Wordfest’s Creative Ringleader Reveals Her Top 10

Chock-full of international talent, here’s a lineup you don’t want to miss

Forget zotting off to Bora Bora or Botswana — this week’s ticket to pure escapism doesn’t demand vaccinations or visas, or even much moolah.

All you need do is hightail it down to 12th Avenue S.W. where you’ll find scores of readings and events at Calgary’s international writers’ festival, a.k.a. Wordfest. Now in its 23rd year, it’s gone from being a wayward orphan to having a permanent home with its HQ being the top floor of the elegant Memorial Park Library. But this year’s lineup of 58 events also uses other spaces such as DJD Dance Centre, Hotel Arts and Britannia Plaza, as well as MRU’s Bella Concert Hall.

Helming the eight-day festival is alumna and Wordfest CEO Shelley Youngblut, BA’85, who points out this year’s bounty in experiential literary adventures: breakfast with Giller Prize-winner Elizabeth Hay; intimate lunches and custom-created beverages at the Raw Bar with Kurt Andersen, Tim Cook and Patrick deWitt; a Moth-like storytelling event dubbed The Way We Wear; plenty of free Tea & Sustenance readings on the main floor of Memorial Park Library; a happy-hour chat and pop-up fashion show; and, of course, Wordfest favourites like the classic Literary Death Match, Adult Spelling Bee and Poetry Cabaret.

All this is in keeping with the initial objective of Wordfest, which was to be a festival that’s more populist than stuffily literary — obvious in this year’s 62-page brochure. But that’s not to say there aren’t literary heavyweights on tap. Two of this year’s über-esteemed events are expected to be Between the Pages: An Evening with the Scotiabank Giller Prize Finalists, hosted by CBC’s Shelagh Rogers; and an appearance by Polaris Music Prize 2014 winner Tanya Tagaq, which Youngblut describes as an indescribable marriage of performance, reading (from Tagaq’s book, Split Tooth) and conversation. Both events will be at the acoustically superb Bella Concert Hall. And another event that may sell out is likely to be an evening with Esi Edugyan, whose latest novel, Washington Black, has been shortlisted for the $85,600 Man Booker Prize. Her book is also on the long list for this year’s Giller.

Loving each and every festival event, Youngblut is wary to name a Top 10 list but, for an educated UCalgary alumni audience, here are her picks:

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