the help of the audience. On Saturday night, participants will throw down at He Read, She Read, a battle of the sexes, book-club style.

"Typically, what happens is that book clubs are female, so it's kind of interesting to find one that is male-oriented," Harvey said.

Afterwards, spoken word poet Shane Koyczan provides inspiration before the debut of Haiku Idol, a competition that will see 10 writers scrambling to cook up a killer haiku with a random word.

"He's very, very popular," Harvey enthused. "I saw him at the Banff Writer's Festival last year, and he is fabulous!"

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, Pam Barnsley and Mary MacDonald will lead participants on a free, guided walk of the Poet's Pause sculpture installations during the Pack of Pickled Poets event.

On top of all the changes and additions to the workshops and events during the weekend-long festival, organizers have also decided to expand the Writers-In-Residence program, which is part of the overall festival and starts at the beginning of September. Rather than their usual single instructor, they've enlisted the help of Wayne Grady (Tree) and Merilyn Simonds (The Convict Lover) to spend the fall at Alta Lake Station House with up to 20 program participants, critiquing and developing manuscripts in one-on-one sessions and group sessions.

"To get the kind of feedback that we want to give to participants within the Writers-In-Residence program, you really need to have time and so I can't really load them up with a ton of people," Harvey said.

As of Friday, 18 people had registered for the Writers-In-Residence program.

If the wallet is feeling a bit light these days, don't worry - the event is geared towards writers (read: is budget-friendly) with free sessions on offer, two and a half hour workshops for just $25, and a full festival pass (not including the month-long residency) for $180. To view a full schedule or purchase tickets, visit www.theviciouscircle.ca .

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