This weekend, The Word on the Street will bring Toronto book lovers together. On festival Sunday, September 22, 2019 (that's this weekend!), the Harbourfront Centre transforms into what guest author Elizabeth Greene called "the literary world at its absolute best" - a huge, free, accessible celebration of the written word featuring readings, panels, literary programming for kids and teens, spotlights on Francophone and Indigenous literature, book and magazine sales, publisher booths, food trucks, and more. Additional programming takes place on September 17 and 21 - check out the website for full scheduling information.
We couldn't agree more with Greene's assessment of one of the city's favourite literary events. In celebration of the festival, we got to speak to three of the acclaimed authors appearing at WOTS, including the aforementioned Elizabeth Greene, author of the novel A Season Among Psychics (Inanna Publications), as well as Nick Green, author of the play Body Politics (Playwrights Canada Press) and K.D. Miller, author of the story collection Late Breaking (Biblioasis).
All three writers are appearing at the Vibrant Voices of Ontario stage, one of the most dynamic spots at the festival, which celebrates the innovative, captivating, and diverse storytelling happening in our province.
The authors tell us about what they will be reading on Sunday (including one work inspired by an iconic Canadian painter), the Ontario-authored books they have loved as readers, and their favourite, unique spots in the province.
Don't miss seeing all three of these talented writers at The Word on the Street on September 22: Nick at 2:30pm for the Playwright Spotlight; Elizabeth at 4:00pm for the Rising from the Ashes: Loss and Transformation panel; and K.D. at 11:00am for the Emotional Landscapes panel.
Tell us about what you’ll be reading in the Vibrant Voices stage this year.
I will be appearing in conversation with playwright Amanda Parris, and the two of us will be discussing plays we have written that take on politics, marginalization, and love. The play I’ll be referencing is Body Politic, which is my work that re-imagines the creation and life of one of the seminal LGBTQ+ publication of the same name.
I’ll be talking about my novel A Season Among Psychics and how difficult events can lead to healing and transformation. This is certainly the case for my heroine Judith and also for her author.
I’ll be reading from the first few pages of “Flesh,” one of the stories in my latest collection, Late Breaking. Each of the stories is paired with a painting by Alex Colville. In this case, the painting is “Three Girls on a Wharf.”
Have you attended The Word on the Street in the past? If so, tell us about a favourite memory. If not, what are you most looking forward to?
I have not! I’m really excited to immerse myself in the crowds of people and check out some of the readings.
My impression of WOTS: Writers’ heaven! Everyone is there and everyone is friendly! It’s the literary world at its absolute best.
I have attended before this, as both participant and visitor. A favourite memory goes way back to the early 1990s, shortly after I published my first book, A Litany in Time of Plague. I was doing my hour in my publisher’s booth, when a young man told me that he had been reading my stories in literary magazines for years, and was glad to see me finally with a published collection. I was absolutely gob smacked, to be recognized and – more wonderful still – read! That’s one thing I’ll never get over – discovering that something I’ve written has actually been read and remembered by somebody else.
The Vibrant Voices stage celebrates Ontario authored and published books. Tell us about a favourite book by an Ontario-based author that you've read.
I will always be moved by The Gay Heritage Project by Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn, and Andrew Kushnir. I remember seeing this play for the first time and it blowing me away. The published script also includes some really wonderful forwards.
That is not an easy question. I have just finished Maureen Hynes’ new book of poetry Sotto Voce, with its wonderful poems about Toronto rivers and High Park and its stunning elegy for Kingston poet Joanne Page. The poems are like intricately carved inlaid boxes carefully wrought, with amazing images tumbling one over another, all written with compassion and vision.
Mike Barnes’ memoir Be With: Letters to a Caregiver. It consists of the author’s harried, scribbled-down notes about what it’s like to be there for a parent suffering from dementia. It’s up for the Toronto Book Award, and is one of those books I really think everybody should read.
Do you have a favourite spot in Ontario? If so, what do you love about it?
The Toronto Reference Library! I spent hours there researching Body Politic, going through roll after roll of micro-fiche. It’s such a focused and positive environment. It’s almost like you can feel the vibration of all these minds at work.
Kosso Eloul’s "Sculpture of Time" at the edge of Lake Ontario. Landscape in layers: grass, the silvery sculpture framing more grass, the lake in all its moods, Wolfe Island, windmills, clouds (sometimes), sky. I wouldn’t miss the windmills, but they’re part of the layering now. And the sculpture, lovely in itself, makes me think about how we see things through Time.
I love Huron County, Alice Munro country, because it makes me feel as if I’m inside one of her stories. I also love my own adopted city of Toronto – what a place. There’s just so much to do and see – it’s like having a never-empty box of chocolates in the house - irresistible.
Nick Green is a Dora Mavor Moore and Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Award-winning playwright whose work has been seen across Canada and in New York. Nick’s plays and musicals include Dinner with the Duchess; In Real Life; Every Day She Rose (co-writer); Happy Birthday Baby J; Undercovered; Poof! The Musical; Coffee Dad, Chicken Mom, and the Fabulous Buddha Boi; Triple Platinum; 2 Queens and a Joker (co-writer); and Left Field.
Elizabeth Greene has published three volumes of poetry: The Iron Shoes (2007), Moving (2010) and Understories (2014). Her poems, short fiction, and essays have appeared in journals and anthologies across Canada, most recently in Juniper, an online poetry journal, issues 1 and 3. She has poetry forthcoming in the League of Canadian Poets’ Tree Anthology, ed. Claudia Radmore and Lesley Strutt, and in Tamaracks: Canadian Poetry for the 21st Century, ed. James Deahl. She has also edited/co-edited five books, including We Who Can Fly: Poems, Essays and Memories in Honour of Adele Wiseman, which won the Betty and Morris Aaron Prize (Jewish Book Awards) for Best Scholarship on a Canadian Subject in 1998. She lives in Kingston with her son and two cats. A Season Among Psychics is her debut novel.
K.D. Miller is the author of Late Breaking, Give me Your Answer, Litany on a Time of Plague, and All Saints, which was shortlisted for the 2014 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and longlisted for the 2014 Frank O’Connor Award. She also wrote an essay collection, Holy Writ, and her work has been collected in The Journey Prize Stories and Best Canadian Stories. She lives and writes in Toronto.
The Word On The Street is a is a national celebration of literacy and the written word. Each September, in communities coast to coast, the public is invited to participate in hundreds of author events, presentations and workshops and to browse a marketplace that boasts the best selection of Canadian books and magazines you'll find anywhere. The Word On The Street takes place in Toronto at the Harbourfront Centre (235 Queen Quay West) on Sunday, September 22, 2019 and features dozens of fantastic author readings, kids programming, author signings, food tents, and much more. Further festival programming through September can be found on The Word on the Street website.