canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

Nine Days at the Ottawa International Writers Festival 2007

The Ottawa International Writers Festival 2007 was held October 13-21 at the Library and Archives Canada. Website: 

Photos from the festival

Report by Amanda Earl

In the hospitality suite, a BC writer tells me Ottawa’s festival is the friendliest she’s ever attended. The instigators of such friendliness are the Wilsons: Neil, Sean, Thea (Yateman) and Leslie, who twice yearly organize an amazing celebration of authors. This year’s had cake, guinea pigs, fiery debates between authors, and jokes involving persimmons and posteriors.

Day One: Monty Reid wins Lampman-Scott Award for Poetry for Disappointment Island (Chaudiere Books). He knows dinosaurs and poems. We have both in Ottawa.

Day Two: Kathleen Winter reads about an iguana in a wedding dress from BoYs (Biblioasis) and receives the Metcalf-Rooke Award, which if you believe John Metcalf, was initiated by a bookstore franchise operation called Page and Turner that bounced the first award cheque and disappeared. Metcalf reads from a story lambasting Alberta and Albertans so strongly, their ears must’s all good satire, ...of course. Leon Rooke reads about gypsies with impromptu musical accompaniment by Glenn Nuotio on keyboards and Patrick DeDauw on cello

Day Three: George Elliott Clarke evokes Pierre Elliott Trudeau in rhyming couplets in Trudeau, Long March/Shining Path (Gasperau Press). Bywords hands out the 2007 John Newlove Poetry Award as selected by Clarke. The winner is PhD student Sean Moreland. Festival organizers surprise me with a birthday cake cleverly disguised as a book.

Day Four: Mary Borsky, Marilyn Bowering and Nadine McInnis speak of madness, repression and identity with host Rhonda Douglas of the Tree Reading Series.

Day Five: Michael Winter and David Gilmour give us tips on writing; Gil Courtemanche tells us what’s wrong with North American fiction; it seems to involve his publisher not being able to explain his second book properly at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Day Six: David McGimpsey reads about nipple burn and the Tony Danza Show, and makes rhyming couplets about giant squids in his wonderful poetry collection Sitcom (Coach House Books).

Stephen Brockwell, John Pass and Rob Winger emotionally debate the role of emotion in poetry and read from their works The Real Made Up (ECW Press), Stumbling In the Bloom (Oolichan Books) and Muybridge’s Horse (Nightwood Editions).

Day 7: Mikiki, Joey Comeau, Francisco Ibanez-Carrasco and Ivan E. Coyote commit acts of transgression as organizer Capital Xtra, Ottawa’s gay and lesbian paper, queers up the festival. This is one of the best attended events. We need more raunch in Ottawa.

Day 8: Helen Oyeyemi, Francis Itani and Gil Adamson read from The Opposite House (Nan A. Talese), Remembering the Bones (Harper Collins Canada) and The Outlander (Harper Collins Canada). Oyeyemi finished writing her first novel before completing high school and, at the ripe old age of 23, is on her third.

Day 9: Robert McTavish’s excellent documentary on John Newlove’s life and poetry is finally shown in Ottawa, where Newlove lived for the last twenty years of his life. Jasper Fforde talks to an overflowing room of ardent fans about the Council of Genres otherwise known as the centre of gravity, his main character Thursday Next and the burning questions he had about the Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

The Relit Awards moves from the shores of Newfoundland to Ottawa’s National Library and Archives. There are no bonfires, but there is a furry creature standing in for Bill Gaston, unable to attend. Gaston reads from his award-winning novel Gargoyles (House of Anansi) via cell phone held by host Kenneth J. Harvey. Daniel Scott Tysdal wins for his poetry collection Predicting the Next Big Advertising Breakthrough Using a Potentially Dangerous Method (Coteau Books) and Ivan E. Coyote for the novel Bow Grip (Arsenal Pulp Press). Harvey throws books to the audience. Sadly there is no screech involved.






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