IFOA 2016 poster art is here!

We are very excited to share IFOA’s 2016 festival poster art, designed by acclaimed Canadian cartoonist Seth!

Seth has appeared multiple times at past IFOA events, and his art is part of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s permanent collection. His illustrations have appeared in the New Yorker, The Walrus, and Canadian Notes & Queries, and his comics have appeared in New York Times Magazine, Best American Comics, and McSweeneys Quarterly.

Look for his IFOA design on postcards, programs, and our site as we approach festival season!

IFOA Poster

Seth will also be curating the Five Ways exhibit in the Harbourfront Centre’s Artport Gallery.  

In this exhibition a spotlight is directed at five diverse contemporary cartoonists.  Each with a unique approach to the comics medium.  Each using comics for their own artistic expression.  Each quite different from the others. From fiction to memoir, from slice of life to the absurd, from tightly realistic to the expressionistic–five artists, five ways.The exhibition features the works of Nina Bunjevac, Michael Deforge, Nick Drnaso, Jon McNaught, and Chris Oliveros and we’re thrilled to have all these artists participating in the Festival this year.

Five Ways runs from September 24th to December 22nd, 2016.


Inaugural Canadian Writers’ Summit Unites 14 National Writing Organizations

Unique career development opportunities on offer to Canadian writers

Toronto – May 16, 2016 Fourteen Canadian writing and reading organizations have joined forces to present the inaugural Canadian Writers’ Summit (#CWS2016), a four-day super-conference for writers and publishing industry professionals. The largest national gathering of its kind, #CWS2016 presents a unique opportunity in terms of programming, ideas, and networking for the Canadian writing community, and efficiencies for the participating organizations. The conference features more than 200 panellists and speakers in more than 75 events and is expected to draw over 500 writers and readers from across Canada. #CWS2016 takes place from June 15 to 19 at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.

#CWS2016 sprang from discussions at the National Summit of Writers’ Associations (NSWA), a gathering organized by the Writers’ Trust of Canada in 2014 that brought together national, provincial, and territorial writers’ organizations to share initiatives and explore collaborative ways to better serve writers across Canada. For the organizers, the resulting #CWS2016, which replaces in alternate years the individual conferences of many, delivers improved efficiencies, broader and higher-quality programming, and greater cross-pollination opportunities than the groups could achieve in isolation. For attendees, there are many more events on offer as well as more opportunities to meet and collaborate with their fellow Canadian writers across disciplines.

Conference attendees will choose from events including professional development sessions, keynote talks, pedagogy and policy discussions, scholarly presentations, public lectures, and social gatherings, as well as plenary and annual general meetings of organizing groups of which they are a member. Discussion topics range from how to write a successful grant application, with Canada Council Director and CEO Simon Brault, to opportunities for Canadian writers overseas, to the writer’s craft. #CWS2016 also includes Book Summit, an annual one-day conference focusing on book-publishing issues and trends.

“What began as an idea at the National Summit of Writers’ Associations has emerged as an extraordinary collaboration among the many groups representing and championing Canada’s writers,” said Mary Osborne, executive director of the Writers’ Trust of Canada. “The opportunity for the country’s playwrights, children’s authors, poets, novelists, nonfiction writers and more to come together at such a richly programmed professional-development event is a boon for writers and will be a gift, ultimately, to readers.”

The participating organizations are: Book and Periodical Council (BPC), Canadian Authors Association (CAA), Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs (CCWWP), Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP), Creative Nonfiction Collective Society (CNFC), The Humber School for Writers, International Festival of Authors (IFOA), League of Canadian Poets (LCP), National Reading Campaign (NRC), Playwrights Guild of Canada (PGC), Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois (UNEQ), Writers’ Trust of Canada (WT), The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC).

Large contingents of members of these organizations are expected to attend, but #CWS2016 welcomes anyone interested in writing and publishing in Canada to participate. The program is designed to be flexible to allow participants to attend events most relevant to their interests. Information on how to purchase single or multi-day passes is available at canadianwriterssummit.com.

Included in the more than 75 lectures, discussions, and presentations that make up #CWS2016 are a limited number of marquee events open to those not attending the conference. Ticketed events include keynote addresses by Lawrence Hill, Nalo Hopkinson, Kenneth Oppel, and Jean Little; free events include play and poetry readings, and a literary award presentation. A mini book fair will also be on site. Information about attending these individual events is available at canadianwriterssummit.com/public-events.

#CWS2016 is grateful to a number of sponsors and supporters without whom the event would not have been possible. A full list of supporters can be found at canadianwriterssummit.com.



For more information and interview requests, please contact:

Becky Toyne: 416-871-0502; bt@beckytoyne.com

Calling all poets!

1 stage. 20 poets. 1 winner.

The popular poetry competition returns in 2016 to feature 20 of Canada’s upcoming and established poets! One poet will receive an automatic invitation to read at the 37th edition of the International Festival of Authors AND an ad for their book in NOW!

