by: Amy Jones
The Delegate Programme is an opportunity for local authors and journalists to enrich the level of discussion at select events throughout the International Festival of Authors. Amy Jones—author of We Are All in This Together—wrote about her experience as an IFOA 2017 delegate and for her, the Festival became a community for writers.
In the six years I lived in Thunder Bay, I never missed a Lit on Tour event that came to town. Every year, it was the event I looked forward to the most—the chance to see writers I admired, to meet up with other book lovers, to attend master classes taught by CanLit superstars, to talk about writing and reading and all things literary.
When November rolled around, we all bundled up and headed out to the Prince Arthur Hotel or the Airlane or the Thunder Bay Art Gallery to see Jane Urqhart, or Ania Szado, or Alexander MacLeod, or Michael Winter. It felt like we had a community; it felt like we were part of something. And for myself at the time, an aspiring writer living in a city that seemed worlds away from the rest of the writing world, that meant everything.
Since then, IFOA has given me so many opportunities—to participate in the Festival at Harbourfront, to moderate and host discussions in the IFOA Weekly series, and even to return to Thunder Bay as a participant in Lit on Tour. This year, I was given possibly the best opportunity of all: to be a delegate, and attend as many IFOA events as my sleep-deprived body could possibly take in. I was able to see writers I already greatly admired—Andre Alexis, Helen Humphreys, Drew Hayden Taylor, Claire Cameron—and discover new favourites.
I learned about writing the political, about how writers research, about genre and poetry and why short stories are so damn hard to write. But the best part of all was the knowledge that wherever I went throughout the Festival, I was surrounded by a group of people who were all there for the same reason: a love of literature.
Writing may be a solitary pursuit, but that doesn’t mean that writers have to be solitary people. We need a community to support us, to inspire us, to challenge us, to shore us up against the rising tide of ignorance around us. IFOA brings us all together, and there is power in those numbers. The world might tell you that books are dying, but when you are sitting in the Fleck Theatre, or Miss Lou’s Room, or the hospitality suite at the Westin, listening to the excited conversations of everyone around you, you know it’s not true.
Books are alive and well in the hearts of the people who love them, who create them, who buy them, who write about them, who talk about them. You feel it. And that’s community.
Amy Jones won the 2006 CBC Literary Prize for Short Fiction and was a finalist for the 2005 Bronwen Wallace Award. She is a graduate of the Optional Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at UBC, and her fiction has appeared in Best Canadian Stories and The Journey Prize Stories. Her debut collection of stories, What Boys Like, was the winner of the 2008 Metcalf-Rooke Award and a finalist for the 2010 ReLit Award.