Kingston WritersFest kicks off this week

55 authors presenting over five days beginning Sept. 22

Macauley is passionate about connecting writers.
Supplied by Aara Macauley
The Kingston WritersFest is back this September. Beginning Sept. 22, this year’s five-day festival features 26 virtual “onstage” events and 12 writing masterclasses. 
The Journal spoke with Artistic Director Aara Macauley about what attendees can expect from the festival’s diverse lineup of writers, and how organizers have worked to keep the broader Kingston community connected creatively during COVID-19.  
“In terms of the programming, there’s a little bit of everything,” said Macauley. “It addresses all different kinds of genres: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, history, politics.”
Macauley described the selection process as a balancing act accentuated by the constraints and safety concerns of the pandemic. 
“There are always way more incredible books out there than there are spaces in the festival,” she said. “This year, we’ve expanded beyond what we did last year, but we’re still not running the full festival that we usually do because it’s online.”
There are 55 writers featured in this year’s festival lineup. Some are well-established authors, while others are exciting up-and-comers worth keeping an eye on. 
“[Kingston WritersFest] wants to support authors at all different levels of their craft,” Macauley said. “We really try to get the names that are well-known and exciting, but we also like to keep spots open for emerging artists with debut novels.”
Registration for the virtual “onstage’” events is free. The masterclasses and advanced workshops hosted by established authors cost money to attend. 
These specialized opportunities focus on the specifics of the craft. Macauley explained their topics range from crafting a believable fictional world to learning the intricacies of turning your writing into a proper draft. 
There are also three seminars—two of which are free, one paid—that tackle some common issues within the writing community, such as forming worthwhile groups, doing research, and learning how to read and appreciate challenging poetry. 
After last year’s cancellation, Macauley is excited about these offerings.
“Last year, we had no idea if we were going to be able to [run the festival]. We were part way through planning our in-person festival when we made the decision to cancel,” she said. “Then it was like, are we going to have any money to do anything?”
“[Going virtual again] offers some freedoms. Travel expenses are not a thing. You can invite anyone from anywhere in Canada. The flexibility for authors is also a lot greater—they can be online in Winnipeg one day, then in Kingston the next.”
Despite the advantages to a pre-planned virtual festival, Macauley acknowledged the need to make up for the lost sense of in-person interaction.
The organizers have included question-and-answer periods at the end of each event so attendees can engage with the presenting authors. 
“One of the really rewarding things for an author is to see the audience, to get that energy from the crowd. The dynamic is not quite the same, but people can be engaged in that way.”
Nonetheless, the 2021 festival is poised to be a successful event. 
Macauley suggested interested Queen’s students pay extra attention to their talks on social issues, as well as the “After Dark” event she is hosting on Friday and Saturday night. 
A complete list of authors and events is available online.

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