This Saturday, the KW Writer’s Alliance will be holding their second-ever Bookfest at Waterloo Public Square, where co-founders Caroline Topperman and Vanessa Ricci-Thode hope to demonstrate to the Waterloo region the diversity and richness of the local literature scene.
This year’s festival will feature a multitude of writers, author readings, storyteller performances, and a Q&A session with authors Katie Mack and E.K. Johnston.
Ricci-Thode expressed her enthusiasm about including authors at all stages of their careers. “We’re focused on … uniting the community and having a place where people can find information on what’s going on in the literary community and have that visibility,” they said.
Ricci-Thode and Topperman also expressed their excitement about receiving the necessary funding to ensure the event remained free for authors and attendees, enabling them to pay storytellers and, as Topperman pointed out, not have to charge authors for a table.
While other larger book festivals like Toronto’s Word On The Street and fairs like FanExpo can charge anywhere from $500 to $750 for a table, Topperman noted that the cost makes it difficult to make a profit, and that the fees present a particular obstacle for self-published authors or those published under a smaller press as the fees would be coming out of their pockets.
Ricci-Thode pointed out that keeping tables free also allows for more voices to be shown. “[The cost of tables] becomes a barrier to marginalized authors, low-income authors, you know, we lose a lot of voices because they can’t afford the table,” they said.
Ricci-Thode credited Create Waterloo for giving the Bookfest use of the Waterloo Public Square as well as tents, tables, and chairs, while crediting The Community Edition’s sponsorship for their ability to pay the storytellers and MC, and obtain extra tables to include more authors in the Bookfest.
Topperman said that though they had applied for a grant from the city, they weren’t able to get it but hoped to obtain one next year. Ricci-Thode said that part of the difficulty in finding funding is the lack of awareness of the local literature community in the KW region, compounding the existing difficulties in obtaining grants for writing, particularly fiction writing.
“Hopefully as it grows and the community gets more visibility, we can … change some of that and maybe change the conversation a little bit,” she said.