Words are wonderful!

By Janice Tran

Aside from textbook cramming, the extent of literary involvement for the average university student likely spans as far out as Facebook and their e-mail inbox. That’s not to say that university students are not interested in what the enlightened authors of today have to say. They’re just too busy to care. However, once a year the Calgary literary community gathers together to celebrate all things written, in an attempt to engage the city in a reading frenzy–university students included.

The Banff-Calgary International Writers Festival–better known as Wordfest–is a six-day event where up and coming authors from around the world are invited to Cow-town and Banff to share their literary masterpieces. From epic novels to erratic poetry to provocative documentaries, the festival’s 65 events likely feature at least one author dedicated to every single aspect of the written art-form.

“I think the festival does speak for itself,” says festival coordinator Anne Green. “It has a really good reputation, people know that they’re going to be entertained the events are fun and also very interesting and there is just a wide range of things to see and do.”

Each year, the festival draws nearly 12,000 excited booklovers to Calgary and Banff, making it one of the top three book festivals in Canada. The festival has been experiencing considerable success since its inception nearly 12 years ago.

“The literary community here has been growing steadily for a number of years,” says Green. “That is because this community is very supportive of its writers and the environment here is very strong. There are a lot of great writers here, and great writers draw more great writers and I think that is why you’re seeing more writers coming.”

This year the festival is experimenting with new technology by implementing the Wordfest’s Official Blog. The blog will offer internet-savvy readers an insider’s perspective on what is going down at the festival. It dishes out tips like what events are worth checking out, what authors not to miss and answers to frequently asked questions.

“[The blog] just seemed like such a natural fit because it centers around words and it’s another medium to get the word out,” says Green.

This isn’t the first time the festival has branched out and experimented with new technology. In 2000 they implemented Out Loud Live, a live webcast stream of a two hour live performance of six well-known poets accompanied by live jazz musicians. The webcast is still available for viewing on the Wordfest website.

“We have a history with experimenting with technology,” says Green. “One of the great things about a festival like this is that you have the opportunity to experiment with different media. This festival has done that for many years.”

In an attempt to address the reader apathy pandemic infecting the youth of today, the festival is implementing the First Calgary Savings Book Program. The program is the educational arm of the festival and allows young adult readers to have face-to-face time with notable authors. Last year, the program drew in nearly 6,000 eager students.

“We get incredible fan mail from kids. We get notes saying how we’ve changed their lives,” says Green. “When those writers come out into the lobby and they do signings and things, the kids look at them like rock stars. They want to touch them they want their autographs and to talk to them.”

The Banff-Calgary International Writers Festival is a great time for those not normally into literature to embrace their inner bookworm without looking out of place.

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