Kingston WritersFest launches virtual literary series

KWF Artistic Director discusses ‘One Page’

One Page is a new virtual literary series.
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The Kingston WritersFest (KWF) was held online this September for the first time since its inception in 2006. Now, in collaboration with other literary festivals across Canada, KWF is launching a new virtual series called One Page.

One Page is an ongoing literary festival which allows readers to tune in from anywhere in the world to see their favourite authors discuss their books, answer questions, and maybe even read excerpts from their new projects.

The Journal spoke with KWF’s Artistic Director, Barbara Bell, about hosting virtual literary shows during COVID-19 and how One Page came to be.

According to Bell, she was approached in June by Gregory McCormick, manager of Cultural and Special Event Programming for the Toronto Public Library, who proposed “a literary series that would present prominent international writers to the Canadian audience.”

“He is well versed in programming literary events,” Bell said. “Back in May and June, we really didn’t know what would happen in terms of the pandemic and how long things would be shut down […] so he had this idea that [One Page] might be something of interest and would have a really broad audience right across Canada.”

One Page aims to keep the Canadian literary culture alive at a time when the global pandemic threatened to shut it down.

“That was the intent of it. These writers obviously are not able to travel, and in any case, often only have maybe one stop in all of Canada when they come, say, from the UK or the states,” she said.

In that sense, the online platform of One Page might make it more enticing for international authors to speak to Canadian audiences.

When One Page was first proposed, Bell and the other organizers hadn’t hosted this year’s Kingston WritersFest yet, so the concept of a virtual literary series was very experimental.

“We didn’t know how the [virtual] WritersFest would be received. In the end, we had a really good outcome,” Bell said. “There’s tremendous interest in online virtual programming right now.”

One Page launched on Oct. 8 with a Q&A featuring Barbara Kingsolver, an American novelist. On Oct. 15, Irish author Anne Enright spoke about her new book Actress.

One of the benefits of OnePage compared to in-person literary events is how anyone can tune in to see their favourite authors from anywhere in the world.

“The writers benefit if they’re getting people from all over the place. It really helps get the word out about their books,” Bell said.

The events are being presented on Crowdcast, an online video chat platform similar to Zoom, which is free to register for.

Bell explained that the key to One Page’s successful launch was the collaboration among other festival directors and librarians across Canada.

“It was a really great opportunity to be in communication with some of my colleagues across the country and get their perspectives and hear what they’re doing for some of their festivals,” Bell said. “We’re all reinventing the wheel right now.”

The WritersFest leaders in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and elsewhere each stepped up to join the program and market its events on their sites.

“The collegiality of it was wonderful. I do know these people because there is a loose association of festival directors and we meet every couple of years,” Bell said.

“Right now, contact with other people is really a wonderful thing. It was so exciting to be working on this very cool, proactive, unique new project. I’m very proud to be a founding member of this and I hope it just continues. I don’t see why it wouldn’t.” 

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