Welcome to the Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival on Granville Island

Hal Wake I regret that I wasn’t able to attend the very first Vancouver Writers Festival. My excuse is that I lived in Toronto. But judging from the 1988 program guide, it was a very fine Festival indeed. Smaller than this year’s 20th, as might be expected, and showcasing 35 writers in half as many events. Initially, there was no “International” in the name of the Festival; that was added in year three, no “Readers” either, that came in year five. But the intention to bring great writers and readers together to have enlightening and engaging conversations was as clear and evident then as it is today.

I programmed this year’s Festival before I looked back at the line-up for year one, so I was surprised to discover two unplanned, serendipitous connections to the inaugural event. In the first Festival there was a theatrical reading of Timothy Findley’s Stones, and at the end of this message you will find a description of the theatrical reading we have prepared for this year. What’s more, there is one author who attended the first Festival who is returning this October. I’m not going to reveal the author’s name, but let me just say that the answer lies in these pages, and if you’re up to the challenge, send us your best guess online at contest@writersfest.bc.ca or drop off your answer at the Festival Bookstore during the Festival for a chance to win a signed copy of the writer’s latest book. And now, without further delay, let me offer you a preview of some of the ways in which we plan to celebrate our 20th anniversary.

We are particularly excited about a writer exchange program with the Dublin Writers Festival. This past June, Alistair MacLeod and Timothy Taylor travelled to Dublin a few days before the Festival to write about their engagement with, and exploration of the city. Now we are delighted to have two wonderful Irish writers coming to our Festival to write about and share with us their perspectives of Vancouver. Nuala O’Faolain’s memoir Are You Somebody? spent many weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. Claire Keegan’s story collection, Antarctica was a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year and her stories have won the William Trevor Prize and the Olive Cook Award.

This is also a year to honour prizewinners. Kiran Desai won the 2006 Booker Prize, Vincent Lam the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Peter Behrens the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction, Lloyd Jones took home this year’s Commonwealth Writers Prize and Nancy Huston the Prix Femina. Brian Doyle, one of the writers appearing in our schools program, won the prestigious NSK Neustadt Prize for lifetime achievement for his young adult fiction.

Eleanor Wachtel, the eloquent host of CBC Radio’s Writers and Company, will give this year’s Bill Duthie Memorial Lecture. Her new book is a collection of interviews and correspondence with Carol Shields that spans their friendship of nearly two decades. In a voice that is both intimate and direct, Shields talked to Wachtel about writing, language and consciousness, and her interest in “redeeming the lives of lost or vanished women”.

And if that isn’t enough, we’re featuring two special events that you won’t want to miss. Alistair MacLeod, one of Canada’s most beloved writers, will perform readings accompanied by the internationally renowned Chor Leoni Men’s Choir. And finally, as we approach the 50th anniversary of the collapse of the Second Narrows Bridge in 1958, we are proud to present a dramatic reading of Gary Geddes’s collection of poems, Falsework, about the catastrophic collapse and the 18 men who lost their lives.

There is much more, of course, so read through the program for the events that excite you, and I look forward to seeing you on Granville Island in this, our 20th year.

Hal Wake
Artistic Director