It’s autumn and the books are falling, leaving beautiful colours throughout Victoria. Yes, you read that correctly — books.
For one very special day, you might need a rake to clear out all the literary material from city sidewalks, under trees and park benches, around bus stops and the doorways of waiting rooms, as the Victoria Writers Festival prepares its first-ever mass book share: A Book Leaving — over 200 works scattered throughout the city on Thurs., Oct. 4. And you are invited to play in the leaves.
“This is really a celebration of serendipity,” says Sara Cassidy, local author and a director of the upcoming festival. “Reading calls on serendipity all the time — why do we pick up what we do at certain times? We really don’t know what we’re in for, what the words will do, or what emotional journey we will be on, so it requires a certain amount of openness, and a certain amount of chance. Finding a book on a low wall — you can’t get more serendipitous than that.”
Residents will stumble upon novels, poetry collections, memoirs, children’s books, even do-it-yourself guides throughout Victoria, most donated by Russell Books and strewn by volunteers.
The books are free for the taking, and will include a note asking people to visit the Victoria Writers Festival website and post about the experience — how they came to find the book, whether they will pass it on or keep it, and what (if they’ve started to read their book) they make of it.
“There is something so fun about finding a good book. We constantly pass on and share books hand-to-hand, much like we share good food or a great place to travel. We say ‘Here, taste this, try this,’ because we want someone else to have that same incredible experience we did,” says Cassidy. “This event really captures the spirit of that desire.”
While there are no demands on those who find the books — Cassidy says you can read it, pass it on, or keep the book as a lovely decoration for a shelf — she hopes people will take this opportunity to engage in the process and remember the importance of books.
“I do worry that people are forgetting about books nowadays,” says Cassidy. “It’s not the time commitment — as soon as you enter one, the book draws its own time, and a good one will make you prioritize it — but I worry that people forget to open them in the first place.”
With the festival only one weekend away on Oct. 12 and 13, chances are good that residents will remember the value of literature. Acclaimed and local writers Ronald Wright, Anakana Schofield, Esi Edugyan, Jan Zwicky, Tim Lilburn, Susan Musgrave, Bill Gaston, Brian Brett and others will read, lecture, teach and take part in panel discussions — all open to the public. Hosts will include Green MP Elizabeth May, and CEO of the Greater Victoria Public Library Maureen Sawa. This year’s festival will also feature a write-off event, and the inaugural Pacific Comics Art Festival, sponsored by Legends Comics.
“Books are not something to be afraid of, or intimidated by,” says Cassidy, who admits she often will read four or five at a time, with some she has drawn out as long as seven months. “Writers are really just people speaking to ourselves. It’s one of the most intimate forms of communication.”
To learn more about A Book Leaving, the upcoming festival, or some of the contests the group is currently hosting (where you can win prizes by uploading a photo of people reading in Victoria), visit the website at victoriawritersfestival.com. M