From Baddeck to Saskatoon, Woody Point to Vancouver, Sally Wells opens the book on Canada’s best literary festivals.

‘Name a famous Canadian’, non-Canadians used to joke. The punchline being, of course, that there aren’t any (this was before the days of Justin Bieber, although some might argue that the situation has not particularly improved). However, those of a literary bent would have no trouble providing an answer to the joke. Canada has a long-standing tradition of producing talented, internationally acclaimed writers. If you’re a fan of our distinguished literary scene, attending one of our great literary festivals belongs on the bucket list.  These festivals continue to grow in scope, size, and popularity. Meet your favourite writers, hear them speak about their work, participate in workshops, galas and performances, buy books, and enjoy a fantastic celebration of the written word.  

Word On The Street (Saskatoon, SK)
Saskatoon’s Word On The Street festival has been going since 2010, and boasts an impressive roster of authors and events.  Local international superstar Yann Martel (The Life Of Pi) is a popular attendee, but there are hundreds of incredible authors who participate in readings, panels and interviews.  The festival strives to cater to children and young adults, as well as to promote literacy.  As with all the fests, there’s plenty of opportunityf or book lovers to empty their wallets and fill their shelves.  WOTS Saskatoon is a thoroughly comprehensive and enjoyable literary festival. 

Sidney Litfest (Sidney, BC)
Sidney, BC, located on beautiful Vancouver Island, is known as “Canada’s Booktown” for its number of independent book stores. The Sidney LitFest was launched in 2013 to bring readers together with the Canadian authors they love. The festival runs every other year, supported by fund-raising readings by local authors in the intervening year. In its fourth festival, April 11-14, 2019, eighteen authors will participate in panel discussions, readings, writing workshops and the popular Breakfast with Authors. Award-winning authors include Lorna Crozier, Esi Edugyan, Wayne Johnston, Kate Page and Darrel J. McLeod.

Cabot Trail Writers’ Festival (Baddeck, NS)
This one bills itself as a ‘deliberately small’ festival. If you’re looking for something crowd-pleasing and child-friendly, the Cabot Trail Writers’ Festival is probably not for you. However, if you enjoy artwork, writing workshops, famous Atlantic Canada food and drink, and the opportunity to meet some fantastic writers, then go for it! It’s also located in a truly stunning location – taking place at the foot of St Anne’s Bay, where the hills come sweeping down to the sea.

Into Thin Air: The International Winnipeg Writers’ Festival (Winnipeg, MB)
There are many literary festivals in Canada which run concurrent French and English language streams.  Running for over two decades, Into Thin Air runs a very smooth event, inviting plenty of big names and providing lots to do. Many programs are designed to entertain younger audiences, so bring the kids along.

Wordfest (Calgary, AB)
Wordfest is a well-established festival, bringing together not only Canadian writers, but many international writers as well. It hosts a whopping 70 or more events over the ten-day run. Through the Wordfest Youth program, the festival also works hard to help troubled and at-risk youth discover the therapeutic and educational power of reading and writing. Running concurrently with the main Wordfest, much of the proceeds go toward literary and educational schemes for youths in need.

Vancouver International Writers’ Festival (Vancouver, BC)
This is a marquee event in Canada’s literacy scene, with more than 90 events to choose from and an eagerly-anticipated annual lineup. Expect superstar authors, a variety of performances, and a brilliant range of workshops, storytelling sessions, interviews, and readings.

Read By The Sea (River John, NS)
Held in early July, authors from around the country are invited to share their writing. Previous attendees include Margaret Atwood, Sheree Fitch, Kim Thuy, James Laxner, Linden MacIntyre and the late Allister MacLeod Each author reads from their work and is then interviewed individually by a local author.

Writers At Woody Point (Woody Point, NL)
Writers At Woody Point is a quirky festival, which combines writers and musicians for a celebration of penmanship and music. Always popular, it’s never been afraid to push the envelope when it comes to providing entertainment. Events include not just musical sets, talks, and workshops – but nature classes, sea dips, and more. There’s always a convivial atmosphere – and, of course, the Newfoundland scenery is spectacular.

Frye Festival (Moncton, NB)
Northrop Frye was a celebrated literary critic and theorist, who hailed from Moncton. In honour of the city’s ‘most’ famous literary son, Moncton hosts the Frye Festival each year, billed as “Atlantic Canada’s Largest Literary Happening.”  Expect the usual mix of workshops, talks, symposia, and music.  Rising and established literary stars attend the festival to pay their respects to the influential literary theorist.

Saskatchewan Festival Of Words (Moose Jaw, SK)
A long-running festival, there are over 50 events to choose from, including a slam poetry competition and a great range of writers across all genres.

Great Canadian Bucket List