As a busy student, choosing a book to read in your free time can be a novel task. The Toronto International Festival of Authors calls itself “Canada’s oldest and largest festival of words and ideas,” and Canada’s “number one literary happening.” On Twitter, the festival’s page presents artists and summarizes them in 40-word snippets. If you love reading and want to find out about new works, this festival is a great place to start.
Each fall, authors and listeners come together for the festival from near and far, for 11 days of readings, interviews, lectures, and public book signings. For authors unable to make it, the PEN empty chair has appeared on stage since 2009, highlighting “the absence of a writer due to unjust travel restrictions, imprisonment or threat of violence.” The PEN organization promotes literature and freedom of expression around the world.
This year, the festival celebrates its 40th anniversary, and features an additional Fest at 40: An Anniversary Exhibition, held at Harbourfront Center from October 24 to November 3. Fest at 40 is a deep dive into the archives of the festival. Three free events were also held at Toronto’s Union Station on October 26 through 28, and a new podcast series is the culmination of a collaboration between TIFA, the Toronto Public Library, and Library Archives Canada. The festival also included a small press fair where titles from university and independent presses offered samplings from lesser known authors on the scene.
Festival producer Emily Jung summarized the International Crime Fiction panel featuring authors Thomas King, Un-su Kim, Sora Kim-Russell, and Teresa Solana as “Indigenous, Catalonian, and Korean author [sic] talking about literature, translation, location and murderers on one stage.” It was a spirited, engaging conversation that went in depth on writing and translating crime fiction, but also touched on social media (which three of the authors bemoaned) and hope in writing (Un-Su Kim said there was no hope in his book, The Plotters). When asked why he was qualified to write crime fiction, Un-Su Kim said, “I have a few gangster friends. But they’re really nice in person. They cry a lot… and they try to be nice to their families.”
An honouring was held for Wayson Choy, the late pioneer of Asian-Canadian literature, where nine people gave tributes about Choy’s impact on their lives.
On Twitter, author J.R. McConvey said, “the best thing about events like [Festival of Authors] is being reminded that every writer is different, and that every writer is the same.” Indeed, the festival was a bountiful opportunity to hear passionate authors discuss their new works, unpack the ideas in their stories, and remind everyone about the innate humanity shared by writers and readers.
The festival happens every fall. If you’re an aspiring author, poet, illustrator, or publisher, you can also attend yearlong events. TIFA offers Authors in Conversation All Year Round, a speaker series that allows attendees to “meet, hear, and learn from some of the most ground-breaking writers of our time”. You can find these and more offerings on the festival website if you’re interested in mingling with writers in different genres and fields.