amongst books

amongst books

Thursday, October 13, 2016

My Fall Writers Fest Picks

It was love at first sight when I walked into the National Library to attend the Ottawa International Writers Festival in 2003 and my love for the festival continues.

Here are some of the authors and discussions I’m especially looking forward to for the fall festival, which goes from October 20-26, 2016 with a few events happening before and after:


I look forward to this event every autumn. Alan Neal puts a literary spin on music by talking about the lyrics of each participant’s songs and we get to hear great music. This year I’m especially glad that Amos The Transparent and Lynn Miles will be part of the show. You may remember the marvelous Lynn Miles love-in that Alan Neal put on a few years ago at the festival.


I haven’t read any of Charlotte Gray’s books, but I’ve always enjoyed her erudition, eloquence and sense of humour during her interviews with various festival authors.


I have devoured all of Jane Urquhart’s novels and am very much a fan. I’ve seen her at this festival and the Kingston Writers Festival. I enjoy her stage presence.


Clearly I’m biased here, as the organizer and host of the event and the managing editor of Bywords.ca, but I do believe we put on a great, fast-paced poetry and music show with surprises.


I’m working on a manuscript-in-progress about urban life right now and reading The Life and Death of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, so this event is important to me. I am also a lover of cities, a lover in the city, and a passionate believer in vital and walkable urban spaces.


I have been following Vivek Shraya’s writing on line mostly and her various social media accounts. I haven’t yet read “even this page is white,” and I’m looking forward to hearing her read from it and talk about it.

I have been a fan of Ivan Coyote’s for years. I’m pretty sure the first time I heard them perform was at a Writers Festival Transgress event, organized by Marcus McCann. I love their stories and I appreciate what they do to make people understand the trials and difficulties and joys of trying to fit in a world where you are treated as if you don’t belong.

I admit I haven’t heard of Gwen Benaway. This is one of the great things about the festival, the opportunity to discover voices previously unknown to me. Gwen is a 2-spirited poet of Odawa/Potawatomi, Cherokee, European, and M├ętis descent.


I loved Zoe Whittall’s latest book, “The Best Kind of People” and have enjoyed her poetry, “The Emily Valentine Poems” and her novel, Bottle-Rocket Hearts. She reminds me of Heather O’Neill, another favourite writer of mine, due to badass topics and sharp writing, quirky characters that I can really get into.

Zoe is also a feature at the evening event entitled “Family Matters.”


I haven’t read every single book of Margaret Atwood’s but I’ve loved the ones I’ve read, particularly Oryx and Crake, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace. I have seen her in both Ottawa and Kingston and I adore her wit, her intelligence, her humour. I would never miss an Atwood event, if I had the chance to see her.


A fitting ending to the festival, a celebration of fine poetry by some of its consummate creators. I’ve already devoured Sandra’s book, “Silvja,” and I am particularly excited about hearing her read from it. I have enjoyed the work of all the poets featured at this event and look forward to hearing them read from their new poetry collections.

I also look forward to new discoveries and collecting reading suggestions for the coming year.

I suggest you make your own choices by listening to the playlist put together by authors reading at the festival. Buy tickets and passes here!




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