To wrap up the literary portion of this year’s arts celebration, the Luminato Festival offered up a “day of literary intensity” on Sunday, June 15th. Trinity Bellwoods, the iconic downtown park, played host to A Literary Picnic, which featured a theme of “Toronto, the Unseen.” More than 45 writers took to several stages, and a bookmobile, an Author Confessional Booth for deep, dark reader secrets, and many food trucks spread through the park on the perfect, sunny Sunday afternoon. And three Literary Walks took intrepid readers through different parts of Toronto. Alissa York, author of Fauna, led a group through the Don Valley, Carey Fagan and his explorers tackled Kensington Market, and Russell Smith brought some of us along to chat about his vision of Queen Street West.
The Luminato Festival has always had strong visual and performing arts components. This year also features a more robust literary program, celebrating the art of the written word. On June 11th, 2014, the Toronto Reference Library’s Appel Salon hosted a unique round-table event: #ReadWomen2014 Luminato.
The #ReadWomen2014 hashtag for Twitter was created by author and illustrator Joanna Walsh as a year-long celebration of women writers. The parameters are flexible as readers shape what exactly #ReadWomen2014 means to them. The hashtag has been promoted by bookstores, publishing houses, literary critics, and readers. Issues have ranged from the Vida count and CWILA count to the “girly” covers for books that happen to be written by women (See Maureen Johnson’s coverflip challenge from last year), celebrations of women writers’ awards, and recommendations of women writers’ works. Luminato has joined the discussion with its #ReadWomen2014 panel, featuring Lisa Gabriele (The S.E.C.R.E.T. trilogy as L. Marie Adeline), Heather O’Neill (The Girl who was Saturday Night), Elizabeth Renzetti (Based on a True Story), and Miriam Toews (All My Puny Sorrows). A mix of readings, round-table discussions about writing and motivation, and Q&A, the evening was moderated by Luminato’s Literary & Ideas Curator Noah Richler. “So why gather these four great novelists?” Richler asked. “If only for the company!”
On the evening of November 2nd, 2013, a sold-out crowd at the International Festival of Authors rose in a standing ovation at the urging of editor extraordinaire Douglas Gibson, who asked us to “hoot, and holler, and clap our hearts out” so that Alice Munro could hear us all the way in Victoria, BC, where she’s wintering with her daughter. The Fleck Dance Theatre was packed to the rafters, and we were all on our feet, shouting out our love and admiration for the divine Ms. Munro.
Alice Munro has been a quiet giant of the Canadian and international literary landscape for decades, publishing short fiction that reverberates with authenticity about lives, journeys, small towns, and the roles women play. On August 1st (two months before Ms. Munro became the first Canadian ever to win the Nobel Prize for literature), IFOA announced a tribute to her, a “‘who’s-who’ of Canada’s literary community, including other writers, close colleagues and family members, as they present readings of Munro’s work.” From newer works such as Dear Life and Too Much Happiness to canonical classics Lives of Girls and Women and Runaway, Ms. Munro’s short stories have been a touchstone and a revelation to me—and to many others. The promised who’s-who brought a thrilling mix of authors to the stage: joining host Gibson was Jane Urquhart, Miriam Toews, Colum McCann, Alistair MacLeod, and Margaret Drabble.