Wordfest teams with Writers Guild to celebrate Freedom to Read Week

The books you choose to read likely say something about your personality.

This is the premise for an upcoming event Guilty (Reading) Pleasures presented by Wordfest and the Writers’ Guild of Alberta (WGA). The free event will reveal the reading habits of three speakers and involve the audience in a discussion of what they like to read — including on both sides a few of those guilty literary pleasures.

“I think Calgarians would be interested in hearing from any public figure in the city about their reading habits — what they read for pleasure what they read obsessively on the Internet” says Jo Steffens Wordfest’s executive director.

“It’s about broadening the audience for literature and emphasizing reading for pleasure.”

Held at Shelf Life Books audiences will hear from experimental poet Christian Bök poet Rosemary Griebel and visual artist Jeff de Boer. Steffens says that the roster includes links to the University of Calgary where Bök is a professor and the Calgary Public Library where Griebel is the special project manager.

As for including a visual artist among the writers? “Jeff de Boer is one of the most interesting artists working in the city and of course he reads” says Steffens. “I think Calgarians are interested in hearing what Jeff de Boer is reading when he’s not producing his incredible sculptures.”

Writer and editor Shelley Youngblut will host the event and engage the audience in a discussion after each speaker’s seven-minute presentation.

This is the fourth time Wordfest and WGA have partnered to produce an event as part of Freedom to Read Week a national event that encourages readers to contemplate intellectual freedom as well as what they choose to read.

Previously the event has featured an out-of-town author but Steffens wanted to make it more local and community-based.

She says that the event is about “promoting reading culture and not tying it so much to the literary with a capital L” and hopes to continue the format in future years. “The plan is really to have this the next year and the year after and maybe alter the theme slightly.”

The connection to Freedom to Read Week is as strong as ever though as Guilty (Reading) Pleasures will reveal and honour this year’s recipient of the 2014 Freedom to Read Award presented by The Writers’ Union of Canada. Previous winners include Lawrence Hill and John Raulston Saul and we know that this year a Calgarian has earned the accolade.

Reading of course isn’t limited to the people onstage. Steffens hopes that the conversation will make all of us look at our reading habits a little more closely and share our own reading pleasures guilty or otherwise. “With this event we really want to empower everyone to decide for themselves what they want to read and what they choose to read” she says.

After all we live in a busy world and many of us struggle to find the time to read the books we love or sometimes spend our reading hours on material that we don’t particularly enjoy.

Steffens says that she hopes the audience “will think it’s okay to read whatever they would like to read and whatever gives them pleasure and I would hope that they would… deliberately create the time and space for reading purely for pleasure.”

And on that note Guilty (Reading) Pleasures might just offer a few good tips for your book list.