Kingston Writersfest is back this weekend in its 11th year of celebrating the power of the written word. This year’s festival runs from September 27th until October 1st and is bigger than ever. Join in on live author discussions, readings, round tables and workshops that will take place at various venues in downtown Kingston. Most events takes place at The Holiday Inn but be sure to check the Writersfest event page for full details. This year’s festival offers such a wide array of events that today’s guide is actually a mini-guide. We have highlighted only some of what will be taking place so be sure to check their site for full listings as well as author profiles and ticket details.
Wednesday, September 27th
Kingston Dinner Club (5:30pm-7:30pm, Delta Hotel, Grandview): Instagram celebrity, food blogger, and chef Dennis Prescott presents a flavour-forward dining experience. A former touring musician, Dennis quit the road and taught himself to cook using library copies of Jamie Oliver. With Executive Chef Brent McAllister of AquaTerra, Dennis creates a dinner that is gorgeous, mouth-watering, irresistible, edgy yet familiar, and delicious in the extreme. Cash bar.
Capturing Your Adventure in Word and Image (6:30pm-8pm, Sir John A., Holiday Inn): For Kevin Vallely, adventure photographers/writers work differently than nature photographers/writers, where it’s about waiting for the perfect moment to come to you. Kevin shares his images and answers your questions about writing in the wild, essential equipment, and how to protect camera gear, etc. Plan your own adventure expedition, or live vicariously through Kevin!
Adam Gopnik’s New York City (8pm-9pm, Belleview, Holiday Inn): Join Adam Gopnik, long-time contributor to The New Yorker magazine, as he shares a new memoir that brims with charming erudition, rich detail, and deep insight into the particular magic of New York City in the 1980s. Adam chats with the Globe and Mail’s Books Editor Mark Medley about life in the Big Apple, from the moment Adam and soon-to-be wife Martha arrived from Montreal as wide-eyed newcomers, to now, and the eyes-wide-open, settled and savvy New Yorker he’s become. Cash bar.
Thursday, September 28th
The Other Side of the Conflict: WWII Fiction (9:30m-10:30am, Islandview): Inspired by a true story, Amanda West Lewis’s new novel relates what life was like for a boy growing up in World War II Germany. Her main character must navigate a difficult path between propaganda and truth, conscience and survival, as he struggles with poverty, loyalty, and duty. The novel sheds light on how indoctrination, propaganda, and insidious racism can undermine one’s basic sense of morality, and Amanda discusses the importance of remembering how young lives are affected on both sides of a conflict.
Differences and Similarities: YA Fiction (11am-12pm, Islandview, Holiday Inn): High school life for Janna, a Muslim student, and for Sidney, a Jewish student, has many challenges. Both characters face and learn to deal with personal anxieties, along with the tension between modern attitudes they see played around them, and the traditional expectations that do not always reflect the reality of their lives. Together, novelists S.K. Ali and Leanne Lieberman talk with Shelley Tanaka about their characters’ unique perspectives on universal themes of identity, family, friendship, and sexuality.
TeenWrite! Writing Poetry (11:10am-12:40pm, Sir John A.): Northern Anishinaabe poet Armand Garnet Ruffo draws upon his own heritage to illustrate the poetry of place and memory, and explains why his own writing extends to stories, biography, and film-making that reflect his Ojibway heritage. In this poetry workshop, he shows you how to find and bring into the present the stories buried inside you – the “old” stories, whether personal stories, family stories, or community stories – with the goal of remaking them into powerful poetry.
TeensWrite! Writing Difficult Topics (12:50pm-2:10pm, Sir John A.): YA novelist and teacher Leanne Lieberman helps students come to grips with how to get over their own discomfort and write about subjects that may be considered sensitive, uncomfortable, or controversial. Her own novels have been praised for addressing such topics as the Palestinian–Israeli conflict, the Holocaust, and sexual identity, all of which she approaches with both a light touch and serious consideration. With discussion and short writing exercises, Leanne gives student writers tools to find that balance when the writing gets difficult.
International Marquee: Michael Chabon with Eric Friesen (8pm-9:30pm, Grand Theatre): Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist Michael Chabon joins veteran broadcaster Eric Friesen to talk about Michael’s latest, most luminous work, the semi-auto-biographical novel, Moonglow. In a conversation that is sure to be elevated and erudite as well as entertaining, they explore the author’s playful flirtation with the boundary between fact and fiction. About the writing of this novel, The Guardian calls Chabon “a master at his very best.” Join this master for an evening that will remind us of the power of the written word to transport and enlighten.
