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Preview: Kingston WritersFest

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Writers and readers are gathering in Kingston this week for the annual celebration of books and writing. NCPR's book reviewer Betsy Kepes spoke with artistic director Merilyn Simonds, who says the event includes with both emerging and world class authors.

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Betsy Kepes
Book Reviewer


Sixty writers will be at the four-day festival, which will feature 46 events—ten or so every day: “Writers on stage, reading from their work, talking about the ideas in their work. Sometimes debating, sometimes performing…We have playwrights coming this year, so we’ll have playwrights performing bits of their work. It’s basically a literary feast.”

But Simonds says not all of the events are centered around the stage. There will also be “something we call the Writer’s Studio”: Master classes for writers, “whether they’re beginners or well advanced in their writing, it doesn’t matter. Three of them are for teens. And they’re on things like writing fantasy, how to write a great monologue, writing in the first person, that sort of thing.” There’s also a “free kids on Sunday” program.

Some well-known keynote speakers for the festival are Naomi Wolf, Michael Ondaatje, and Teju Cole.

Wolf, the author of several books including The Beauty Myth and the recent Vagina: A New Biography, doesn’t appear often in eastern Canada. “She’s been provocative for 20 years,” Simonds says. She says Wolf is “an amazing speaker on stage”, and her talk is not to be missed.

Sri-Lankan born Canadian novelist Ondaatje and Nigerian-American novelist Cole are arriving together, with Ondaatje “celebrating 50 years in print.” Cole was recently named one of the six best new writers in the English language in the world, Simonds says, so the event has a “seasoned author” and one “right at the beginning”. She says the two writers will be talking about “the ‘writing life’ and what that means.”

Simonds says the “essence” of the event is collaboration. Many of the festival’s events cross genre boundaries. “We strive to be surprising and provocative and delightful, and I think our programming in every way kind of reflects this very dynamic interface of books in all their forms,” Simonds says.

The Kingston WritersFest starts Wednesday and continues through Sunday, in and around Kingston at various venues.


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