Where does one begin and the other one end?
It’s likely a difficult thing to ascertain for local literati when it comes to Calgary’s beloved Wordfest. Far from being a one festival (of) wonder or even two, the organization has become an almost-weekly source of reader and writer interaction — evoking thought, engagement, conversation, growth and enjoyment.
“There isn’t really a line any more except that the festivals seem to be more doable now than the all-season events,” says Wordfest’s CEO and Creative Ringleader Shelley Youngblut about their always jam-packed calendar.
“I think the thing that’s happened to us, which I think is great, is that now everyone wants us to put on their events, which is fabulous. But to add our special sauce it just takes a lot of time and attention to detail and swinging for the fences. So if you’re only doing 10 of them you can swing for the fences, if you’re trying to hit a home run every single event — my team and I we don’t know how not to do that.
“So that’s the challenge right now, is the swinging for the fences.”
They’ve knocked it out of the park with their annual April festival, now officially dubbed Timely Tasty Talks, which will take place place April 6 to 13 at their home in the Memorial Park Library and feature several events spread out over the week. What differentiates it from the larger October Wordfest celebration, last year branded Imaginarium, is that the the focus is “not literary, per se,” meaning that the emphasis is more on non-fiction and less on the novelists.
And what ties the decidedly different experiences all together?
“We wanted something that was positive,” she says. “I know that sounds kind of naive, but we really wanted to put forward people who had something fresh and meaty and engaging and optimistic …
“But also each of these people, and I think this is my magazine background, each these people are people that I would love to work with, they’re people that I would have loved to have presented in print and now we get to present them live.
“Each of these people are super tasty to me.”
And, again, it’s an eclectic and diverse group of speakers, including: a Tuesday, April 9 kid-friendly talk with writer Kyo Maclear (Birds Art Life, Bloom, Julia Child) and illustrator Byron Eggenschwiler — whom Youngblut discovered while working at late, lamented weekly mag Swerve — about their new graphic novel Operatic; Yasuko Thanh on Friday, April 12 discussing her harrowing memoir Mistakes to Run With, which chronicles a life that led from a childhood poverty, to sex worker and now award-winning author; and one of the world’s foremost dementia experts and bioethicist Dr. Tia Powell, who will be making her only Canadian appearance in an event called Moving the Conversation from Cure to Care on Saturday, April 13.
It all kicks off on this Saturday afternoon, April 6, at 1 p.m. with what should be a fascinating Youngblut-led discussion with journalist, artist and designer Jason Logan, who “forages for ink,” meaning he scours the surrounding urban landscape for different pigments and ingredients, and has created his own line of environmentally friendly ink, documenting it in his book Make Ink: A Forager’s Guide to Natural Inkmaking.
“It’s like this recipe for community building and for reengaging in our roots, and that’s what fascinates me.”
Speaking of recipes, Logan will also participate in a “three-course dinner and inspiring conversation” on the next night at Sidewalk Citizen in the Simmons Building, where the chefs have put together a special menu for the occasion.
While he’s in Calgary, Youngblut has even commissioned Logan to scour a pair of surrounding neighbourhoods to create a special Beltline ink and potentially an East Village ink, that will then be sold at a Wordfest-sponsored, invitation-only, artisanal market in November.
Like all of their programming, the entire Timely Tasty Talks fest should be something that inspires and, at the very least, will act as an informative and engaging diversion from everything else that is going on in the world.
“So if you want to take a break from the most meaningful election of our lifetime,” she says, “take an hour or two that will recharge you.”
And will be decidedly more positive.
(Photo of Jason Logan by Lauren Kolyn.)
Wordfest’s Timely Tasty Talks 2019 takes place April 6 to April 13 at the Memorial Park Library. For tickets and more information please go to wordfest.com.