By Felicia Santarossa
Monday Magazine contributor
With a two-time Giller Prize winner launching things with Victoria’s first poet laureate, the Sidney Literary Festival is opening with a bang on April 11.
Esi Edugyan, who captured her second Giller last fall for her novel Washington Black – it was also shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize – opens the festival having a conversation about writing and all things literary with Carla Funk at the Shoal Centre (7 p.m.).
The soft-spoken Edugyan, who, in her Giller Prize acceptance speech said the second award made her 2011 win for Half Blood Blues “feel like less of a fluke,” leads a star-studded group of guest authors taking part in a weekend of readings, panels, workshops and more.
The range of writers and activities scheduled has Sidney and Peninsula Literary Festival Society president Janet Daines “terribly excited” about this year’s festival, being held at the Shoal Centre and the Mary Winspear Centre.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun and it’s going to be really interesting, she says. Thrilled to have secured Edugyan for the festival, Daines adds, “she’s a well-respected author and we’re very much looking forward to what Esi has to say about her work.”
Other notable authors sharing their experiences include Officer of the Order of Canada and Governor-General’s Award winner Lorna Crozier; Sooke writer Darryl J. McLeod, author of the acclaimed Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age; multiple Giller nominee Kathy Page and fiction writer Fred Stenson.
Saturday workshops will be led by Stenson (Writing Fiction for the Reading Brain), Funk (The Poem’s Good Bones) and Island author and writing instructor Susan Juby (Write Yourself Into Being). “All of them are very competent in providing techniques and ways to approach writing,” Daines says.
Along with listening to readings and panel discussions, festival goers can share toast and tea on Sunday during the popular Breakfast with the Authors. Five authors will do readings at the event, but other authors are invited to join attendees at their table.
Listening to successful writers talk about their work can be a “beautiful, almost magical experience,” Daines says. People can come away from the weekend entertained and engaged with the authors’ works, but also inspired to ponder the bigger questions in life.
“I think people who are interested in writing get a lot out of these kind of festivals,” she says.
– with files from Don Descoteau