Word Vancouver, featuring five days of literary-focused programming, starting Wednesday, Sept. 25 and culminating in the annual main festival day at the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library, Sunday, Sept. 29, 11-5 p.m. Free. wordvancouver.ca
Catherine Roscoe Barr didn't set out to be a writer.
She initially planned on becoming a doctor, completing a bachelor of science in neuroscience, before going on to receive certification as a fitness instructor, personal trainer and older adult specialist. She has also long been an avid traveller and has lived the world over, and it was during a stint in Sydney, Australia, that her passion for storytelling and the written word began to take shape.
"I literally walked by a building that was a magazine publisher and something about it, I just had to be part of it and I applied to probably two dozen magazines and I ended up interning at one. As soon as I came back to Vancouver, I knew that's what I wanted to do, so I interned at two magazines here and I've been freelance writing ever since."
Rather than bid adieu to her healthy living leanings, Roscoe Barr has found a means of bringing all of her interests together and has cultivated a successful career as a lifestyle-focused writer and wellness coach. She founded the blog The Life Delicious (thelifedeliciousblog.com) in 2011 and has been a contributor to B.C. Living (bcliving.ca) since 2010.
The 34-year-old North Vancouver woman plans to offer insight into her unique perspective and craft as one of the featured writers at the 2013 edition of Word Vancouver, billed by organizers as "Western Canada's largest celebration of literacy and reading." The free festival is held annually on the last weekend of September at the Vancouver Public
Library. This year's festival has been expanded from three to five days, kicking off Wednesday, Sept. 25 and wrapping up with the signature Library Square event Sunday, Sept. 29 featuring a day-long lineup of exhibits, performances, author readings, panel discussions and hands-on activities.
Roscoe Barr, who is scheduled to make her festival debut, will give a presentation at noon on Sept. 29, entitled B.C. Living with Catherine Roscoe Barr.
"In previous years I saw Robert Bateman speak in one of the tents and now I'm going to be speaking in one of the tents so I'm really thrilled," she says.
Roscoe Barr plans to discuss what she refers to as her, "trifecta of wellness," which is stress management, exercise and nutrition and I'm talking about it through my experience of being a B.C. Living contributor," she says. Through her work with the awardwinning online lifestyle guide, Roscoe Barr has been exposed to countless workouts, fitness centres, wellness places, retreats, products and sustainable restaurants.
Word Vancouver has undergone a number of changes for 2013. Mainly, it's been rebranded and is now an independent cultural event, formerly having been part of the
Word on the Street National Book and Magazine Festival, held annually in a number of cities across the country.
"For us, we were really wanting to grow and expand our festival, that was a real priority for us here in Vancouver," says Val Mason, Word Vancouver general manager and a North Vancouver resident. Mason also serves as general manager of the B.C. Book Prizes.
"The other Word on the Street Festivals didn't have the same aspiration. They are very much a one-day festival, all of their activities happen on the street and we were no longer looking like that. We do have our Sunday where there's lots of things on the street, but there's also things in the library and we are having activities leading up to the Sunday that are not on the street," she says.
Over the festival's fiveday run organizers have events planned in a number of venues, including Carnegie Community Centre, Banyen Books & Sound, The Cottage Bistro and Historic Joy Kogawa House.
The change also speaks to organizers' interest in being more regionally focused, and offers them the ability to control their own marketing image and choose their own event date. The other festivals are now being held a weekend earlier and Mason and her team were interested in maintaining the tradition of presenting the Vancouver festival "the last Sunday of September," she says.
Word Vancouver is kicking off Wednesday, Sept. 25 with an Automated Poetry Project reading at West Pender Street's The Paper Hound Bookshop, hosted by Kevin Spenst and featuring a reading by Evelyn Lau. The evening showcases a festival highlight organizers are incredibly excited to be launching this year, four vending machines that, instead of dispensing gum, candy or toys, have been filled with bubbles containing poems. At $2 a pop, proceeds will support the festival's poetry programming.
"Poetry is a form in the publishing and writing world that really benefits from additional exposure out there in the community. Fiction and non-fiction tend to get a lot more profile and so this is an area that we thought really deserved more exposure in as many ways as possible," says Mason.
Vending machine patrons also have a chance of winning a free poetry book, says Mason, as 25 per cent of the bubbles have been filled with a winning voucher.
Authors whose works can currently be found in the poetry vending machines include Kim Minkus, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Jan Zwicky, Rita Wong, George Stanley, Michael Kenyon, John Barton, Patrick Friesen and Marita Dachsel.
Launched this month, the machines are currently housed at The Paper Hound Bookshop, two Bean Around the World locations (Main Street, and Cambie and East Hastings), and book'mark, The Library Store at the Vancouver Public Library.
They will all be featured at Word Vancouver Sunday event, however, from then on will remain permanent fixtures in the community, continuing to pop up at various Lower Mainland venues.
"That creates exposure for the festival also on a 12-month basis," says Mason.
Other North Shore writers featured at Word Vancouver include Robert Heidbreder, Victoria Miles, Ainslie Manson, Russell Thornton and Elaine Woo and Edgemont Village's 32 Books and Gallery has been named the festival's official bookseller.
For the complete 2013 Word Vancouver schedule, list of participating authors and programming highlights, visit wordvancouver.ca.