Fellow book nerds: Imagine an October where money was no object and time restraints did not exist, and you could attend as many writers’ festivals across the country as you would like. While I did not quite manage to finagle this exact assignment for the 2019 book festival season, I did get the green light to put together a fantasy schedule. My (self-imposed) parameters: only one event per festival, and only events between Oct. 5 and 31 (and no panels that I will be moderating). But because this is make-believe, and budgets and logic should not be factors for fantasies, I can be in two places at once, and fly back and forth across the country as many times as I like.
Welcome to my Writers Festival Fantasy October.
Victoria Festival of Authors
Oct. 5: Immaculate History
In this panel, graphic novelist Sarah Leavitt, poet Erin Mouré and novelist Steven Price discuss the role of historical events in their work. Leavitt’s new book Agnes, Murderess creates a new backstory for legendary Gold Rush-era B.C. serial killer Agnes McVee. Mouré’s The Elements is a biography in poetry dealing with her father’s dementia, alongside poems about 19th-century Galicia. Price’s new novel Lampedusa is set in 1950s’ Sicily during the final years of Italian novelist Giuseppe Tomasi’s life.
Festival runs Oct. 1-6
AfterWords Literary Festival (Halifax)
Oct. 6: Kamal Al-Solaylee
This seems like a very good time to listen to Kamal Al-Solaylee, former Globe and Mail theatre critic, discuss his 2016 award-winning work of non-fiction, Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (To Everyone).
AfterWords runs Oct. 2-6
Cabot Trail Writers Festival (Cape Breton)
Oct. 6: What Good Does Writing Do? How Books Can Change Us & Our World
Tuscorora writer Alicia Elliott’s debut book A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction. I devoured Sara Peters’s intense new book I Become a Delight to my Enemies, and when I finished it I immediately flipped back to the beginning to read it again. In Because: A Lyric Memoir, poet Joshua Mensch writes in verse about the childhood sexual abuse he suffered in Nova Scotia. They’ll be speaking with The Globe and Mail’s Mark Medley.
Festival runs Oct. 4-6
The Imaginarium by Wordfest (Calgary)
Oct. 19: E. Jean Carroll and Emily Nussbaum
Confession: Calgary was the toughest festival to narrow down to one event. But Emily Nussbaum, the television writer for The New Yorker and author of I Like to Watch, is one of my writer heroes; and E. Jean Carroll, who wrote about being sexually assaulted by U.S. President Donald Trump in a department store fitting-room, is a hero, period.
The Imaginarium runs Oct. 14-23
Whistler Writers Festival
Oct. 19: Saturday Night Gala
What better setting than Whistler on a Saturday night to discuss the end of the world? Omar El Akkad’s novel American War opened my eyes to the climate catastrophe in a new way; Environmental activist Maude Barlow’s new book is Whose Water Is It, Anyway?: Taking Water Protection Into Public Hands. Moderated by former CBC host Bill Richardson, the event includes a glass of wine. (You’re going to need it).
Festival runs Oct. 17-20
LitFest Alberta (Edmonton)
Oct. 21: Election Night: Can’t We Get Along?
Stay off Twitter on election night and instead be in the presence of thoughtful, intelligent writers: spoken-word artist Humble the Poet (Kanwer Singh); Kai Cheng Thom, whose new book, I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World, seems appropriate for election night; bestselling novelist Ami McKay, with her new book Daughter of Family G: A Memoir of Cancer Genes, Love and Fate; and Ayelet Tsabari, whose memoirs, The Art of Leaving, are at the top of my personal to-read pile.
LitFest runs Oct. 17-27
Vancouver Writers Fest
Oct. 23: The Lives of Girls & Women
A shout-out, first of all, to VWF’s excellent youth program. Almost makes me wish I was back in high school. Almost. But as a grown-up, I look forward to hearing four female authors discuss writing about relationships between women. Mona Awad is the author of Bunny; Nazanine Hozar’s debut novel is Aria; UBC Creative Writing program head Alix Ohlin’s Rogers Writers’ Trust-shortlisted novel is Dual Citizens; and Laisha Rosnau’s second novel is Little Fortress.
VWF runs Oct. 21-27
Ottawa International Writers Festival
Oct. 26: The Vagina Bible with Dr. Jen Gunter
On Twitter, OB/GYN Jen Gunter is a warrior against misinformation regarding women’s sexual and reproductive health. Her book The Vagina Bible: The Vulva and the Vagina – Separating the Myth from the Medicine promises to be even more engaging than her tweets. Bonus: This vaginal biblical discussion is being held in a church.
Festival runs Oct. 24-29
Toronto International Festival of Authors
Oct. 31: Reading & Conversation: Michael Christie, Emma Donoghue & Ian Williams
I end my fantasy month with the country’s largest and longest-running festival, renamed for its 40th year, and an event featuring three of my favourite Canadian writers. Michael Christie’s new apocalyptic novel, Greenwood, was mesmerizing (and more terrifying than any costume you might encounter on your way to the event); Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue, best known for Room, has a new novel, Akin; and Ian Williams’s debut novel, Reproduction, is a triumph of innovation.
TIFA runs Oct. 24-Nov. 3
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