Thin Air: Winnipeg International Writers Festival

Thin Air 2012 Mainstage event with Rawi Hage, Mike Barnes, Pash Malla, and Esme Keith. Photo by Leif Norman

Distinguished authors from around the world will be gracing our city during Thin Air: Winnipeg International Writers Festival beginning this Friday, Sept. 19.

The nine-day festival is filled with a variety of events for all ages and reading levels, including lectures, book chats, readings, and more.

Governor General’s Award-winner Eleanor Catton is set to open the evening programming of the festival at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 19 at the Centre culturel franco-manitobain. Catton will be reading from her most recent novel, The Luminaries, and will follow that with a discussion with festival director Charlene Diehl.

The novel takes place during the New Zealand gold rush of the 1860s. The pages are filled with mystery as the main character finds himself involved with a group discussing unsolved events, including a wealthy man who has vanished.

Forewords, a performance-oriented event sure to attract a crowd, takes place Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. During the event, the Winnipeg Poetry Slam Team is set to perform pieces of their winning work.

Tom Howell, a lexicographer (dictionary writer) will be giving the “uncensored history of English, full of all the bad words and dubious histories.”
“It’s very funny,” says Diehl. “It’s kind of like a cross between the Oxford English Dictionary and the Monty Python sketch.”

The evening will end with a Haiku Death Match, where contestants will recite original haikus and perform them to the vote of the crowd. The match has been very amusing in previous years, according to Diehl.

“These contestants say things you cannot believe they would have the nerve to say, all in 17-syllable chunks,” says Diehl.

The festival is hosting a campus program, with events at the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg, Red River College, Canadian Mennonite University, Université de Saint-Boniface, and Brandon University.

Three free events will be held at the U of M.

Hear a reading from Caroline Adderson from her novel Ellen in Pieces, a story about a single mother navigating the challenges of middle age, on Sept. 23 from 1-2:15 p.m. in 108 St. John’s College.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson will be reading from her story collection, Islands of Decolonial Love, on Sept. 23 from 1-2:15 p.m. at Migizii Agamik Aboriginal Student Centre.

Literary gothic writer Eric McCormack will read from his new novel, Cloud, on Sept. 25 from 1-2:15 p.m. in 108 St. John’s College.

“He’s an absolute delight, with an outrageous sense of humour and very sparkly eyes,” says Diehl.

The festival will end with an open-mic poetry slam on Sept. 27 at the Free Press News Café. If you’re a spoken-word enthusiast aged 22 and under, you can participate in the slam; if you’re older, well, you’ll just have to sit back and enjoy the “music” to your ears.

Whether you’re a novice reader, an English major, or looking for an entertaining way to spend an evening, Thin Air is sure to bring delight to all audiences.