Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Saskatchewan Festival of Words

I just spent four very rewarding days at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words in Moose Jaw.

This is one of the best festivals that I've attended - large enough to be celebratory, small enough to feel collegial and intimate. The Saskatchewan Festival of Words should be on every book-lover’s must-do calendar!

Here is the entrance of the Moose Jaw Public Library, where I did all of my readings. Nice, eh?

I had the privilege of sharing the stage twice with Graphic Novel writer Mariko Tamaki, who wrote the incredible graphic novel Skim, which I LOVED! Every detail is perfect. It was a privilege to work with such a great presenter and cool person.

Another highlight for me was talking with Jack Hodgins, author A Passion for Narrative (which I recommend to all of my creative writing students). I just started reading his latest novel, The Master of Happy Endings, which is terrific so far. When I grow up, I want to be like Jack.

On Sunday, I read with author Dianne Warren, who shared a vivid and thoughtful reading from her book, Cool Water. I had to run to the van to catch my flight home immediately after our readings, but Dianne's book is on my shopping list.

A pub called Bobby’s Place became a sort of home away from a home for a number of authors at the festival. Its location about a foot from the Anglican church would probably make me a more devout attendee of Sunday Mass. The energetic Mayor of Moose Jaw, Glen Hagel, conscripted a team of authors for Trivia Night team at Bobby’s – we came in second. (As a perpetual “runner-up” for literary prizes, I guess I’m kind of used to this.)

The next books on my reading pile are from festival friends Thomas Trofimuk (Waiting for Columbus), Rhea Trebegov (The Knife Sharpener's Bell), Pasha Malla (The Withdrawal Method), Alice Kuipers (The Worst Thing She Ever Did), Judy Fong-Bates (The Year of Finding Memory) and Steven Galloway (The Cellist of Sarajevo). And if Performance Poet Sean McGarragle had a book, I’d read it, too. . . instead, I’ll have to catch him on stage again soon.

I live in a city with a population of over two and a half million people, and when you host a literary reading there, sometimes you're lucky if half a dozen people show up. Moose Jaw
has less than 40.000 inhabitants, and yet rooms at every reading were often filled to capacity - and even with four different author events occurring at the same time!

Hats off to the board, staff, and volunteers who made this great festival happen.