Poetry NOW is presented in partnership with NOW Magazine.11 Poetry NOW logo

Poetry NOW FAQ

IFOA is inviting submissions for Poetry NOW: 8th annual Battle of the Bards. However, with a special event comes some special rules. Even if you’ve submitted/presented work here before, please read on to find out what’s what:


So what’s this all about, anyway?

In 2009, IFOA posted its first-ever open call for submissions. Poets 35 and younger were invited to be part of a celebration of our 35 years in the reading series business. The standard of entries was astonishing, and the resulting event was one of the highlights of our year. The event returned in 2010, but was opened up to published poets of all ages. 2010 also saw a new partnership with our friends at NOW Magazine, and that collaboration continues this year.

I’m pretty good, y’know. Will there be any sort of prize?

Oh yes. One reader will win an automatic invitation to appear at the 37th edition of the International Festival of Authors (October 20–30, 2016) AND an ad for their most recent book of poetry in NOW Magazine! Not bad, eh?!

Who is eligible for Poetry NOW?

You must be published by a trade publisher in a collection that is all your own work (so anthologies, literary journals and magazines aren’t eligible, sorry). Your book must have been published within the last five years, and it must be currently in print.

This one seems kind of obvious, but you must also be in Toronto on March 30 and available between 5pm and 10pm. (Sorry, we are unable to cover car/train/boat/plane or accommodation expenses.)

I was part of last year’s event, can I still enter for the 2016 event?

Absolutely. We’d love to have you back. Besides, maybe you have a new book out since last year’s event…?

What sets Poetry NOW apart from your regular weekly literary events?

We’ll be featuring 20 readers in one event, instead of our usual two or three. And we won’t be making a judgment call about who gets an invite. If you fit the criteria and your name gets pulled out of the hat, you’re in!

Do I need to pre-register? Or can I just sign up on the night?

Although we’re throwing open the call for submissions, we will be confirming the line-up several weeks in advance and liaising with publishers to promote the event according to our usual procedures. Submissions must be made by your publisher by Monday, February 29 at noon.

(See our submission guidelines for publishers below.)

What’s the closing date for submissions?

Monday, February 29 at noon.

How many authors will get to read at the event? And for how long?

20 authors will read for up to 3 minutes each.

How will you choose the readers?

Submissions that fit the above criteria will go into a draw. You have as much chance of being selected as the next person.

Who picks the winner?

Judges to be announced shortly.

When will I find out if I’m in?

Publishers will be notified and details confirmed by March 4. We’ll announce the line-up March 7.

What if I have more than one publisher? Can they both submit my work?

By all means, but we will only put your name in the draw once. (Also, see below re: books being for sale on the night of the event.)

Will my books be for sale at the event?

Yes, but we will require each presenting poet or their publishing representative to bring the books on a consignment basis. Your publisher can arrange these details with us once we have the line-up confirmed.

I have lots of friends/family/groupies. How can they all come and support me?

Tickets are $10 (free to our supporters, students with valid ID and youth 25 & under) and can be purchased online soon. Stay tuned!

Don’t forget that we offer a 50% discount to all our events to members of the League of Canadian Poets (and also the Writers’ Union of Canada, the Playwrights Guild of Canada and TPL’s New Collection).

Will there be a bar?

You betcha!


Please submit eligible titles by email to programming@ifoa.org by Monday, February 29 at noon.

You must include the following information:

  • Name of Author
  • Brief bio
  • Eligible title(s) and their year(s) of publications

Please write “Poetry NOW” in the subject line.

And please let us know if we already have the book under consideration for our regular weekly event series.

Once the 20 authors have been picked, we will contact the relevant publishers to confirm details.

At that point, you will be required to send:

  • 3 copies of the book the author will be presenting
  • An author bio and brief synopsis of the book
  • An author photo and book cover image (both as high res. jpegs)

Coming Home to IFOA

By Sheniz Janmohamed

When I was a kid, I used to visit my local library almost every week. I filled my book bag to the brim and looked forward to reading new stories every night. Although I’m much older and more jaded now, there is still a sense of wonder and joy that takes over me when I walk into a library.

Owen Sheers reading at IFOA Markham © ifoa.org

Owen Sheers reading at IFOA Markham © ifoa.org

Stepping into a library knowing that you’re going to listen to authors read from books contained in that very library—well, there’s nothing more ‘meta’ than that. After years of organizing IFOA Markham, this was the first year I listened, observed and participated as an audience member. This was the first time it was held in the presence of thousands of books. It felt right. The library was transformed—a place that I would never dare eat in (for fear of ruining a book) was lined with long tables stacked with food—from samosas to falafel to gelato. Anyone knows that the way to a writer’s heart is good food (or is that just the way to my heart?). Authors Giles Blunt, Owen Sheers and Nino Ricci circulated in the crowd of readers, chatting with young writers, librarians and community members. In fact, they were so engrossed in getting to know the Markham community that one of the event organizers had to come back a few times to escort them backstage—proof that they felt at home in our hometown.

