By: Sara Wong, Arts & Culture Editor
I was in eighth grade when I attended Vancouver Writers Fest (VWF) for the first time. It was with my honours English class, and that day became one of my best memories from high school. I remember the energy at Granville Island being like nothing I’d experienced before. The atmosphere inside each venue was cozy, but the vibe matched that of a concert: passionate, raw, and intoxicating. Simply put, it was magical.
That magic is the product of an extremely dedicated team of festival organizers. For Ariel Hudnall, VWF’s marketing and publicity manager, this stems from her own experience visiting VWF. After moving to Vancouver for SFU’s master of publishing program, the festival was one of the first arts and culture events Hudnall checked out.
“As a lover of books, what I found so exciting about [VWF] was how it resituates fiction, poetry, and non-fiction on its stages as vehicles for captivating dialogue and exhilarating exchange,” she said. Hudnall added it was thanks to SFU that she discovered VWF.
Another aspect of the festival Hudnall appreciated was the focus on international talent. Having spent six years in Japan working in publishing and teaching, exploring language was significant to her. “The makeup of Asian literature is simply different than Western canon, and really made me realize how much power a single word can have, especially in our individual interpretations,” Hudnall said. “I had to read almost everything through a translator and they also bring their own lens to a story!”
With that in mind, she noted two book talks in this year’s festival, running Oct. 18–24, that highlighted the importance of translation. One featured Japanese feminist author Mieko Kawakami, whose 2009 work Heaven was published in English earlier this year. The other event was about Ann Goldstein, translator for popular pseudonymous author Elena Ferrante. Hudnall also mentioned she was looking forward to Jordan Abel in Conversation with Tanya Talaga, a podcast where Talaga — an Ojibwe writer — interviews Abel, a Nisga’a poet and SFU alum, about his new work, titled Nishga.
In addition to the festival, VWF co-hosts the Incite reading series — a free, biweekly panel where emerging and established authors discuss various literary themes. Incite takes place from January to June. According to Hudnall, “It’s one of the best ways to get more familiar with our unique event style.” She encouraged those interested to sign up for VWF’s newsletter, in order to stay updated on these year-round events.
For students wanting to get involved with VWF, volunteer positions are available every year. Additionally, Hudnall said VWF “regularly takes on seasonal interns” from the SFU publishing department.
Reflecting on her experience in the publishing industry, Hudnall shared some advice for students pursuing similar career paths. “Keep your skill sets — and interests — diverse,” she said. “As a marketer, I must know copywriting, design, social media trends, budgeting, video and photo editing, data analysis, and effective communication for relationship building. And that’s a good thing! The more skills you have, the more interesting you can make your work.”