On the weekend of November 6-8, the Canadian literary magazine The New Quartley (TNQ) hosted its fourth annual Wild Writer’s Literary Festival in its birthplace Waterloo, Ontario. As an emerging writer, a Wilfrid Laurier University alumna, and resident of Brampton, this was an important event for me worth travelling for. It was empowering to witness the intersection of two very important Canadian literary communities, as the FOLD’s Artistic Director, Jael Richardson, was a panelist within WWF.
I was especially interested in the panel Richardson was a part of, entitled “Writing Your Way Home: On Race, Immigration & Belonging”: not only because the words in the title resonated with me, but also because this panel was comprised of very distinctive individuals. These were writers not commonly seen at literary events, and a group that I felt represented me as a young woman of colour. All three panelists (including Richardson) were published authors, Canadians, visible women of colour and mothers, among many other things, who led an eye-opening, heart-warming, and uniquely inspiring discussion rich with insight from their personal life stories.
Richardson started the panel by joking that a panel of diverse writers is not truly so without names that are difficult to pronounce referencing the other respected panelists: Tasneem Jamal, author of Where the Air is Sweet, and Ayelet Tsabari, author of The Best Place on Earth. This understanding of diversity was later challenged in a powerful discussion where the panelists clarified that the term “diverse” writer extends beyond racial identity to include geography, age, gender, ability, sexual orientation, and religion. Some other points of discussion included choice of writing styles, multi-lingual writing challenges, accuracy of diverse character depictions in book cover art, what it means to be a “Canadian writer” and an “immigrant writer”. You can find more from this conversation and highlights of WWF under the #WildWriters hashtag.
In a recent post on the FOLD Facebook page concerning the discrepancies in the average Canadian book buyer, Richardson said: “I was told if you can’t find the stories you’re looking for about people who have lived what you’ve lived, WRITE YOUR OWN.” This was the panel theme which drew me in: we must write the stories we want to read. This serves as an inspiration for me to continue to gather the right tools and skills to one day tell my own story so that those who relate can also see themselves represented.
We too often underestimate the power of representation and of being able to see one’s own reflection in important places in the world. This is why I feel very grateful and excited to be a part of Canada’s first ever Festival of Literary Diversity coming in May 2016. We’ll see you in May!