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‘Gateway to a reader’s paradise’: Takeaways from 2023 Sask Festival of Words

The 2023 Saskatchewan Festival of Words is over, and as organizers begin recovering and preparing to prepare for next year, gleaned some reflections from them on this 27th edition.
Saskatchewan Festival of Words

The 2023 Saskatchewan Festival of Words is over, and as organizers begin recovering and preparing to prepare for next year, gleaned some reflections from them on this 27th edition.

“It was a great first festival for me,” said Sara Grimes, who recently took the job as administrative assistant for the Festival. “I felt like I was prepared for if anything went wrong, I knew what to do, so I was surprised when it just went pretty well!

“The street fair was definitely memorable, bringing the tables out and the barriers, and then getting hit with wind and rain and running out to flip them … and eventually bringing everything back inside, like, OK, we tried.”

“Probably the most memorable part for me was Dr. Norma Dunning, one of our authors, kept getting wrong directions in Crescent Park on Friday morning,” said Amanda Farnel, executive director of the Festival. “That was my adventure for the weekend ... We found her eventually. The only building she could see was the [Phyllis Dewar Outdoor Pool], so she kept going that way … Finally, we told her, ‘Stay exactly where you are, we will find you!’”

“I think the highlight for me was our dramatic reading,” said Sarah Simison, the Festival’s managing artistic director, speaking about The Dripping Honeys, a song-cycle ensemble created by Regina-based Listen to Dis’ Community & Arts Organization.

“Shaylee Rosnes was one of our interns for two summers,” Simison continued, “and she was a teen writing student before that. Now she’s involved with Listen to Dis, so it was this really exciting thing to see somebody grow through our organization. And then, to have her return as part of a presenting organization, yeah, that was, for me, the most beautiful and unexpected moment.”

Farnel, Simison, and Grimes have begun going through Festival feedback forms, they said, and although it will take some time for a comprehensive evaluation, so far attendees are very positive.

“I don’t remember the exact wording, but one person wrote something along the lines of, ‘This festival is a gateway into a reader’s paradise’,” Grimes said, “which is so great.”

“A lot of the feedback forms have mentioned, you know, that this is its own form of community,” Farnel said. “Coming back each year, seeing people you haven’t seen in a while, learning what they’ve been doing.

“A lot of the feedback is very positive around the changes we made as well. The Street Fair, for example, yes, it ended up being indoors, but people still really liked the idea and enjoyed it.”

Other reviews have mentioned appreciating the diversity of authors at the festival, and how the different presenter pairings sparked interesting conversations and helped attendees find new genres, authors, and books to read.

“I noticed, after the Ali Hassan, Casey Plett, Ken Carriere session, that all three of them were downstairs afterwards at the autograph table getting each other’s books, and getting them signed by each other,” Grimes said. “And the reading sessions are like the backbone of the festival, and that reading session created this unexpected little author’s friend group.”

“Someone made a really nice comment to me about the reading sessions,” Farnel added, “just saying that the way we put the authors together seemed very purposeful and created these surprising and beautiful moments. I thought that was amazing.”

Glenda Julian has been attending the Saskatchewan Festival of Words for many years and served as chair of the festival board. She said she enjoyed everything.

“I love the interplay between some of the authors and how their areas of interest intersect, even though one might be a poet and one is a fiction writer, but somehow they find a commonality,” Julian said. “Or they don’t, and you think they’re on the same wavelength, but they disagree in important ways.

“So, it’s fascinating how literature brings people together, and makes you think more deeply about the world. I always find the Festival fills a void in me … and makes me start thinking about everything around me, and the people around me, differently.”

Review the 2023 Saskatchewan Festival of Words coverage by the Moose Jaw Express with these articles:

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