one of the reasons i love autumn is because of the Ottawa International Writers Festival. if anything has given Ottawa a literary season, it’s the festival. they’ve announced their fall line up... here are the events and activities i’m especially excited about:
the Masterclass Series: last spring and possibly the autumn before that, the festival held a few daytime sessions where writers talked about their craft. particularly memorable was a talk by Michael Winter and David Gilmour. the daytime talks seemed to be set up with young people in mind and classes of students attended. the teens asked interesting questions and i could tell they were really fired up about writing thanks to the speakers.
this year the festival is offering a bunch of these talks on writing and in multiple genres for the page stage and screen. Toronto poet Sonnet L’Abbé and Kingston poet and novelist Steven Heighton will explore the relationship between emotion and form in poetry; Edeet Ravel, Dave Bidini and Paul Glennon will discuss writing for adults and children, presumably they’ll talk about the differences; Edeet Ravel and Andrew Steinmetz will talk about voice and setting; Rachel Peters and Gary Thomas will tell us about how to animate books; Pasha Malla and local kids’ author Brian Doyle will talk about dialogue.
The Small Press Fair
another new innovation, this fair is being jointly organized by rob mclennan’s small press action network – ottawa (Span-o) and the Ottawa Independent Writers Association and will take place the afternoon of the first day. it’s a great opportunity for the local small press to exchange info and for the public to discover the small press world. needless to say, Bywords will be there.
Poetry Cabaret featuring Meredith Quartermain, Dannabang Kuwabong and Monty Reid
well i admit to being disappointed that there’s only one poetry cabaret, but poets are featured at various events throughout the festival. i’m excited to hear Meredith Quartermain read. i greatly admire her work. her latest book, Matter (Bookthug, 2008) is refreshing and innovative, a taxonomy of words.
ARC Poetry Celebration featuring Steven Heighton, Roo Borson, Sonnet L'Abbe and Mary Dalton. this is an interesting combo of writers, two of whom i’ve never heard read before. i always enjoy Steven Heighton’s work and presence at the festival. but why oh why did the festival have to program the Writing That Rocks event at the same time? drat. i couldn’t make it to the Blues Festival this summer when Paul Quarrington and the Pork Belly Futures played and it looks like i’ll be missing them again. for me this year, there are very few conflicts, since the literary events have been programmed separately from each other, thank heavens.
Book Launch: Jailbreaks And Re-Creations: 99 Canadian Sonnets with Zachariah Wells
i’ve heard the buzz about this new anthology, which includes sonnets by Ottawa’s own Stephen Brockwell, among others. i hope he’ll be around to read.
The 2008 Bywords John Newlove Poetry Award
i’d be remiss not to mention the event i’m actually organizing. every year i’m always excited about this one. not much i can say about it yet, but i can tell you that the musical guest will be Marie-Josée Houle, who played at a Bywords reading this year. she’s like a modern day Edith Piaf with an accordion. her songs are sultry and poignant.
i can also tell you that we’ll be launching “Lupercalia,” Sean Moreland’s first chapbook. Sean won last year’s award and as you may or may not know, the winner of the award has the opportunity to have a chapbook published by Bywords. it has been a pleasure and a learning experience to work with Sean on his manuscript. if you were at the event last year, or his reading at the Dusty Owl this year, you know that Sean is a great performer of his work.
and yes...we will announce the winner and honourable mentions for this year’s award.
festival staff have been exuberantly organizing additional events all through the summer and these continue in September, including the Freehand Books launch on September 18, which i already mentioned here.
i’m really impressed with the OIWF’s contribution to Ottawa’s vibrant and lively literary scene, their constant innovation and fine-tuning and the variety of events. Üben macht den Meister: practice makes perfect.
there are other aspects of the festival i haven’t discussed, such as the one on one conversations or the Big Ideas events. you can find out more info about the upcoming autumn festival on the OIWF site.
i will likely blog here a bit during the festival and over at the ottawa poetry newsletter blog for poetry events, provided that i can successfully juggle wine glass and pen. perhaps the festival should offer a masterclass on that ;)
let the fall literary season begin!