Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Thin Air Writers Festival

Whether  in books or movies or check-out line conversations, stories are our  stock-in-trade, the way we humans connect with one another and  understand ourselves.

Writers continue to create wonderful  stories, and that’s our reason for being at THIN AIR. This September, we  roll out our seventeenth edition. We’ve got writers of wild  imagination, probing intellect, keen wit, and refreshing verbal  dexterity. It’s going to be an exciting, and full, week.

From  Monday to Friday, September 23-27, the spotlight shines on a host of  writers at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People at The Forks. You can  hear the readings, have the writer sign the copy of the book you just  bought during the intermission (we’ve got books for sale right on the  stage), and even enjoy a glass of wine (we’ll even have a bar on stage,  too).

It’s hard to talk about highlights when there’s so much  great stuff going on, but one of the standouts has got to be Andrew  Pyper, who’ll be reading Friday night. Andrew is a terrifically good  writer who writes really scary books. His latest, The Demonologist,  is already a bestseller and has picked up rave reviews. It’s a  suspenseful, frightening tale of very real devils, of demons who walk  among us, and the evil that human beings can inflict. It’ll have you  checking over your shoulder.

On the other side of the emotional spectrum, we have Cassie Stocks on Tuesday night. Her book, Dance, Gladys, Dance,  has something otherworldy too, but it aims to make you laugh. Cassie’s  got an interesting backstory. After doing a variety of jobs (actor,  aircraft cleaner, hydroponic pot factory caretaker), she ended up taking  a degree in Professional Writing. She won a fiction writing contest and  before you know it, she picked up the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal  for Humour for her first novel: we call it DGD around the office.  Anyway, Gladys happens to be a ghost, which complicates things.

All  the Mainstage events are arranged around some creative theme, one  devised by Festival Director Charlene Diehl. So, Monday night is called  “Dancing Lessons.”  Charlene quotes the late, great George Carlin, who  said that “Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot  hear the music.” Keep that in mind when you hear our team of writers  read about stories that show how art, travel, families, and movies can  be a source of solace or a means of escape.

It’s a great line-up, but you’ll really want to check out Andrew Steinmetz.  His book, This Great Escape: The Case of Michael Paryla,  is an inventive family memoir about his cousin who escaped the Nazis,  growing up in Canada, before returning to Germany to work as an actor,  including a bit part in the Steve McQueen war movie “The Great Escape.”  You’ll probably never come across another book quite like it.

And  Thursday night has local treasures Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan.  Performance artists as well as writers, they’re here with their book Bedtime Stories for the Edge of the World,  a collection of rambunctious, ripping yarns. Definitely not for  children, but if you listen in, you’ll learn a thing or two. And  Wednesday is our annual Poetry Bash, this year featuring the return of  former Winnipeg Jon Paul Fiorentino. If you've never heard him read,  he'll shake up your idea of what a poetry reading can be.

Tickets  are $12 ($10 for students and seniors). There’s also a Festival Pass  for $40. You can find all the details at our website  ( or in our nifty paperback which you can find  all over the place, including The Forks. (The festival has got events  all around town, too.)

Bruce Symaka, Audience Development Coordinator Winnipeg International Writers Festival

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