Illustration of stacked books

Who We Are

Words shape our worlds.

They can delight, inspire, provoke, comfort and unite—as do the authors, journalists and poets who wield them. At the Vancouver Writers Fest we encourage readers of all ages to explore the power of storytelling, and books, through our dozens of events with local and international writers.

Our activities include both year-round programming and our flagship, annual literary Festival: one of the largest and most prestigious in North America. Tens of thousands of readers visit the cultural hub of Granville Island and venues around Vancouver to connect with local and international authors during this week-long event.

Throughout the year we offer free and paid events with established and emerging authors, in addition to youth education opportunities.

Find out more about our programs below.


History of the Festival

The Festival was inaugurated in 1988 by founding Artistic Director Alma Lee. Artistic Directors have included Alma Lee, Hal Wake and Leslie Hurtig.

In its 33 year history, the Vancouver Writers Fest has presented multiple award-winning writers from Canada and across the world including: Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, Madeleine Thien, Marlon James, Malcolm Gladwell, Roxane Gay, David Sedaris, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Esi Edugyan, Alice Munro, Salman Rushdie, Rachel Kushner, Kevin Kwan, Kate Atkinson, Ian McEwan, Thomas King, Naomi Klein, Ian Rankin, Marilynne Robinson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and more.

FAQ

When does the Festival happen?

The annual Festival happens in the third week of October. We also host a range of Special Events throughout the year, and a free reading series, Incite, in partnership with the Vancouver Public Library. The 2021 Festival takes place from October 18-24.

Are there events year-round?

Our Incite reading series runs twice monthly from January to June at the VPL Central Library. These events are free to the public. We also host Special Events throughout the year featuring acclaimed authors with newly released titles. The best way to hear about upcoming events is to subscribe to our free weekly e-newsletter, Books & Ideas, which includes information about upcoming events and links to interesting literary reviews and ideas.

Is the organization a registered charity?

Yes, our charitable registration number is 12260 5678 RR0001. If you make a cash donation to the Vancouver Writers Fest, we can issue a tax receipt. As our $40 membership comes with benefits such as discounts on tickets and at participating bookstores, that portion of your gift is not deductible.

How do I become a member?

Please see our Membership page for more details.

Are you hiring?

Any available job postings will be made available in the Get Involved section. Thank you for your interest in working with us.

When is the Festival lineup announced each year?

We announce our October program in mid-August, and the first of our Incite events in early January. Special Events are announced when finalized, usually at least four weeks prior to the date of the event.

Where is the Festival?

The 2021 Festival is a combination of digital and in-person events taking place on Granville Island in Vancouver.

How long are events? What are they like?

Most events are approximately 90 minutes unless otherwise noted. Sometimes solo events with one author are shorter, and events with an intermission are often slightly longer. Children’s events are usually under one hour. Events take many forms: readings, panel discussions, performances or interviews. All events are directed at the book-reading public.

Why aren’t there more practical “hands-on” courses or workshops offered for aspiring writers?

The focus of the VWF is on connecting writers with readers through interviews, performances, panel discussions and readings. Aspiring writers may wish to check out the Federation of BC Writers or look at many workshops offered by other organizations across the Lower Mainland.

How can I buy tickets?

You can purchase tickets on this website by visiting the event page you are interested in.

 

Are there surcharges on tickets?

The ticket prices posted will include GST and a nominal processing fee. The ticket amount you see listed is the final amount you will pay.

Will books be available for sale? May I bring a copy of a book to be signed?

At the time of writing, book signings are not possible during COVID-19. We will review this as the pandemic abates.

You can purchase Festival books at a discount from one of our local independent bookseller partners or from the Kidsbooks Festival Bookstore during the Festival.

 

May I bring children to the events?

Children are welcome at our events. Our Youth events have suggested age ranges between grades K-12. Please note there may be content only suitable for adults at other events. We ask our audience to use their own discretion if bringing children.

What age groups are your events suitable for?

Our events are suitable for a wide range of ages, and older children will often enjoy events for adults, depending on the nature of conversation or reading. In addition to our events for adults, we also offer events for children as part of the Festival in October. The age/grade level for school groups for our daytime educational events will be indicated in the Festival Program Guide.