The evening began with a ceremony acknowledging the achievements of young writers in Markham. The mayor of Markham, Frank Scarpitti, presented awards to up-and-coming teen writers who participated in the Markham Teen Arts Council’s “Word Up!” Contest. I found this to be an apt beginning for a Lit On Tour event, as it reminded us of the talent we have within our own community, and it gave young writers something tangible to aspire to.

Giles Blunt was first to read—donning the voice of an old monk, he transported us to the monastery where his latest novel, The Hesitation Cut, is located. A line that stayed with me included this one: “his robe flapping around him like a personal storm.”

Owen Sheers illuminated his reading with insights into the process of writing the book, including this gem: “When does a confession become a selfish, not an altruistic act?”

Nino Ricci closed the night with haunting passages from Sleep, describing autumn in all its glory, “…the trees flame up like an apocalypse in their autumn colours.”

After their readings, the authors were gracious enough to take questions from audience members. A young writer asked for advice on becoming a better writer. Owen Sheers had three words for her, “read, read, read”. He also pointed out that he began his writing career by entering literary competitions. Another question arose about the development of book titles and how they were chosen. Nino Ricci wanted to change his original title, but his publisher opted to keep it, whereas Owen Sheers was told to change his title but fought to keep it. They all spoke about tricking themselves into writing, or as Sheers put it, “writing from the corner of my eye.” The authors spoke about the challenge of getting stuck halfway through a novel, and how they push through the writing process. Giles Blunt confessed that after writing 100 pages of The Hesitation Cut, he couldn’t write anymore. He decided to write it longhand, as it allowed him to focus on writing first and editing later. Ricci echoed this sentiment, “Writing longhand allows for editing after not during the writing process. It allows one to release the editorial impulse.”

The conversation was lively, and the authors were genuinely surprised when the Markham Arts Council handed them gifts at the end of the night (another way to a writer’s heart: free gifts). It was an inspiring, heartwarming celebration of writing and reading and a full circle for me—the little girl who loved visiting her hometown library is still alive and well.

Sheniz Janmohamed is an author, artist educator and spoken word artist. She has performed nationally and internationally for over 10 years and has been featured at various venues, including the Jaipur Literature Festival, TedxYouth@Toronto and the Aga Khan Museum. She is also the author of two collections of poetry: Bleeding Light and Firesmoke. Sheniz facilitates creative writing workshops for writers of all ages and has recently completed her Arts Education certification at The Royal Conservatory in Toronto.

Writers’ Writers

By Janet Somerville

writers' writersCanadian novelist Catherine Bush moderated this engaging panel featuring Marina Endicott, Anne Enright and Patrick Gale and began the conversation by asking, “How did you come to shape your novel?” Endicott “wanted to compress time and look at things closely and squeezed the narrative into one week” in Close to Hugh. Confessing to her modernist impulse to put things side by side, Enright said, “I spent a year improvising and working on characters. I want each to have the book, so it’s like four little novels in the first half” of The Green Road. And, Gale admitted that for A Place Called Winter, “I feel no one character can know everything. I wanted to be self-consciously Edwardian by channeling E.M. Forster. And, also like Elena Ferrante, who said, I publish to be read, so I make the pages as dense as possible, but easy to turn.”

Bush wondered if any of them were aware of their reader as they write. For Enright, “there’s no excuse for a dull page. I don’t indulge anne enrightthe reader at all, but I hope I pleasure them in the sentences. Each paragraph has to end someplace unexpected.” Endicott added, “I want the reader to know my characters and to enjoy being with them even if it’s painful.” Gale insisted he wanted readers “to forget they are reading.” As for writers, they read in an envious or passionate way, Gale was quick to note “Anne Tyler and Colm Toibin write books I wish I’d written and Middlemarch was the first time I read a novel that was a world.” Enright praised Edward St. Aubyn and Marilynne Robinson and Henry James and slagged Joyce’s Dubliners because when she was Young. It “felt like I was reading about my relatives and how boring they were,” though she later grew to admire the beauty of the prose. Endicott re-reads Penelope Fitzgerald because “her novels are so perfect, especially The Blue Flower.”

All three were ebullient about the editing process, Enright noting she had a copy editor who “rinses out the commas and semi-colons. It’s like sending your punctuation to a spa,” and also insisted that, “you want an editor to serve the book on its own terms. Their notes should be obvious.” Gale confessed he had “a secret editor that my main editor doesn’t know about.” And, Endicott admitted she loved, loved, loved editing because “the first draft is so difficult for me.” The audience full of readers nodded in understanding when Enright closed by saying, “When I was young, my interior life was all I had.” And, that Canadians were “lucky to have Alice Munro and Alistair Macleod in letters and in life.” We are. We are, indeed.

Follow Janet Somerville on Twitter @janetsomerville.

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