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Ten years and writing

The Whistler Readers & Writers Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this weekend



Stella Harvey is "neck deep and drowning."

The founder and organizer of the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival is on the cusp of the event and so, understandably, her head is warped by every nagging, minute detail: changes in travel itineraries of guest writers, ensuring all AV equipment is rented and appropriate. It's Harvey's task right now to ensure all the Ts are crossed and it is, in a word, hell.

"Every year I say to myself, 'Why do I do this? Why?'" she says, but she's laughing as she does so. That laugh, which makes regular appearances during our conversation, says it all - she does this year after year out of love.

And why not?  For the past 10 years, Harvey has spearheaded the writers' festival, utilizing the passion and volunteer support of members of the Vicious Circle, local writers' group. The festival has grown from 20 people in Harvey's living room 10 years ago to well over 200 in 2010.

The festival has become a place for existing writers to hone their skills or try out new genres while offering curious non-writers the opportunity to try their hand at the craft, to get a feel for it. It offers lessons not just in the writing, but also in how to navigate the murky waters of the publishing world.

"We're trying to make the festival for anyone who would be interested in coming, so you don't have to be a writer. You can be interested in the literary arts; you can be just a reader. You might just be curious," Harvey says.

The roster of guests has become more impressive with each year. It has attracted high profile authors including Lawrence Hill and Joseph Boyden.

This year's roster includes A Complicated Kindness author Miriam Toews and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams author Wayne Johnston.

Attracting these authors has been key to the festival's success. It shines a light on the events, attracting people who come to hear authors read or hear them in the flesh and, as result, exposes them to everything else that's happening.

"If you put them (well-known authors) on the same stage as people who are less well-known, you get a chance to shine a light on not just the well-known person, but on the people who are up and coming. I think that balance is really important. Finding that balance is sometimes difficult," Harvey says.

In recent years, the Vicious Circle has partnered with the Vancouver International Writers Festival as a means to attract high profile authors who are already in the area But unlike the Vancouver festival, the Vicious Circle offers writers workshops, all of which are meant to be as inclusive - and as affordable - as possible.

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