WordsThaw at UVic: The Malahat’s symposium offers insight and advice to writers

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Victoria’s leading literary magazine, The Malahat Review, will be hosting its second annual WordsThaw symposium on campus on Thursday, Feb. 20 to Saturday Feb. 22. The event brings together numerous writers from across Canada in a series of discussions and panels focused on the act, art and business of writing. On the heels of a successful first year in 2013, the Malahat has developed the event in both depth and scope by adding more authors and spreading WordsThaw across several days.

WordsThaw was initially conceived as a way to put the energy and resources of individual issue launches behind a single event. After last year’s warm reception, the decision to turn WordsThaw into an annual occurrence seemed natural. “It was a very positive experience,” says John Barton, lead editor of The Malahat and organizer behind WordsThaw. “What I liked about it was the quality of the discussion from the panels themselves—it was very stimulating and enriching.” This past January, two prequel events were also put on: a tribute to iconic Canadian poet P.K. Page, and a creative nonfiction reading.

The symposium itself opens with “A Lansdowne Lecture” by West Coast poet Daphne Marlatt, sponsored by the UVic Faculty of Humanities. Focusing on the fluid relationship between language and place—particularly Vancouver—Marlatt hopes to engage with the ideas of flux and impermanence as they relate to location and writing. This lecture is also the only WordsThaw event with free admission.

Friday celebrates a diverse showcase of talent with the “Words on Ice” reading, which features the likes of UVic Writing Department professor David Leach amongst a group of writers at varying stages in their careers representing the evolution of the author. Saturday morning has panels engaging with the ideas of social media and local history, while the afternoon includes a panel on “Writer as Witness,” featuring British Columbia’s only Green Party MLA and noted climate change activist, Andrew Weaver.

Passes for individual events as well as the entire symposium are available on The Malahat’s website, and can also be purchased at the door. Students receive discounted prices and all three-day passes include a complimentary year-long subscription to the magazine, as well as the option to sign up for “Brief Encounters,” a fifteen minute discussion with one of several local writers for advice and insight.

“I think what I want to do with WordsThaw is expand the envelope of The Malahat to embrace slightly larger issues than we might usually entertain as a literary magazine,” says Barton. “Adding social media, children’s literature, local history…trying to broaden the scope of the magazine and maybe catch more people’s attention.”

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