Friday, September 29th
The Art of the Book: Calligraphy and Book Making (9am-11:30am, Sir John A., Holiday Inn): Writer, visual artist, and calligrapher Amanda West Lewis offers a different kind of writing workshop, one that gives you a physical connection to writing and draws out your sense of the book as a tangible object, a source of pleasure, and a thing of beauty. And you’ll get the basics of the beautiful art of calligraphy. Come prepared to be creative and hands-on! No experience needed. Minotaur Games & Gifts will have various supplies available for purchase at the door.
Paths to Understanding: Indigenous Women Write (10:30am-12pm, Belleview, Holiday Inn): Author and radio journalist Rosanna Deerchild, a member of O-Pipon-Na-Piwan Cree Nation; author Lee Maracle, a member of the Stó:l? Nation, daughter of a Métis mother and Salish father, author and activist Leanne Simpson, a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg and member of Alderville First Nation and of Idle No More, join moderator Terri-Lynn Brennan, whose roots are in the Mohawk Nation. Together, they talk about their work, and the importance of contemporary Indigenous women’s literature in knowledge-making and sharing. They’ll reflect upon the relationship between First Nations peoples, the descendants of the European settlers who inhabit their traditional lands, and recent immigrant arrivals who now populate and share it. Métis and Ojibwe elder Deb St. Amant will offer a traditional blessing and welcome.
Book Lovers’ Lunch (12:30pm-2pm, Islandview, Holiday Inn): How could we not bring Ben McNally, of Toronto’s Ben McNally Books, back to Kingston to present his latest installment of “Preview Picks?” With over 40 years of recommending books to discerning customers, Ben is a master. In our popular Book Lovers’ Lunch, he never fails to charm and illuminate with anecdotes from the world of Canadian publishing and hot tips on the best new books. Bring a notepad and create this year’s book club list! Ticket price includes lunch. Cash bar.
Marketing Lessons (2:30pm-3:30pm, Belleview, Holiday Inn): Award-winning advertising expert and CBC marketing guru Terry O’Reilly shares a lifetime of marketing wisdom tailored to the little guys, showing ways you can compete with the big guys for their customers’ attention. Terry delivers tried-and-true strategies and best practices for marketing your goods or services. They’ll serve you well, whether your budget is big, small, or almost non-existent. He helps you use your available dollars to build on your business relationships, and to turn your efforts into great results.
Freedom Seekers: the African Experience in North America (6:30pm-8pm, Belleview, Holiday Inn): GG Award-winning authors both, biographer Karolyn Smardz Frost and novelist Linda Spalding bring to life the extraordinary experiences of freedom seekers and those on both sides of the border who aided African refugees from the US. Danger and difficulty tested the courage and beliefs of both. Anita Jack-Davies leads a discussion of the inherent drama of the freedom seekers’ story, whether true or fictional, of why this story has been mostly excluded from our literary tradition, and asks Karolyn and Linda how they see themselves, and how, as white women telling these stories, they are seen by African-Canadians.
Saturday, September 30th
Café Noir: Death at Dowbiggen (9am-10am, Belleview, Holiday Inn): John Farrow (aka Trevor Ferguson) regales us with his newest dark thriller, which includes a murdered New Hampshire co-ed, a letter, and a spy. The investigation is hampered stateside by the fury of nature and internecine wars between police departments, and it’s time for retired Montreal detective Émile Cinq-Mars to insert himself discreetly into the investigation. Join John and Barbara Bell as they talk about how he builds a plot worthy of his detective’s chops, that is sufficiently thrilling, puzzling, and complex to hold his readers to the last page.
Project Bookmark Unveiling and Literary Tour (11am-12:30pm, Garrigan Park, Church St.): Project Bookmark Canada, the City of Kingston, and Kingston WritersFest celebrate Merilyn Simonds’ classic literary work, The Convict Lover, with the unveiling of the city’s second Bookmark. Kingston WritersFest is proud to include the ceremony as one of this year’s Festival events. Join Laurie Murphy, executive director of Project Bookmark Canada, at the site in Garrigan Park as she unveils the commemorative Bookmark. Afterwards, take a literary tour of Portsmouth Village with Merilyn.
