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Whistler Writers Festival announces 15th anniversary lineup

Organization gains charitable status as writers Urquhart, Donoghue and Thien headline 2016 event



Governor General's Award winner Jane Urquhart, international bestseller Emma Donoghue and Man Booker Prize longlisted writer Madeleine Thien are headlining this year's Whistler Writers Festival (WWF).

Seventy Canadian and international authors have been confirmed for this year's festival, taking place around the resort from Oct. 13 to 16.

At the Whistler Writing Society's annual general meeting on Monday, Aug. 15, WWF executive director Stella Harvey said the festival has received charitable status, which will allow corporate and private donors to offset their philanthropy at tax time.

"It took a year, but we're there. We have been a non-profit since 2005, but when it comes to applying for certain grants or going after corporate sponsor, which we've done more of this year, it is really great to have that designation. We can now issue a receipt," Harvey says.

"Most writers festivals — Vancouver, Calgary, Sechelt — are charitable organizations, so this was the next step in our development."

Tickets for the 2016 WWF went on sale this week and Harvey says programs will be out shortly. The 2015 festival saw 1,600 people taking part, which Harvey hopes to surpass this year.

"It's the biggest festival we've had to date; it's our 15th anniversary," Harvey adds.

"Along with the authors, there are musicians who are playing at the gala on Saturday night and the literary cabaret on Friday night... I try to incorporate suggestions into our programming so people are seeing the writers they want to see."

Urquhart has written seven acclaimed novels, including The Night Stages (2015), The Stone Carvers (2001), Away (1993) and A Map of Glass (2005). Her other awards include the Trillium Award and Le Prix Meilleur Livre Etranger (France).

She will be in conversation with Marsha Lederman, arts correspondent for The Globe and Mail, on Saturday, Oct. 15.

Donoghue is the author of Room (2010), winner of the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Canada and the Caribbean) and short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

The film adaptation of Room, for which Donoghue wrote the screenplay, was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

She will be taking part in the Sunday brunch reading event moderated by writer Bill Richardson on Oct. 16.

Vancouver-based Thien's novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing was published earlier this year.

Other authors taking part in WWF 2016 non-fiction writers Ronald Wright, Kevin Patterson and Deborah Campbell, author Nick Bantock (Griffin & Sabine), and New York Times best-selling crime writer Joy Fielding.

The popular "Cooks with Books" event returns on Friday, Oct. 14, with chefs James Walt of Araxi and Brian Misko from Vancouver launching new cookbooks at the Audain Art Museum.

"As in the past, it will be part social but the chefs will bring their appetizers from their cookbooks for people to try. It's informal and people can talk to them about their recipes. There will also be music from the Sea to Sky Orchestra," Harvey says.

Comedy Quickies are back for a second year, with a night of new comedy writing and spoken-word artist Kevan "Scruffmouth" Cameron.

These offerings suggest one thing for WWF: the festival is on the verge of moving to the next level — from a small regional event to potentially something bigger.

For example, says Harvey, WWF's finances are now audited by BDO Canada — and Harvey said they were healthy. The latest grant — $10,000 from B.C. Gaming — arrived a week ago.

This latest funding will be partly used by WWF's Authors in Schools program and support readings by three authors — Richard Van Camp, Lisa Moore and Kenneth Oppel — to regional students in Grades 4 to 12 from Squamish to Mount Curry.

She adds that the annual Writer-in-Residence program will begin prior to October's festival, with author Susan Juby working with 13 participants.

And after 15 years, all those involved — from Harvey down to festival volunteers — have never been paid for their efforts. Harvey says perhaps funding for such positions is around the corner.

Tickets for WWF are now on sale online and at Armchair Books in Whistler Village.

Festival Passes with access to all events are $385, while Reading Passes with access to all reading events are $215. Two accommodation packages, which include the two festival passes, are available from the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

For more information, including the online program for this year's festival, visit www.whistlerwritersfest.com.