What is your inclusivity policy?

Please see our About section to read our Inclusivity policy.

Are your events free?

Our in-person, Festival events are ticketed and are not free.

Pay What You Can pricing is available for all Fall 2021 digital events except for Book Club events.

The Incite reading series is free, as are numerous additional events throughout the year. We are a registered not for profit and rely on ticket sales in addition to generous donations.

We offer discounted tickets to students, and free tickets to social service or community organizations that are impeded by the cost of the events. Email info[at]writersfest.bc.ca for information.

How do I volunteer?

Positions vary from year to year, with a wide variety of jobs that can be done during Festival week. If you are interested in volunteering please email kfowler@writersfest.bc.ca and our Volunteer Coordinator will contact you in August when we are beginning the volunteer recruitment process for the Festival.

I’m not a writer, can I still get involved?

Yes! You can be an audience member, a Member of the Festival (discounts on Festival event tickets and earlybird ticket buying privileges), or a Volunteer. Our events are for readers—whether you are also a writer or not.

I’m a writer. How do I arrange to appear at the Festival?

Each year, approximately 110 writers are selected to appear in events at the October Festival. The Artistic Director accepts pitches from established publishing houses throughout the year. There is no application process as appearance is by invitation only. For unpublished and emerging writers, there are occasionally “open mic” events held during Festival week by partner organizations; please see the Festival program guide.

How are writers selected?

There are several criteria when it comes to writer selection. The Artistic Director tries to balance genres; regions of Canada; U.S. and International authors; established and emerging voices; large and small publishing houses; and books that fit themes within the Guest Curator’s vision. Our Youth Programming makes up approximately one third of our selected authors with a wide-representation of children’s titles. Most writers appear at the Vancouver Writers Fest to promote a new book published within the last year.

Do you pay authors?

Yes, we offer honorariums to all authors who appear at the Festival or at one of our events.

Inclusivity and Accessibility

The Vancouver Writers Fest believes engaging with stories, authors, and ideas is an inclusive endeavor. Our stages shine a light on human experiences, challenge personal perspectives, and build empathy. Thus they should be accessible to all.

During Festival Week and throughout the year in our Incite and Book Club events, VWF strives to create a welcoming and accessible space for everyone to engage with ideas that can transform our world.

For more information on how to access courtesy seating, sliding scale tickets, school subsidies, or request ASL interpretation (two weeks before event date), please email info@writersfest.bc.ca

We strive to provide safe, inclusive, low-barrier experiences for patrons by:

Supporting inclusion for people of varying abilities

  • All venues are accessible to people using mobility aids.
  • Courtesy Seating offered for anyone with mobility challenges, physical disabilities, or chronic pain.
  • Hearing Support provided through ASL interpretation at select events throughout Festival Week, and on request at all live events.  Live captioning provided for digital events.

Ensuring inclusion for people of all financial capacities

  • Pay-What-You-Can options at Festival events.
  • Subsidized tickets for schools.
  • Reduced ticket prices for seniors and young people (under 30).
  • A full season of free events through our INCITE series in partnership with the Vancouver Public Library.

Fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion for all participants

  • Gender-neutral facilities at all venues.
  • Sensory sensitivity – we request all patrons limit the use of heavily scented perfumes and products.
  • We ensure we always have a real, live person to talk to (or buy tickets from) for those who don’t have access to or patience with the internet.

Team

Year-Round Team

Leslie Hurtig

Leslie Hurtig

Artistic Director

Leslie was born into a house of books and has made her career from various points within Canada’s book industry. She has worked for some of Canada’s best bookstores, acted as a sales representative and publicist for some of North America’s great publishers, and worked as a foreign rights and contracts manager at Raincoast Books. Leslie sat on the Board of Directors for the Vancouver Writers Fest before taking on this role as Artistic Director; a role which she says is her dream job come true.

kaile shilling

Kaile Shilling

Executive Director

Kaile has spent the last two decades working for nonprofits focused on supporting young people and the power of stories and creativity to foster change. She graduated from Harvard University, where she focused on the role of the arts as a means of expressing and shifting social values, and has a Master of Theological Studies from Loyola Marymount University. She lives in Vancouver with her journalist husband and their two awesome little bookworms (aka kids)!

