Wild Writers Literary Festival 2021

Graphic from Wild Writers Literary Festival 2021, www.wildwriters.ca

Set to be held from Nov. 1 to 21, the annual Wild Writers Literary Festival is back for its 10th year. Normally, this festival is held in Waterloo over the course of a weekend, however due to the pandemic, it will be held virtually over the span of three weeks. 

10 years ago, The New Quarterly, WordsWorth Books and Balsillie School of International Affairs began the Wild Writers Literary Festival as a way of promoting literature and the work done by The New Quarterly. 

Moving to an online environment last year was a big change for the festival organizers. “We have a fairly loyal audience,” said Pamela Mulloy, the creative director of the Wild Writers Literary Festival and editor of The New Quarterly. “We didn’t know how they would respond to this new setup.” 

Lamees Al Ethari, a continuing lecturer in the University of Waterloo English department and a non-fiction editor at The New Quarterly, talked about how the online environment takes away the opportunities for attendees to meet and have casual interactions with the various panelists and speakers outside of their sessions. 

Mulloy mentioned that having the festival online allowed them to reach not only their usual audience but also people from across the country and the globe, who could not travel to Waterloo. As a result, they are considering adding a streaming aspect to their events even when they go back to having an in-person festival. “It really will change how we look at festivals, in terms of accessibility and widening our reach,” Mulloy said.

Festival attendees will be able to attend many kinds of events, such as conversations, panel discussions and workshops. There is a fiction panel on forming first collections, a poetry panel, a publishing panel, as well as workshops on writing with style and on making a living as a writer, among other sessions. While some of these events cost $10 to attend, many of them are free. “For accessibility, we always like to have a number of events which are free,” Mulloy said. “Community building is a big part of what we do.” Those interested in multiple events can also purchase an all access pass for $40.

Al Ethari will be conducting a conversation on “Love and Loss: Reflecting on Your Roots” with author Kamal Al-Solaylee. “Every year, I try to do something with immigration — home away from home, because that’s what my research is in and what a lot of my writing is about,” Al Ethari said. This session will look at immigration from a different perspective than it is usually looked at. They will talk about it from a perspective of returning home, rather than leaving. 

The festival organizers have also started a mentorship program this year, which will provide selected applicants the opportunity to work  one-on-one with an industry professional. The mentors this year are Mulloy, The New Quarterly consulting editor Susan Scott and award-winning authors, Helen Humphreys and Andrew Westoll.

Festival tickets can be purchased on the festival’s website: www.wildwriters.ca.