Words Alive Literary Festival boasts strong York connection

A fairly new player in the world of book festivals, the Words Alive Literary Festival has had no shortage of award-winning authors grace its stage. The third annual festival is no exception. Among several award-winning authors this year, the festival will feature A. F. Moritz, 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize winner for The Sentinel.

Right: A. F. Moritz

The Sentinel (House of Anansi Press, 2008) was also a finalist for the 2008 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. Moritz’s poetry has received the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Ingram Merrill Foundation Fellowship and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. In addition, Moritz’s Night Street Repairs (House of Anansi Press, 2004) won the 2005 ReLit Award for poetry, and Rest on the Flight into Egypt (Brick Books, 1999) was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry.

Words Alive, a one-day literary festival featuring readings, workshops, storytelling, poetry, music and art, will take place on Sunday, Sept. 20, in Sharon, Ont., 40 minutes north of Toronto. It was founded by York alumna Vali Stone (BA ’95). Edward Fenner, publisher of Existere: Journal of Arts and Literature at York, is charged with booking the authors and publicizing the event. Fenner, who is finishing his final year in the Professional Writing Program at York, is also the Web communications and publications assistant in York’s Office of the Associate Vice-President International.

Left: Edward Fenner

A Vanier Fellow, Fenner will bring his literary journal expertise to the festival for the workshop “Getting Your Work Through the Slush Pile: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truths of Publishing”. Two of his short plays will also be read aloud. Three of four plays Fenner wrote as a mature student won York’s Kent Haworth Playwriting Prize, while the fourth came in second.

The York connection to the festival doesn’t end there. Poet David Clink (right) (BA ’95) (see YFile, July 8, 2008), author of Eating Fruit Out of Season (Tightrope Books, 2008) and circulation coordinator at the Peter F. Bronfman Business Library in York’s Schulich School of Business, will be reading at the festival. Clink is the artistic director of the Rowers Pub Reading Series and the Webmaster of poetrymachine.com. Clink’s poetry has appeared recently in Existere, All Rights Reserved, echolocation, the Literary Review of Canada and in the anthologies I.V. Lounge Nights, the 2008 Rhysling Anthology and Imagination in Action.

York humanities and English Professor Priscila Uppal (left), shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2007, will also read at the festival. Uppal is the author of five books of poetry, including Ontological Necessities (2006), Live Coverage (2003) and How to Draw Blood From a Stone (1998), all from Exile Editions. She is also the author of the novels The Divine Economy of Salvation (2002) and To Whom It May Concern (Doubleday Canada, 2008).

Author Andrew Pyper (right) will also be on hand at the festival, reading from his latest novel The Killing Circle (Doubleday Canada, 2008). Pyper’s Lost Girls was a national bestseller in Canada and a Notable Book selection in The New York Times Book Review as well as the London Evening Standard, both in 2000. It also won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel.

Poet Barry Dempster (left), whose first book Fables for Isolated Men (Guernica Editions, 1982) was nominated for the 1982 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, has published 10 volumes of poetry, two collections of short fiction, a children’s book and a novel. His 2005 collection of poetry, The Burning Alphabet (Brick Books, 2005), was also nominated for a Governor General’s Award and won the Canadian Authors Association Poetry Award. He will be reading from his latest work, Love Outlandish (Brick Books, 2009), as well as hosting a workshop.

Lee Gowan will also read at the event. He is the author of the collection of short stories Going to Cuba (Fifth House Publishers, 1990), and of Make Believe Love: A Novel (Vintage Canada, 2002), which was nominated for the Trillium Book Award. His first screenplay, Paris or Somewhere, won three screenwriting awards and was nominated for a Gemini Award.

That is only the beginning of some of the authors, poets, artists, musicians and storytellers, over 30 in all, who will be at the festival. Click here to see the complete list along with author bios.

Left: Lee Gowan

The festival is held annually at the Sharon Temple National Historic Site & Museum. Several historic buildings are used for readings and workshops, while the grounds are used for storytelling, vendors and picnicking. In the event of inclement weather, the outdoor activities will be moved indoors.

Words Alive is a family-friendly event. Parking on site is free and admission is $5 for those aged 16 and up for the whole day, including the workshops. It is a good place to meet and chat with writers, poets, artists and musicians.

In addition, the Words Alive Open Mic Prose Night will be held in Newmarket on Sept. 17. Everyone is welcome to listen or take the mic to read.

For more information about the festival or the open mic prose night, visit the Words Alive Literary Festival Web site. For directions, click here.