Literary festival attracts crowds despite weather
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
Word Vancouver, formerly Word on the Street, returned to the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch on September 29 for its 19th year of celebrating all things literary.
Even with the rain, book lovers across the Lower Mainland came to see the displays, book sales, presentations, and more.
Writer Anne Fleming welcomed the wet weather because to her, “rainy days and books go together.”
Poet Billeh Nickerson said the rain wouldn’t be an issue because “we’re from Vancouver, we know what it’s like.” He added, “We’re not going to melt or rust or anything.”
But that didn’t stop event supervisors from moving almost the entire festival inside the library, only leaving a few tents and the Poetry in Motion transit bus outdoors, in hopes to avoid any weather-related issues.
“One year the poetry tent blew down,” Nickerson recalled. “I still feel sorry for all those poets because, of all the people, the poets didn’t deal with it very well. Because they were like, ‘Where’s my poetry venue?’ And then having to explain to them that it blew away.”
Now that the festival is Word Vancouver and not Word on the Street, it may no longer need to be outdoors on the street.
Fleming and Nickerson read their recent essays from the latest issue of Event magazine, the literary magazine of Douglas College, at a talk called A Non-Fiction Edition, presented by Event. The talk took place in a library meeting room with dozens of attendees.
Fleming’s essay, “Novels Are for Children,” examined how the more books a reader consumes, the more aware of the mechanical aspect of plot and character development they become.
“As a kid, I didn’t have that same kind of critical eye,” she explained. “Or if I saw the puppet strings, I didn’t care. I just kept wanting to read.”
She read her essay with a variety of random, interjected comments throughout, including a tidbit about a pet snail she had as a child.
Fleming has a special place in her heart for Event because the magazine published one of her first stories.
“I can’t overstate how great literary magazines like Event are for providing that publishing venue for beginning writers,” she said in an interview with the Other Press. “It’s such a fantastic affirmation of your work when someone takes your stories and then you have this ongoing relationship with the magazine.”
Nickerson previously worked with Event as an editor, and most recently wrote an essay of anecdotal stories about his adventures in the writing world, titled “Shelagh Rogers Called Me a Slut and Other True Stories.”
He read several of the stories, including one about a past experience he had at Word on the Street during his performance in Poetry in Transit, where poets read their work to an audience on a parked city bus.
The festival is also a venue for new writers to get their start, such as musician-turned-author Geoff Berner, who read from his upcoming book Festival Man at the CUPE tent, one of the few tents that stayed outdoors for the day.
“It’s my first writer’s festival,” he said. “The first event of a big Canadian tour where I’m going to be hitting pretty much every city in the country.”
His next event will be a book launch for Festival Man at Pulpfiction Books in Vancouver on October 12.
Word Vancouver is a great way for writers to come together and connect in a casual environment. Fleming and Nickerson have presented together before and promise not to be boring, especially when they joke about promised food in their interviews.
“I owe Billeh a cheese plate,” Fleming said. “This one time we were in a line-up for a movie at the film fest, but then we couldn’t get in so we went and we had a cheese plate and I had no money and Billeh paid and I haven’t paid him back yet.”
Nickerson added, “She has owed me a cheese plate for so long—oh my God. It feels like probably a good seven years. It’s epic. She’s going to have to give me aged cheese, that’s how old it’s been.”
Word Vancouver will return next fall to celebrate its 20th anniversary.