Chelsee Damen

Chelsee Damen

Operations Manager

Chelsee has a philosophy BA from VIU. She founded the Nanaimo Fringe, where she was GM 2011-16. Chelsee then covered a series of leave replacements at Vancouver Fringe 2016-17 as Managing Director and Executive Director, before joining the Writers Fest in 2018. Her interests include neurodiversity, resilience, resurgence, music, and the way words bridge the gap.

Chelsee is a second generation Canadian and grew up in Calgary. She also studied child development, worked as a preschool educator, and spent four summers mentoring young feminists at the original Girls Rock Camp in Portland.

Zoe Grams

Zoe Grams

Marketing & Publicity Director, ZG Stories

Zoe is Principal of the marketing agency ZG Stories. Following an MA in Philosophy, Zoe began her career at a trend-marketing agency in London, UK, before moving to Canada where she worked with some of Vancouver’s top PR firms, followed by D&M Publishers.

She has conceived and executed marketing campaigns for award-winning authors, publishers and charities across North America and writes regularly for publications on both sides of the Atlantic. Zoe is former Co-Chair and Director of The KidSafe Project and a current Director of WISH Drop-In Centre Society. When she is not immersed in books, Zoe travels, walks, and seeks out new varieties of pungent cheese.

Ariel Hudnall

Ariel Hudnall

Marketing & Publicity Manager, ZG Stories

Ariel holds a Masters of Publishing from Simon Fraser University. She has been a traveler for most of her life, born in the bayous of Louisiana and raised along the coast of California, before heading east for Asia.

During a six-year stint in Japan, Ariel worked extensively with award-winning culture magazine Kyoto Journal as a consultant and designer, helping the team navigate shifting publishing landscapes. She has also worked as a workshop facilitator, teaching authors how to build up their online presence, community manager and marketer for an independent self-publishing community and is currently also the Communications Manager at ZG Stories.

Lauren Dembicky-Polivka

Lauren Dembicky-Polivka

Development Manager

Lauren initially moved to Vancouver from Toronto to complete her Master of Publishing at SFU and ended up staying for the ocean, mountains, and craft beer. Working at literary magazines—The New Quarterly and Geist—gave her a passion for short stories and emerging writers.

When not binging Bob’s Burgers, she can be found balancing her ever-growing book collection with garden gnomes of every size, shape, and colour.

Leena Desai

Leena Desai

Outreach Coordinator

Leena is a recent graduate of the Master of Publishing program at Simon Fraser University. She earned her degree in 2018. She has worked on magazines since 2011, with a two-year stint at Architectural Digest with Condé Nast India. Her work experience before that includes several film and television projects in her hometown of Mumbai.

Leena is a cinephile and devours the fantasy and sci-fi genre in both books and movies.

Sarah Wang

Sarah Wang

Programming Coordinator

Sarah has a BA in international relations and history of art, and a graduate certificate in museum studies. Having initially worked in government research in Canada and Europe, she found herself gravitating more toward the arts, working for the Vancouver Art Gallery and serving on the Board(s) of the Roedde House Museum, CARFAC BC, SEARA Fund and researching for museum institutions in the United States and South America.

She comes to the Vancouver Writers Fest as a “born again” reader of fiction, particularly literature in translation from Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe. Outside of work, her interests include eating charcuterie, watching boxing and making some of the best unintentionally lopsided ceramics in the city.

Matt Ros

Matt Ros

Operations & Admin Coordinator

Matt has a BA in Computer Science and a minor in Italian Studies from Duke University. Before returning to his hometown here in Vancouver, he did three years of technical training in New York City, working in operations and software roles for two start-ups.

In good weather, Matt enjoys riding his commuter bike to get around town. He also likes to visit independent movie theatres, where he first started to realize the power of art, ideas, and storytelling.

