For the past 18 years, the Whistler Writers Festival has taken a great deal of pride in its friendly, accessible vibe.
Visitors routinely ran into their favourite authors in the hallways of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, chatted them up, and then heard them speak at their scheduled events.
But that won’t be possible this year because the 2020 Whistler Writers Festival is being held online from Thursday (October 15) to Sunday (October 18). The pandemic left organizers with no other option.
“It’s the smartest thing to do,” executive director Stella Harvey told the Straight by phone. “But it’s hard, too, because we’re known for the intimacy.”
On the upside, it’s enabling people from around the world see a lengthy lineup of authors that includes Wade Davis (Magdalena: River of Dreams), Aislinn Hunter (The Certainties), and Annabel Lyon (Consent).
According to Harvey, people have signed up for lectures and workshops from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Italy, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
They’ll still get a taste of Whistler through the festival’s videotaped Literary Cabaret, which will be hosted by local scribe and musician Stephen Vogler on Friday (October 16) evening.
Here, winners of the Whistler Independent Book Awards will be announced at an event featuring musicians and a bevy of guest authors.
Globe and Mail reporter Dakshana Bascaramurty is among those participating in the Literary Cabaret. Her new book, This Is Not the End of Me, tells how a young Halifax husband and father coped with a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Bascaramurty will also moderate this year’s Sunday Brunch event, which will feature two authors who’ve been shortlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize, David Bergen (Here the Dark) and Emily St. John Mandel (The Glass Hotel). They’ll be joined by Annahid Dashtgard (Breaking the Ocean: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Reconciliation) and Waubgeshig Rice (Moon of the Crusted Snow).
“Some of our partners—like the Fairmont, like Pasta Lupino, and others—have suggested something you could make for breakfast in your own home,” Harvey said. “Enjoy the Sunday Brunch from your own living room.”
Last year, the Whistler Writers Festival launched a murder mystery session called the Domestic Thriller. It’s back again this time on Saturday (October 17), in a digital format.
Moderated by Amber Cowie, it will feature authors Roz Nay (Hurry Home), Amy Stuart (Still Here), and Stephanie Wrobel (Darling Rose Gold).
“Amber has come up with an interesting little game that fits with each of the themes of the books, as well as poses a question about who might have done what to whom,” Harvey explained. “And she uses the characters of the three books.”
Audience members can vote through Zoom, and an audience member who guesses correctly will win a prize. Consider it as an online approach to retaining this fest's old-time intimate, and interactive persona.