Ottawa is a very, very smart city, says the artistic director for the Ottawa International Writers Festival.
“We’ve always heard from the authors that the audience questions and the level of interaction from the audience are second to none here,” said Sean Wilson. “We really are coming into our own as a world capital.”
That reputation for curious and interested audiences has turned the festival into a major draw for both the writers and the general public.
The fall edition of the festival opens Wednesday with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Chris Hedges discussing the effects of a rising post-literate society that craves fantasy, ecstasy and illusion at an event titled The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
“We’ve got the most inspired imaginations on the planet coming here to share their enthusiasm,” said Wilson. “It’s really become a spot where people can come out and hear from the people.”
For example, he said the Friday night discussion, Cycling and the Livable City, featuring musician and author David Byrne is a great opportunity to meet others in the community who share that interest.
All events at the festival take place at Saint Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities on St. Patrick Street.
Highlights of the first week include author Karen Connelly and freedom fighter Zoya Phan discussing the struggle for freedom in Burma, one of the most repressed nations on earth at noon on Saturday; bestselling UK crime author and four-time Dagger Award winner Ian Rankin, discussing his recent books: The Complaints, Doors Open and the graphic novel, Dark Entries on Sunday.
Annabel Lyon, Canada’s literary “it” girl will be speaking at two events on Monday. Lyon’s first novel, The Golden Mean, is nominated for three of the biggest prizes in Canadian fiction, including the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Awards – Fiction.
The festival wraps up Tuesday.