Whistler Writers Festival is back to book your attention 

Headliners for 14th year include Lawrence Hill, Linden MacIntyre and Eleanor Wachtel

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOERN ROHDE, COURTESY OF WHISTLER WRITERS FESTIVAL - NOVEL MOMENT Author Joseph Boyden (right) shares a laugh with host Bill Richardson at the 2014 Whistler Writers Festival.
  • Photo by Joern Rohde, courtesy of Whistler Writers Festival
  • NOVEL MOMENT Author Joseph Boyden (right) shares a laugh with host Bill Richardson at the 2014 Whistler Writers Festival.

This weekend is the reason that Stella Harvey was selected as the 2015 Champion of Arts and Culture for Whistler.

The Whistler Writers Festival is back for its 14th year, with more events over more days. Headliners include Lawrence Hill, Linden MacIntyre and Eleanor Wachtel.

Harvey, who started the festival in her living room in 2001, is in the final throes of pulling all the pieces together and bursts out laughing when asked if she feels like a champion.

"I feel wrecked!" she says.

"It's going pretty well. It's well organized. Whenever you're organizing something of this nature and magnitude, any organizer will tell you that last minute things will happen. To me, this is right up my street — planning and thinking... but there's always something that you didn't think about. Overall, it has just been great."

Harvey has kept the festival going by putting in her own time for free and building up a team of dedicated volunteers, but it hasn't been easy. She nearly quit several years ago and took a break, but by the time the next festival needed planning she was back and ready. Its growth and successes mean she doesn't look back.

"I just sent an email to all the artists who are coming to welcome them to Whistler and see if they have any last-minute questions and that kind of stuff," Harvey says.

This year, the name is shorter (it was previously the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival), and it has expanded by one day to include Thursday, Oct. 15.

Asked if the intention is to create a permanent four-day festival, Harvey laughs and says "I tend to sneak up on myself with these things. Let's try this and see!"

It allows a little more time to test what is possible.

"We listen to feedback. We try to get people involved in the planning and the programming of the festival," she says.

Last year, this feedback from attendees included requests for more reading events and more workshops for readers.

"In response, we've created the Gibbons Literary Salon and that is something specifically for book clubs and readers. How do you read a book? How do you talk about a book? That sort of thing," Harvey says.

The literary salon takes place at The Mountain Club in the Westin on Friday, Oct. 16 at 4 p.m. Tickets are $20.

She also mentions the session with the host of CBC's popular radio show Writers & Company Eleanor Wachtel (See interview on page 61).

"That's a writers' life workshop. She's had an incredible breadth of experience talking to various writers, and sharing that with readers and writers alike is going to be an interesting thing for people," Harvey says.

"She's a great interviewer. It's incredible how knowledgeable she is."

The Lives of Writers takes place at the Fairmont on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 4 p.m. Tickets are $15.

"We added these kinds of new events, those two plus the Comedy Quickies (Thursday, Oct. 15) which focuses on local talent," Harvey says.

And a new selection from the writers' perspective is Speed Dating: Pitching Your Book/Idea to A Publisher/Agent/Editor, on the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 16.

"And the morning session that day, which is close to being sold out, teaches writers how to pitch their ideas, whether you get the chance to pitch it to a publisher now, or later," Harvey says.

"With everything, I like to experiment a little. This includes Comedy Quickies with comic writers, last year it was spoken word, which was hugely successful."

"For me, I make the decision and it doesn't really matter if it sells out or not. I just want to do something and see if we can draw in a new audience."

That said, the tried and tested favourites are back, too, she adds.

"People like them and they work. Cooks with Books (Friday, Oct. 16), our Literary Caberet (Oct. 16), the Saturday night reading (with award-winning novelist Lawrence Hill on Oct. 17), the brunch and the crime writers lunch (also Oct. 17). Those events work, so I don't want to play around with them, I want to bring up new talent that the community hasn't seen in the past," Harvey says.

The cookbook evening sold out quickly last year, so Harvey moved it from Millennium Place to the Fairmont this time, allowing for greater ticket sales.Chefs Emily Wright, author of Well Fed, Flat Broke, and Susan Musgrave, author of A Taste of Haida Gwai are signing their works, along with wine writer James Nevison, at Tasting the Divine: Cooks With Books.

There are free events, too. One is a discussion and reading about graphic novels with Patti Laboucane-Benson and Kelly Mellings. It takes place at the Whistler Public Library on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Another free event is the launch of Harvey's second novel The Brink of Freedom, at the Fairmont, also on Oct. 17.

Other returnees include workshops with a writing workshop for young writers, and another about writing for young readers. There is plotting storylines and writing non-fiction. All are firm favourites, Harvey says.

Several events are already sold out, including Comedy Quickies, The Lives of Writers, Writing by Ear, The Reading and Festival passes and Speed Dating: Pitching Your Book/Idea to A Publisher/Agent/Editor.

More information, including times and tickets, is available at www.whistlerwritersfest.com.


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