SFU connections at Word Vancouver

Take a break from essays, readings, and assignments this weekend and enjoy some non-academic literary entertainment at Word Vancouver.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the annual book and magazine festival is the biggest in Western Canada and takes place September 24 to 28 at various locations in Vancouver. The festival recently expanded to five days culminating in the flagship event on Sunday at Library Square in downtown Vancouver.

The festival kicks off on Wednesday, September 24 with the first event at Paper Hound bookstore on West Pender Street, just a few blocks from both the Harbour Centre and Woodward’s campuses. Kevin Spenst, an SFU alumnus, will host poet Andrew McEwan for a lunchtime reading.

“Festival attendees can take in 100 readings, 150 authors, and 20 workshops — all free,” emphasizes executive director Bryan Pike. Among these, more than a dozen presenters have SFU connections, such as Hugh J.M. Johnston, professor emeritus of history. Johnston will read from his new expanded edition of The Voyage of the Komagata Maru: The Sikh Challenge to Canada’s Colour Bar, which was re-released for the 100-year anniversary of the incident. Johnston also penned Radical Campus: Making Simon Fraser University, with which many students will be familiar.

Poet Phinder Dulai, another SFU alumnus, explores the Komagata Maru incident from a different perspective. On Sunday, Dulai will read from his third poetry collection, dream / arteries, which connects the 376 Sikh passengers with other migrants who travelled on the same ship throughout its 36-year career.

If fiction is more your thing, you need to hear Wayde Compton, director of The Writers’ Studio at SFU, read from his new book The Outer Harbour. Compton, known for his poetry, has written his debut collection of linked short stories, which explores the intersection of place and identity.

If you’re hands-on or DIY-inclined, “new this year, we’re celebrating chapbooks with a workshop, exhibits, readings, and a panel discussion,” says Pike. Continuing Studies instructor Heidi Greco will co-teach a chapbook workshop on Saturday, September 27 at our own Harbour Centre campus (email admin1@rebuscreative.com to register). Then, on Sunday, there is a whole section at Library Square dedicated to chapbooks.

Perhaps you’re more interested in traditional publishing in the digital era: you’re in luck! Publishing@SFU is co-presenting several talks at the festival with SFU instructors Monique Sherrett, John Maxwell, and Suzanne Norman on various topics from online marketing to digital books.

After 20 successful years, executive director Bryan Pike attributes Word Vancouver’s on-going popularity to the event’s accessibility, “primarily by remaining 100 per cent free and providing all-ages programming, making it inclusive and accessible.”

However, as funding sources decline and costs rise, the Word Vancouver team is turning to crowd funding. “We’ve launched our ‘Keep it Free’ campaign on Indiegogo, which runs until the 29th of September,” says Pike. “Funds raised will ensure future audiences get to experience our great writing and publishing community in the form of Word Vancouver, for free, for many years to come.”

The other great thing about Word Vancouver is that there is something for everyone from children’s literature, poetry, magazines, and writing workshops, to booths for local arts and literary organizations, book arts demos, and even musical performances.

Full schedule details are available at www.wordvancouver.ca or pick up a program guide at your local bookstore or library.