By Jessica Lovell
Michael Ondaatje, Alistair MacLeod, Tanis Rideout, Leon Rooke, Trevor Cole – the list goes on and it is long.
“We almost have too many big authors. It’s going to be a packed Sunday,” says Andrew Simpson, executive director of the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival.
The festival, now in its 24th year, had its humble beginnings in 1989 when then village resident Leon Rooke decided to hold a launch there for his latest novel and invited a few author friends to join him.
Some of those original authors will be a part of the line up on Sunday Sept. 16, but so will many more new and established authors.
The Sunday event in Eden Mills will include a “founders set” featuring Rooke, Ondaatje, and Linda Spalding – three of the festival’s original authors, says Simpson.
This year the event will feature five stages, one more than last year; more than 40 authors, spanning a variety of genres including children’s and young adult; the Publishers Way, full of publisher, artisan and non-profit booths; a food court and licensed patio area, and more.
But Festival Sunday is only one part of the writers’ festival.
Saturday night’s reading, “In Conversation with Jian Ghomeshi,” featuring the CBC radio and TV personality, will also be a big draw.
The event, which takes place at 4 p.m. at the University of Guelph’s Rozanski Hall, is a ticketed event, and though there are about 600 tickets available it is expected to be a sold-out event, says Simpson.
“You won’t be able to get a ticket at the door,” he says.
The event is already about half sold, and because students get in for the half-price rate of $5, once they return to the city it will likely sell out fast, he says.
If a campaign earlier this year to bring a live broadcast of Ghomeshi’s CBC radio program, Q, to Guelph is any indication, “he’s popular in the city,” Simpson says.
But this event will be a little different. It’s the advance launch of Ghomeshi’s first book, 1982. He will read from the book and talk about writing it. The talk will be followed by a Q and A and book signing.
“This is the first time that you have the chance to actually buy his book – and have it signed,” says Simpson.Festival goers will also have a chance to meet authors, buy their books and have books signed on Sunday in the village, which tends to be a more relaxed setting than is found at some other readings and writers’ festivals, says Simpson.
“It’s very open and receptive to actually having a conversation with your favourite author,” he says of the event.
Another way it outdoes the other festivals is affordability, he says. Some festivals require people to purchase separate tickets for individual readings, but Eden Mills charges one entry fee, then allows people to see as many or as few of the authors as they like.
“We have it all for $15 for adults, not to mention our surroundings,” says Simpson, adding that “this year for the first time, kids under 14 are free.”
Besides Ghomeshi’s talk, the festival includes a couple of other events, some of which are also ticketed, but people can save by buying a joint pass for the Friday Night Gala and Festival Sunday together.
The gala officially opens the festival and features reading from Cole and Jasmine Aziz, and music by Rubber Brothers.
Officially, the festival runs from Sept. 14 to 17, but it also includes two earlier events at the end of this month to kick things off.
To launch the festival, author Susan Swan will be giving a unique performance reading of “Heroines of the Sexual Gothic” on Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. at The Bookshelf’s eBar.
“It should be pretty interesting,” said Simpson, noting the festival normally does a media launch, but wanted to open the launch to a wider audience this year.
The free reading will include the accompaniment of the Billie Hollies, a group billed as an “all-girl folk noir quartet.”
The next event, also at The Bookshelf, but this time in the cinema, is the 6:30 p.m. Aug. 29 screening of Northwords. The film is a documentary about a literary expedition to Torngat Mountains National Park in northern Labrador. Led by Shelagh Rogers, the trip included five Canadian authors: Joseph Boyden, Alissa York, Noah Richler, Rabindranath Maharaj and Sara Leavitt.
Richler and York will both be on hand for a Q and A following the screening.
The festival also includes two workshops – one on Saturday, which is open to the public with limited spaces available; and another on Monday, which is exclusively for high school students. Tickets for festival events are available at The Bookshelf on Quebec Street, or online at www.ticketpro.ca. People can also buy Sunday tickets at the gate.