Kingston’s Writersfest returns for 10th anniversary

Festival introduces new events in celebration, invites students

Australian Peter Carey will be taking part in this years writersfest.
Credit: 
Photo from Writersfest press release

At the 10th annual Kingston Writersfest, Queen’s students and local residents will gather in the Holiday Inn with some of the most esteemed authors in Canada. 

Artistic director Barbara Bell spends a full year organizing the annual five-day festival, welcoming book lovers to exchange ideas and learn more about the craft of writing from experienced professionals.

“I put together conversations and panels—sometimes just two, sometimes three, sometimes four authors—and look for books and writers that have themes in common or writing about similar subject matter so they have points of contact between the two works,” Bell told The Journal.

Marking ten years of Writersfest, Bell has added some new features to the festival she said will benefit Queen’s students.

One event held on Saturday afternoon, “Creeps and Chills,” will focus on Grip-lit and the thriller genre. That same afternoon, students can attend “Family, Calamity and Survival: Post-Apocalyptic Fiction,” hosted by author Waubgeshig Rice.

Writing masterclasses like these teach young writers a variety of lessons from how to properly write a sentence to how to write about culture—whether it’s your own or not—to avoid appropriation and remain respectful.

“It also will benefit Queen’s students to come off campus and enjoy culture being offered locally,” Bell said.

Students can attend the two events by presenting their student card at the festival’s box office.

For younger readers and aspiring writers, the festival sends out authors to local public schools so students from Kindergarten to grade eight get the opportunity to listen to established authors share their experience and writing advice. 

Events geared toward high school students focus on themes, ideas, and subject matter that also appeal to an adult audience. Bell said teens are more thoughtful than they’re often given credit for, and hopes to appeal to their curiosity around global issues.

Many of the festival’s writers will be available for informal conversations and book signings throughout the event. Bell said this is a valuable opportunity for student readers and writers to speak to accomplished authors about their shared fields of study.

One author, out of the 60 scheduled to attend, is Esi Edugyan, who’s shortlisted for the Booker Prize and nominated for the Giller Prize and the Rogers Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize.

“She’s just a star in the literary firmament at the moment,” Bell said. 

Another author coming to the festival to teach is Australian writer, and two-time Booker Prize winner, Peter Carey. He’ll be taking part in the international marquee performance, sharing decades of literary experience.

Though Bell refers to all author talks and panel discussions as performances due to their engaging “more than just a reading” presentation style, there will also be musical performances. Events include live music, book readings, drumming and fireworks at Confederation Basin on Friday night.

There will also be a Saturday night speakeasy, where readings will be done following an improvisational jazz trio set.

“It’s done in a club atmosphere with low lights and people seated at tables, not theatre style. It’s a lot of fun and really a neat multidisciplinary experience.”

Bell hopes the event will be fun and informative, while providing students and Kingston residents the rare opportunity to commune with established authors. She also hopes to see more students in the audience as participants, stating that in past years, they have mostly just attended to volunteer.

Bell believes the event could not only benefit students, but benefit from the students’ presence.

“We’d be thrilled to see more Queen’s students in the audience because they have something to contribute to us too,” Bell said.

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