The Victoria Festival of Authors (VFA) returned for its third year, Sept. 27 to Oct. 1. From what I saw of it, there is good reason for the popularity of the week-long event.
The VFA is an opportunity for Canadian authors, both local and out-of-province, to attend readings, question-and-answer sessions, and workshops.
I attended three panels over the duration of the festival: “Pure Poetry”, “We are the Weirdos, Mister,” and “This Place Here”.
Each panel saw discussions regarding authors’ creative processes in regards to their characters, where their ideas came from, how to research and construct story settings and plots, and the refinement needed to turn an idea into a written story.
At the “This Place Here” panel on Sept. 30, Sheena Kamal, author of numerous thriller and mystery novels, discussed her writing process and how she always tries to work towards a predetermined ending. But for some of the other authors at the panel — like Erin Fisher, Esi Edugyan, and Sarah Selecky — writing is more of a journey, and the ending is discovered along the way.
“We are the Weirdos, Mister” panel was built around the idea of defining what is normal as it applies to fiction, and featured interesting discussions about what makes a book literary The panel also touched on how each writer got published.
But it was the “Pure Poetry” panel that was most interesting, due to its expansion on the idea of what poetry can do beyond just rhyming pretty words together. Poetry, at times, has had a reputation of being boring, but the poets at this event — David James Brock, Laisha Rosneau, and Katherena Vermette — proved that perception wrong.
Each poet brought a unique voice and style to the panel. Brock presented on his poetry book about a ten-headed alien that stole items from earth, such as trees, in order to learn about humanity and the languages we speak. Some might call this sci-fi poetry!
The VFA served as a way to examine art and literature directly from the writer’s perspective, and as a great resource to explore genres and books that you normally wouldn’t think of.
Rosneau spoke about her poetry and how it relates to the struggle that women go through, specifically in Ukraine, where her family is from.
Vermette described her work as post-colonial action, where love is seen as a force for reclaiming culture and as a way to repair the wounds left behind by trauma.
“Don’t lead people to a bonfire and leave them to burn,” Vermette said during the panel. “You must show them the way out.” The idea behind this quote is that writers and artists can depict dark and uncomfortable subject manner, but they should include some hope in their writing as well. It’s the difference between someone writing something that’s dark and edgy for the sake of being dark and edgy and someone tackling difficult subjects and making sure that the characters get out and get better as a result.
Altogether, the panel on poetry served to highlight the power that poetry can have and the impact of a well-placed sentence or word.
All the panels were interesting, unique, and captivating, and you didn’t have to be an aspiring writer or artist to enjoy them. The “This Place Here” panel, for example, also spoke to leadership skills, and could have been useful for anyone interested in pursuing a leadership or managerial role in their careers.
The VFA served as a way to examine art and literature directly from the writer’s perspective, and as a great resource to explore genres and books that you normally wouldn’t think of — like poetry. VFA happens every year, so if you missed it this time around, September will be back sooner than we’d like, and the event roster will surely be filled again with great Canadian authors and poets, excited to share their art with the greater Victoria community.