Writing Dialogue (12pm-2:30pm, Sir John A., Holiday Inn): Dialogue can be daunting. Join award-winning author Pasha Malla in this hands-on workshop on how to write dialogue that evokes character, and that resonates with truth of voice. Pasha takes you through the dialogue in the classic short story “Gaston” by novelist and playwright William Saroyan, and talks about the tools used by the author, and their effects. Then he’ll work with the class to write a scene, employing what you’ve learned.
The Big Idea Despair and Hope: Finding Refuge in Canada (6:30pm-8pm, Belleview, Holiday Inn): Join moderator Charles Foran for a penetrating conversation with award-winning journalists and authors Carol Off and Doug Saunders, and debut novelist Danny Ramadan. They’ll talk about nations at war; the refugee experience of danger, displacement, disintegration, and intolerance, and the experience of those who try to help; and more broadly, about Canada’s track record of assistance and welcome, particularly in comparison with the US, Britain, and EU countries. Can we, and should we, do more to help? Guests of honour: Jamal Saeed, Rufaida Alkhabaz, and Ray Argyle.
Saturday Night SpeakEasy (9pm-11pm, Islandview, Holiday Inn): Join us for an entertaining evening of poetry and prose, with a live set to open by our house band, Trio Without Words. Local saxophone virtuoso Jonathan Stewart, bassist Mike Perlin, and drummer Michael Cassells create a unique soundscape for each of these stellar literary performances by Michelle Berry, Janie Chang, Karen Connelly, Glenn Dixon, Pierre-Luc Landry, Jennifer LoveGrove, Anna Porter, and Diane Schoemperlen. Hosted by CBC radio host and author Bill Richardson, with his customary panache, and a potato. Cash bar.
Sunday, October 1st
Adapting Your Novel (or Someone Else’s) for Screen (9am-11:30am, Sir John A., Holiday Inn): Five of Elan Mastai’s screenplays have been made into films, most recently What If – a.k.a. The F Word, which won the Canadian Academy Award and the Writers Guild of Canada Award or best screenplay. He’s also adapted his own first novel for screen. Elan gives you the nuts and bolts of compressing a novel into a different format and a shorter length, and how to transition exposition into directions, how to cut supporting characters and subplots, finding the key dialogue that drives the storyline. A co-presentation of Kingston WritersFest and Kingston Canadian Film Festival.
Broken Prisons: Thirty Years in Canada’s Prison Service (10:30am-11:30am, Belleview, Holiday Inn): Robert Clark, a three-decade veteran of Corrections Canada, believed he had something to offer prisoners. This belief was crushed as he climbed to the position of Deputy Warden and suffered a crisis of conscience that took its toll on his health and happiness, and in the end, wouldn’t be silenced. Robert’s stories of institutional neglect, secret-keeping, and downright cruelty, call into question Canada’s current punishment paradigm. Addressing the question of whether the country’s prison system needs reform, Robert tells it like he experienced it, and like most of us will never know.
Viva Voce (12pm-3pm, Holiday Inn Garden): Kingston WritersFest and Juvenis Arts Festival celebrate young literary talent in a lively hour of spoken-word poetry, as promising young local writers, aged 13–30, perform a curated selection of original pieces. This event gives you a chance to discover young Kingston talent currently in development. Join us outdoors in the garden, where you can enjoy the fresh air, pull up a seat, and prepare to be wowed. This is a free event for Culture Days.
The New Farm: Food, People, Planet (5pm-6pm, Delta Habourview): Brent Preston and his partner left Toronto and purchased acreage in southwestern Ontario. Their goal? To feed their family quality organic food, paying their way, and restoring land that had suffered decades of industrial farm practice. Brent talks about their ten-year learning curve, and how, along the way, he realized he needed to include not only those who can afford organic foods, but those less fortunate who need it most. With Chef Brent McAllister (AquaTerra), Brent demonstrates the superiority of local, seasonal, organic ingredients, with mouth-watering bites. Ticket price includes tastings. Cash bar.
Robertson Davies Lecture (8pm-9pm, Islandview): An Officer of The Order of Canada, Anna Porter is one of Canada’s most respected publishing professionals, and is co-founder of Key Porter Books. She is also an award-winning writer of both fiction and non fiction, and this year releases The Appraisal, a thriller with literary chops. Anna knows the world of books: she has advised and spoken on writing, editing, book production, and other aspects of the business. Born in Budapest, Hungary, she understands first-hand the immigrant experience. As 2017 Robertson Davies lecturer, Anna reflects on her experiences and how she found success in Canada’s literary world. Reception follows. Cash bar.