Published in The Peak on October 22, 2012 Download as a PDF
Read online at www.the-peak.ca

The Peak is Simon Fraser University’s student newspaper, published since 1965 and distributed free weekly.

I wrote an article highlighting SFU alumni who had participated in the 25th annual Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival.

Vancouver International Writers Festival marks 25 years
Writers Festival bring out a plethora of talented authors.

October marks many things: the changing of the seasons, harvest vegetables, Halloween, midterms, and the annual Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival. This year the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary from Oct. 16–21, 2012 with authors from near and far, and a variety of events in different formats. Prize-winning author and SFU alumnus Annabel Lyon described the event as a “taste menu” for the listener. Lyon says her favourite type of event, as a reader, is one where there are multiple authors and you get the diverse flavours of many writers.

One such flavour is Sandra Djwa, a prize-winning author and professor emeritus of English at SFU. Her latest book is a biography titled Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page. Djwa met PK Page in April 1970 when she invited Page to read at a first-year poetry class she was teaching at SFU. This was Page’s first public reading. “She was such a fine poet and became quite influential.”

Djwa was part of two panels at the 2012 Writers Festival; one was titled ‘Telling True Lives’ and featured another biographer, Joanna Dreyton.

“I think what ‘Telling True Lives’ means in a larger sense,” explains Djwa, “is that biographers have to choose what to put in when the subject matter is sensitive, and what to leave out when there is too much [information] or subject constraints.” In Djwa’s case, Page invited her to write the biography in the late 1990s, and they conducted many interviews, resulting in a plethora of information. Unfortunately, PK Page passed away in January 2010 at the age of 93, but Dwja had the permission of her estate to publish the biography.

“I’m really quite honoured to be involved [in the Writers Fest].” As a reader, Djwa hoped to meet some of her favourite authors such as Louise Penny, Margaret Atwood, Gordon Vincent, and Donna Morrissey. She describes it as a “good energy” at the Writers Fest, and it allows her to “recharge the literary batteries.”

Susan Juby, graduate of the Masters of Publishing in 2002, participated in a panel with Susin Nielsen about adapting for film and television. Nielsen adapted Juby’s bestselling young adult series Alice, I Think into a popular television series and is now working on Juby’s 2010 title The Woefield Poultry Collective. While participating at the festival, Juby was also working on a webisode for The Writers Life, an “undignified look at a writer’s life,” and credits the Writers Festival with having “great audiences” and “great writers.”

Annabel Lyon, 1994 SFU graduate with a BA in philosophy, echoes those sentiments. Her debut novel The Golden Mean was nominated for every major Canadian literary prizes, and although she’s worked in many genres, Lyon has returned to historical fiction for her latest novel. One panel Lyon was on, featured four other novelists who also focus on fiction past. They discussed how each novelist brings the past to life, researches stories, and uses archival material.

As a reader, Lyon was interested in attending David Chariandy’s conversation with Zakes Mda. These well-known In Conversation events are intimate one-on-one experiences with a room full of people. Chariandy teaches in the department of English at SFU, and says Mda’s memoir, Sometimes There is a Void, is “a profound, inspiring, and often wonderfully funny memoir about growing up in a tumultuous and rapidly changing South Africa.” Chariandy emphasized his long-time interest in contemporary English literature beyond North America and the UK — and many of the Writers Festival events fit that bill perfectly.

If you were unable to catch an event at the 25th annual Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival, there’s always next year, so mark your calendar.