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Vancouver Writers Fest celebrates 30 years with A-list lineup of ideas

By Zoe Grams

Ken Dryden will be on hand to discuss his new book, Game Changer. (Sergey Smirnov Photo)

Ken Dryden will be on hand to discuss his new book, Game Changer. (Sergey Smirnov Photo)

In just 10 days, the Vancouver Writers Fest begins its annual tradition of welcoming writers from across the globe to the city for a week of discussions, readings and explorations. In its 30th year, the festival is well versed in delving into pages and the minds behind them.

The 2017 author lineup certainly suggests it’s an occasion. Household names on the bill include Margaret Atwood, Adam Gopnik, Jennifer Egan, Christopher Brookmyre, Witi Ihimaera and Ali Cobby Eckermann. These are some of the 110 authors featured at the festival in more than 95 events - a smorgasbord of ideas to consider.

Artistic Director Hal Wake explained why he believes the festival welcomes more than 20,000 audience members each year.

“Writers are like the explorers who have played a vital role in every culture since the dawn of time,” says Wake. “They venture into the world and into the soul to confront and understand what is most important to us, what we must pay attention to, and what will bring us joy. For 30 years the festival has brought the best writers from around the world to share their ideas with the best audiences in the world. The conversations we convene can change the way you see the world…”

These new perspectives seem to flourish in a range of subjects that newcomers may not expect to see in a literary festival.

Hockey, for instance. Legendary NHL player Ken Dryden helped the Montreal Canadiens take home six Stanley Cups and, no wonder, is named as one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players of all time. He comes to Vancouver to discuss Game Changer, his new book explaining why hockey needs to become safer and faster. Dryden shares his approach for the entire industry — from parents to professionals and the fans in between, to reducing brain injuries. His stop in Vancouver is one of the first in a Canadian tour.

There’s even something for story hoarders who prefer to immerse themselves in the screen instead of the page. Screen Gems shares behind the scenes anecdotes, tips and quips from three authors who have also made a name in showbiz: Bones executive producer and writer Hart Hanson, Esta Spalding who has written for everything from Being Erica to The Bridge, and Tom Perrotta, whose novels have been transformed into films with cult followings, including Leftovers and Little Children.

Poetry is well lauded at the festival, with the inimitable U.S. poet Eileen Myles joining numerous events alongside philosopher, poet and essayist, Jan Zwicky, and Hera Lindsay Bird who illuminated the Internet with her “fearless” poetry and is building a worldwide reputation. For the uninitiated, Van Slam Special is an ideal entry into the possibilities of verse. Some of Vancouver’s top spoken word artists electrify Calabash Bistro before embarking on a nationwide tour to showcase the city’s silver-tongued abilities.

Other topics at the Festival include the nature of romantic love (and how to maintain it); the science and ethics behind bringing extinct creatures back to life; historic expeditions into the wilds; and how to encourage creativity in kids.

“The audience for thoughtful, engaging conversations about everything—from fun and fantasy to the sublime and profound—keeps growing,” Wake says. “If you’ve never experienced what Writers Fest serves up every October, this is certainly the year to come down to Granville Island and immerse yourself.”

The Vancouver Writers Fest runs from October 16-22. For a full lineup and tickets, visit writersfest.bc.ca.