LitFest leans into in-real-life experiences

LitFest leans into in-real-life experiences

· The Pulse

This year's LitFest will welcome audiences back with a broad spectrum of programming that nods to all the nonfiction festival couldn't do online during the pandemic.

"I think there really is no way to replicate that experience of people gathering in a space, exchanging ideas, hearing something together for the first time, sharing a moment together," executive director Jana O'Connor told Taproot. "There's just something in that beautiful human connection that is really challenging to replicate online."

O'Connor was hired as LitFest's new executive director in July. For her first year of programming the festival, the longtime writer and performer said she tried to focus on the "yes, and" opportunities that brought exciting authors and unique ways for audiences to engage with them.

For example, Raymond Biesinger and Alex Bozikovic, authors of 305 Lost Buildings of Canada, will be leading a walking tour of lost buildings in Edmonton on Oct. 22. They have produced an Edmonton-focused mini-zine version of their book to accompany it.

"(With) the walking tour, we'd have the ability to bring in this book, And then we'd also have this ability to take folks on a walk that helps them see their city in a new way," O'Connor said.

In Leanne Prain's workshop on crafting activist art projects, O'Connor saw a way to meet the moment, noting that "folks are really trying to do grassroots interventions to make change in the world." Prain is the author of The Creative Instigator's Handbook: A DIY Guide to Making Social Change Through Art, and the co-author of the original book on yarn-bombing.

"I just love the opportunity to bring folks ... from a bunch of different interests into the festival and have pathways in that may not be the obvious ones," she said.

For lovers of memoir, there is a lot to look forward to. Journalist Brandi Morin, comedian Ali Hassan, and hip-hop artist Rollie Pemberton, a.k.a. Cadence Weapon, will be presenting on their own memoirs, and Margaret Macpherson will lead a workshop on how to "write about your family and still have one."

The festival, which runs Oct. 13-23, is book-ended by events featuring Michael Hingston's Try Not To Be Strange: The Curious History of the Kingdom of Redonda, opening with a reading and closing with a pop-up exhibit at the Lowlands Project Space.

Photo: Jana O'Connor is heading into her first LitFest as executive director. (Supplied)