Joyce Wan

Joyce Wan

Marketing & Digital Production Coordinator

Joyce has a BA in English Literature from UBC, with a minor in human geography. After graduating, she taught English and worked as a freelance travel and culture writer for two years in Hokkaido, Japan. She has worked for the BC Alliance for Arts + Culture and served on the board of the Car Free Vancouver Society, overseeing the Vancouver Car Free Day festivals, where she developed a passion for arts festivals.

Joyce enjoys books, bike rides, travelling, and basically anything else that could be described as magical.

Team

Our Additional,
Festival-Time Team

Kathryn Fowler

Volunteer Manager

Kathryn loves the Vancouver Writers Fest, its celebration of words, the discoveries it offers and the communities forged anew every year. A VWF volunteer for 11 years beginning in the mid-90s, she also oversaw volunteers for The Playhouse for three seasons before joining the festival staff in 2006.

Kathryn reads, walks and sings and is always keen to renew friendships from festivals past and to take on challenges of the next.

Eduardo Ottoni

Eduardo Ottoni

Production Manager

Passionate about arts and culture, and building community through live events, Eduardo has over 25 years of experience in the production industry. It’s no secret that the Writers Fest was the first festival in the city to hire him as a Production Manager way back in 2003, and he has worked with us ever since!

Is it his love for fiction, the great crew and volunteers he gets to work with, or maybe it’s because he gets to set up his desk next to Kathryn Fowler every year? All we know is that he calls the Writers Fest his family.

Ben Anton

Box Office Manager

Benjamin has a double bachelors in Media Studies and Cinema. Originally from France, he arrived in Vancouver seven years ago and has been working for local cultural organizations, managing box office, and coordinating theatres’ development. At heart, he strives to help and democratize a fair, equal and easy access to culture and arts while ensuring both patrons’ and artists’ positive experience.

Ben is passionate about storytelling, Queer studies, ecofeminism and science fiction. He enjoys spending his free time walking in nature, carrying his own kind of “Essentials” in his backpack; a book, a water bottle, coffee, and an almond croissant.

Team

Our Board

A statement from the Board of Directors

The Vancouver Writers Fest recognizes the systemic imbalances that exist and persist in the environments we create and work within. We recognize the ongoing work of members of our community, who work in the face of great barriers to right those imbalances, and we are committed to working together and in solidarity toward the goal of a more equitable and just environment for our authors, audiences, volunteers, staff, and communities. In pursuit of these goals, we commit to utilizing our resources, identifying our internal biases, and applying our varied privileges and skills with purpose. In this process, we commit to remaining open and accountable to our mistakes.

We remain grateful to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people for their shared knowledge and guidance on these lands, as we attempt to move forward in a good way, fostering a world in which the transformative power of books and ideas is the foundation of an empathetic, inspired and just society on these unceded territories.

The Vancouver Writers Fest strives to create a welcoming space for everyone to engage with ideas that can transform our world. Safety, inclusion and acceptance are essential components of our Festival and our values.

Alexia Jones

Alexia Jones

Chair

Alexia launched Alexia Jones HR/LR Consulting in 2019 where she develops partnerships and collaboration between managers, union representatives, employees and other stakeholders in order to strategize successful approaches to complex labour relations issues and implement creative solutions to workplace problems. Alexia has worked in HR/LR in both the public and private sectors for over 20 years.

Outside of work, Alexia is an avid fan of reading and in particular loves Canadian literature. The book club that Alexia belongs to is over 10 years strong and have often been heard to describe themselves as a wine club with a reading problem.

Kyla Epstein

Kyla Epstein

Vice-Chair

Kyla Epstein lives with her child on the ancestral and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples also known as Vancouver, BC. Kyla is thrilled to be serving on the VWF board and co-chairing the Equity & Justice Committee.

As the Member Engagement Officer for the BCIT Faculty & Staff Association Kyla works to support people who are working every day for high-quality, applied, public post-secondary education.

Robert McLean

Treasurer

As Vice President of Connor, Clark and Lunn Private Capital, Robert provides access to a comprehensive range of services to help build and protect wealth. Specializing in charitable giving strategies, he works with families, corporations and foundations to enhance their philanthropic legacy.

