A photo of Shelley Youngblut with paper daisies
Wordfest CEO & Creative Ringleader Shelley Youngblut | Photo: Heather Saitz

Wordfest 25@25

Annual fall festival has been completely re-imagined for our times

Amy Jo Espetveidt

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A virtual extravaganza featuring 13 never-before-done conversations between some of Canada’s most famous and compelling authors, Wordfest knocks it out of the park with its landmark 25th anniversary fall festival.

Re-imagined and running weekly between September and December, the lineup features Canadian literary superstars including Thomas King, Lawrence Hill, Eden Robinson, and many more. Wordfest has truly embraced these challenging times and used the opportunity to create a unique extravaganza that could only take place online.

Beginning September 8 and continuing every Tuesday evening until December 8, 25@25 brings 25 of Canada’s most exciting novelists together in a unique way. Wordfest asked the biggest names from an extensive alumni list to choose who they most want to be paired with on a virtual stage. They could pick an emerging author, a peer who deserves the spotlight right now, a writer they’ve never met but whose work blows them away, or a someone they just love talking with.

“We put our faith in the writers, knowing that that was the only way for these pairings to be authentic and unexpected,” says Wordfest’s CEO & Creative Ringleader Shelley Youngblut in a statement. “The pairings turned out even better than we’d hoped. And they showcase the best of Canadian literature, past, present and future.”

At the end of every Tuesday night event, watch as the featured writers announce the next week’s anchor author, who will then reveal the name of the person they chose for their stage mate. This virtual daisy chain is sure to be a delight.

“It’s a creative way to make every event a must-watch, not just for the featured authors but to be the first to know who will come next,’ adds Youngblut.

The 25@25 chain kicks off with Calgary’s most famous writer and only Scotiabank Giller Prize winner, Will Ferguson, as he launches his latest novel The Finder. Asked to be paired with his son Genki Ferguson, a recent graduate of Emily Carr University of Art + Design whose debut novel Satellite Love will be released in spring 2021, the evening is sure to be unmissable.

And the whole festival streams on Wordfest’s new broadcast channel, Imagine On Air, combining innovation with classic storytelling. In fact, since the pandemic changed everything, Wordfest has become one of the world’s most advanced online event producers, presenting high-profile authors in 24 events that have been viewed by 20,000 people, primarily in Calgary, but reaching audiences across North America, Europe, South America, and Australia.

“We will continue to broadcast online events with the world’s most exciting authors, in addition to returning to live experiences once it is safe to do so,” says Youngblut. “No matter what the medium, our mission remains to connect Calgarians with the most exciting and engaging authors and books in the most exciting and engaging ways possible. Our next 25 years will be even more expansive, more meaningful than Wordfest’s first quarter century.”

Wordfest 25@25 runs September 8 to December 8, 2020 on Imagine On Air. The full schedule and all the details can be found at wordfest.com.