The Wild Writers Festival invites emerging and established Canadian writers alike from across the country to the Waterloo Region for a three-day literary weekend. The festival is run collaboratively by New Quarterly Literary Magazine, Words Worth Books and the Balsillie School of International Affairs. The
Every year the festival kicks off with an uplifting panel of writers. Aspiring writers learn about insider advice from authors who have made it to the other side. Such advice includes the importantance of having a supportive writing community and authors will always need a trusted outside point of view for their manuscripts.
“If you want to be part of the literary community, you need to get out and be a part of [it], you can’t just stay home and read or write. You must get out and participate and you need to help the longevity of it. How else can we evolve?” Catherine Muss, an attendee said.
Some featured authors this year included Dr. Lamees Al Ethari, author of From the Wounded Banks of the Tigris and her memoir Waiting for the Rain; Jamaluddin Aram, author of Nothing Good Happens in Wazirabad on Wednesday; and Lindsay Wong, author of Tell Me Pleasant Things about Immortality, among others.
“You actually can feel it in the atmosphere. Finding people that you connect with regarding reading and writing is just so important,” Pamela Mulloy, the creative director for the Wild Writers Festival, said.
Readers and writers are brought together for their collective love of literature, and new generations of writers can learn from the special guests through writing workshops. The Wild Writers Festival planning committee decides who will be featured at the festival and strive to make sure a diverse range of Canadian authors are featured in the event.
“We plan every year to bring writers who are published in the quarterly, as well as people who have new books out that we’re interested in bringing to light,” Mulloy said.
Wild Writers Festival offered the Altered Realities: Magic Realism and Horror Stories to explore the fantasy/horror genre. It featured a conversation between authors Lindsay Wong and Zalika Reid Benta moderated by Lara El Mekkawi. Wong’s book, Tell Me Pleasant Things about Immortality, explores Chinese mythology throughout a series of short stories. Whereas Benta’s novel, River Mumma, is a magical realist novel inspired by Jamaican folklore.
“What is being explored is the idea that when you leave your home country, you’re always going to be haunted by the past. [This idea] haunted me while writing this collection, which is why the story that I read to you is about this Internet order bride who brings the apocalypse with her,” Wong said.
The workshop explored how writers of colour can use the horror genre to explore intergenerational trauma, colonialism and dealing with diasporic cultures. Altered Realities explored how generational mythologies impact the modern lives of people of colour who live in Canada. For literary fiction writers, workshops like these can help inspire their next story.
“My main character, she’s the one who knows the most about what’s happening, and she’s actually interested in learning about her history. And the book is the difference between appreciation and appropriation in terms of culture,” Benta said.
Other sessions included a panel on publishing where writers Jamaluddin Aram and Lisa Alward, agent Emmy Nordstorm-Higdon, and editor Jen Albert shared information and advice on publishing. Aram and Alward shared their experiences with rejections and publishing, while Nordstorm-Higdon and Albert shared advice on writing synopses and reaching out to publishers.
Aram said a joy of writing and how it takes a few drafts and some editing to achieve it. He added that writers must also read good literature to which they can compare themselves.
Other sessions included workshops like Poetry for Non-Poets by Ronna Bloom where attendees spoke about poetry and did writings based on prompts. While Bloom said writing poetry was not the aim of the session, attendees wrote and shared their work honestly. One attendee wrote about her relationship with her children, another about their father’s dementia and one about seeing the world as his three-year-old granddaughter does.
The Wild Writers Literary festival was an opportunity for writers and others in the literary industry to grow both their connections and skills.
“I’m here to continue to grow here, to continue to see it go places and see where it has been,” Muss said.
Community members can become involved in the Wild Writers Festival by volunteering, sponsoring and/or attending the event. Aspiring writers who want to be featured in next year’s festival can contact the Wild Writer’s board. Learn more at wildwriters.ca.