Robert is heavily involved with educating youth on the topics of financial literacy and fiscal responsibility. Through seminars, classroom presentations and mentorship opportunities, he looks to engage with students in classrooms and lecture halls around British Columbia.

Actively supporting local sports and charities, you can often find Robert at fundraisers and community events throughout the greater Vancouver area. Robert has a tendency towards reading non-fiction but occasionally dips into his wife’s library of classical literature and modern fiction. He proudly founded the Vancouver Club’s Literary Society.

Holman Wang

Holman Wang

Secretary

Holman Wang is a lawyer who also finds time to make children’s books. He and his brother, Jack, are the twin powers behind the board book series Cozy Classics and Star Wars Epic Yarns, which abridge literary and cinematic classics into just 12 words and 12 needle-felted images.

In 2015, they created a Google Doodle celebrating Laura Ingalls Wilder. Their unique artwork has been exhibited around the world, including at The Original Art exhibition in New York (Society of Illustrators), the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and the National Museum of Play.

Hurriya Burney

Hurriya Burney

Hurriya Burney is a full-time banker and a part-time blogger. As Vice President – Commercial Banking, at RBC, Hurriya, along with her team, is committed to supporting the growth of small and mid-sized local businesses. Outside of work, Hurriya enjoys mentoring early-career professionals and sharing insights on leadership, careers, and diversity on her blog on Medium.com. Hurriya holds an MBA in Finance from the University of British Columbia.

Natascha Kiernan

Natascha Kiernan

Natascha Kiernan is an experienced independent director who currently serves on several public, private and non-profit boards. She is also the principal and founder of Bellevue Strategic Advisory, which advises clients on the negotiation and structuring of major corporate transactions.

Natascha previously practiced corporate law for approximately 15 years and held senior positions at several major international law firms in both New York and London. Prior to relocating to Vancouver with her family, she was a Counsel in the London office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom where she represented corporations, financial institutions and international governments in mergers and acquisitions, complex debt and equity financings and other strategic transactions.

Natascha holds a J.D. from Columbia University School of Law and a B.A. from the University of Victoria, where she studied Creative Writing and English Literature. Despite pursuing a busy corporate career, she has always maintained her love of writing and literature and she is passionate about creating opportunities for those of all ages to engage with writers and the written word.

Tracy Rogers

Tracy Rogers

Tracy has been a lover of books for as long as she can remember, happily reading anything and everything, and is thrilled to join the Vancouver Writer’s Fest Board. Her love of literature propelled her to complete her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature from the University of British Columbia, but as a realist, Tracy knew she did not have the creative chops it takes to actually write a novel, so she turned her mind towards business where she has worked at the executive level in Human Resources for the past twenty plus years.

Currently, Tracy is Vice-President, Human Resources for the McLean Group of Companies, leading and developing all HR strategy and initiatives for their diverse business portfolio including: Vancouver Film Studios, Blackcomb Helicopters, Signal Communications, Pacific Backlot Services, Blanca Realty, and Harbour Landing Construction. Prior to joining the McLean Group: worked as HR Director, Western Canada for Unisource, a publicly held Fortune 500 Company. Handled 1500 employees including unions across Western Canada, as well as highly involved in HR strategy within the U.S., and Mexico. Other previous work includes consulting and mentor leadership.

In addition to her B.A., Tracy holds an MBA from Royal Roads University, post-graduate Diploma in HR Management from BCIT, and a Chartered Professional Human Resources designation.

Amanda Ross

Amanda Ross

Amanda Ross is a longtime Contributing Editor of both Vancouver magazine and Western Living magazine, as well as former Contributing Editor of enRoute magazine and Avenue magazine.

As a veteran of the magazine world, she’s been Editor-in-Chief of various publication (Deckchair, HomeSpa) and continues to freelance for myriad publications including the Globe and Mail, Travel + Leisure, Relais & Chateaux, Chatelaine and BCBusiness. She’s a keen Jane Austen devotee thanks to a Masters in 19th-century British Literature, but she’s equally as passionate about travel and design.

