Annual writers’ festival makes literature local

WritersFest brings dozens of authors’ stories to town

Marina Endicott and Johanna Skibsrud will be part of the International Marquee at this years Kingston WritersFest.
Credit: 
From the Kingston WriterFest website

Back again for its eleventh year, the Kingston WritersFest is setting up shop downtown for five full days over the next week.

From Wednesday, Sept. 25 to Sunday, Sept. 29, 70 authors will gather at the Holiday Inn and the Residence Inn by the waterfront to share their knowledge with aspiring writers and book-lovers across a series of events.

Barbara Bell, Kingston WritersFest’s artistic director, said one event this year that will benefit students is the International Marquee, which will feature two award-winning authors.

One of the authors, Johanna Skibsrud, won the 2010 Giller Prize for her debut novel, The Sentimentalists. Following Skibsrud’s presentation, a moderator will interview Marina Endicott, author of Good to a Fault, which won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Canada and the Caribbean. The book was also a finalist for the Giller Prize that year.

Both Skibsrud and Endicott will discuss their new books. Bell told The Journal in an interview the “two books are explorations of really complex but timely issues of prejudice, class cultural differences, our responsibility towards other humans and the natural world, and all sentient beings.”

For Endicott, the discussion will surround her 2019 book, The Difference, which deals with the differences between people, class structures, and cultures. Skibsrud’s 2019 The Island deals with the challenges different socio-economic groups face through the two main characters: a fish-factory worker and a diplomat.

Endicott’s The Difference is based on a true story, which the author used to explore racism and prejudice, as well as the Canadian history of residential schools through the main character, whose father owns one. Following similar themes, Skibsrud’s The Island is loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

In this way, Bell said both authors are “talking about the nature and history of our responsibilities and the societal effects of colonial imperialism.”

The marquee will be followed by a question-and-answer period. Bell noted that this event is one of several open to students who manage to get a free rush ticket by showing their student cards at the box office.

Another talk open to students is “The Reality Bubble” with Ziya Tong, an English-born Canadian television personality, journalist, producer, and former co-host of Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet.  

Bell said Tong moves on to talk about our civilizational blind spots.

“We inherit ways of thinking about the world that seems to be natural or inevitable, but in fact, they’re just cultural traditions,” she explained.

“The Reality Bubble” will feature an interview with Tong followed by an audience question-and-answer period.

In addition to these interviews, writing workshops will be available as well, though they aren’t available to students for free. Instead, each workshop costs $30. Though most are full, some workshop spots remained at press time.

One that’s still available is a playwriting workshop called “The Decisive Moment: Writing Great Scenes,” led by playwright and novelist Damian Tarnopolsky. Tarnopolsky won the 2019 Voaden Prize for his play The Defense. Kingston WritersFest will host a free staged reading of The Defense on Sept. 27.

All details about the WritersFest events can be found on the festival’s website.

While this event only comes around once a year, it offers Queen’s students and Kingston locals the opportunity to learn from some of the best and brightest writers across Canada from the comfort of their own city.

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