The Whistler Writers Festival has long outgrown founder Stella Harvey's living room—where it first began—but somehow, the event has retained that same friendly, intimate feel.
Set to mark its 17th installment this year, the annual fall event is running at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, and in other venues around Whistler, from Oct. 11 to 14.
"It's definitely gotten larger," says festival manager Rebecca Wood Barrett. "But in some ways it's almost like Stella's living room at the Fairmont because she's involved in every aspect and she cares so much."
On top of that, many of the workshops and reading events take place with "pub-style seating," where participants face each other, rather than looking forward at a stage.
"What I've observed is complete strangers having conversations, becoming friends," she says. "My mom and dad have come every year. They keep running into the same couples and their friends. It's a neat way to meet other people and really talk about the authors that are there and the work and some of the ideas."
A new event kicking off the first night is An Evening of Stories and Songs, featuring host Grant Lawrence and guests Dustin Bentall, Dave Bidini and Janet Marie Rogers. (Esi Edugyan had to cancel because of obligations stemming from her Giller Prize nomination.)
Unlike the Literary Cabaret (happening on Friday, Oct. 12), which pairs music and author readings, the event will have individual music performances and readings.
The gala set for Saturday, Oct. 13, will feature comedian and CBC host Ali Hassan in conversation with two-time Booker Prize-winner Peter Carey.
"Peter's works have a lot of humour in them," Wood Barrett says. "(Although) they're very serious subjects. His current book actually starts out really funny and the characters are quirky and different. But it gets dark as it goes along."
On top of all the reading events there will also be an array of workshops for writers, ranging from non-fiction to young adult (YA) Literature to travel writing.
"We feel that having the workshops are really important—both to local and visiting writers, emerging writers and also those who are perhaps a little further along and have been working at it for years and now need to make a connection with a publisher and an agent," Wood Barrett says.
Also running as part of the festival is the Authors in the Schools program, which purchases books for kids in Grades 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 12 in Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and Mount Currie and then arranges for the authors to come into the schools so the students can meet them and ask questions.
This year, participating authors include Penny Draper, Darren Groth, Simon Groth and Eden Robinson.
Draper will also lead a free workshop called Truth or Lie: Writing Workshop for Young Writers (who must be 19 years old or younger to participate) on Oct. 13.
All four authors will take part in the reading event called On the Edge: The Ingredients for Riveting Children's and YA Literature, also on Oct. 13.
"We've got up to 2,000 kids reading books and (taking in) presentations with authors who will also be at the festival," Wood Barrett says. "For kids it can make a huge difference. I know I remember my dad taking me to a couple of readings when I was a kid. One was William Golding, who wrote Lord of the Flies. I'll never forget it."
Meanwhile, tickets and festival passes are on sale now leading up to the festival. Generally, organizers see around 40 per cent local attendees and 60 per cent visitors.
"The locals have supported us from the beginning and continue to come," Wood Barrett says. "I think that's a testament to their commitment and a testament to the quality of the festival and the event."
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit whistlerwritersfest.com.