Nisha Sikka

Nisha Sikka

Nisha lives on the unceded traditional territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam peoples, also known as Vancouver, BC, with her husband and two cats. Nisha is a lawyer at First Peoples Law LLP, where she represents Indigenous Peoples on a variety of matters. Nisha obtained her J.D. from the University of Alberta and her Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Simon Fraser University.

Outside of work, Nisha is an active volunteer. She is the legislative liaison for the Canadian Bar Association’s Aboriginal law section (B.C. Branch) and volunteers as Duty Counsel for a variety of Amici Curaie’s free legal clinics. Nisha loves literature, travel and photography.

Volunteer

We love our volunteers!

Volunteers are the backbone of Festival Week, and we’re proud to have so many returning volunteers each year.

Our volunteers help with author hospitality, box office, raffle, book sales, photography, social media amplification, copying, printing, and Program Guide distribution. We provide light snacks, good cheer, and a chance to hang with some of the most exciting thinkers on the planet.

Click here for more information about volunteering.

If you’re a photographer willing to volunteer your skills, please email our marketing team.

Due to rapidly changing Covid health policies, we’re unsure of our volunteer requirements this year, so expect lots of last-minute changes and please be patient and understanding. Returning volunteers receive scheduling priority and will sign up for shifts first. First Time volunteers will be invited to register and sign up for remaining shifts as of September 16th.

For further information, please contact the Volunteer Manager Kathryn Fowler at kfowler@writersfest.bc.ca.

VWF Programs

The Festival

Our flagship October
Festival on Granville Island.

The highlight of our year, our week-long Festival welcomes more than 20,000 attendees to Granville Island and thousands more from around the globe through our online streaming platforms. Featuring 100+ events at venues of all sizes, our events are highly curated, offering audiences the opportunity to listen to world-leading writers in conversation about a range of themes.

In addition to curation by our Artistic Director, the Festival welcomes a Guest Curator and Spoken Word Curator to envision multiple events each year.

Special Events

Special Events

Year-round events for celebrated new releases.

During our Special Events, we host some of the most celebrated names in the Canadian and international literary community. These sold-out events take place on Vancouver’s premiere stages, igniting conversation and book buying, or virtually with a book and ticket model when social distancing is required.

Incite

Free springtime events in collaboration with Vancouver Public Library.

Our free reading series offers conversations between authors every two weeks from January to June, presented in partnership with the Vancouver Public Library and with support from the Vancouver Downtown Business Improvement Association. Guests include emerging authors and established writers, speaking with a moderator and each other about multiple themes

Youth

Books, events and resources to spark students’ imaginations.

Our Youth Education Programming (YEP) connects students with celebrated writers from across the globe through a series of initiatives. These include our flagship Festival events designed specifically for young people, teachers, schools and student groups, in addition to our Writers in the Classroom program and Youth Writing contest. Discover more about YEP here.

Books & Brunch

Sumptuous food, views and ideas on Granville Island.

Books & Brunch combines author conversation with a delicious brunch at Dockside Restaurant in the boutique Granville Island Hotel. These spring and summer events regularly sell out, and have previously featured authors Shelley Wood (The Quintland Sisters), Terry Fallis (The Albatross) and Karma Brown (Recipe for a Perfect Wife).

Book Club

Our quarterly book and ticket series with world-renowned authors

These special events, which include a copy of the author’s book and a chance to receive a signed bookplate, provide readers across Canada the opportunity to hear from some of the literary world’s most exemplary talents in intimate Q&As and conversations.

The Book Club is presented in partnership with SFU Continuing Studies.

Whisky & Words

Our annual whisky tasting fundraiser

During weekend-long events, patrons can attend Masterclasses, enjoy world class whisky and favourite local food pairings. Our primary fundraising event has been a vital source of revenue to support our Youth Education Program, connecting over 7,000 BC kids to celebrated writers, empowering them to see the impact of books and words on enhancing our community.

Visit whiskywords.ca for more information.

My Roots

A writing workshop for new immigrants to explore their craft

Our annual, two-day writing workshop encourages immigrants to develop and share their stories of place, as mentored by an award-winning writer and teacher. Through a mix of writing exercises and easy lessons on how to write well, the workshop encouraged writers at all levels to think imaginatively about those places and landscapes called ‘home’.