After being forced to pivot online during the pandemic the North Shore Writers Festival is making a welcome return to the real world as it puts on its first in-person program since 2019.
The festival, organized by all three North Shore public libraries, will celebrate its 23rd year with a line-up of events and talks at the West Vancouver Memorial Library from April 27-29.
“Both writing and reading can be intensely personal experiences, so there is something really energizing about being able to share a physical space with one another once again,” said Meghan Crowe, events co-ordinator at the North Vancouver District Public Library. “The virtual editions of the festival were a great success, but we’re so excited to be bringing people back together this year.”
Crime writer and journalist Eve Lazarus, playwright Jill Daum and historical fiction writer Janie Chang are just a few literary names due to converge on the North Shore, with conversations set to cover everything from the rise in popularity of true crime to the act of playwriting as a remedy for heartbreak.
Audiences can also expect a strong spotlight on Indigenous storytelling, with new and established writers leading conversations around the telling of traditional narratives, and their own journeys relearning and reclaiming Indigenous culture.
Billy Ray Belcourt, whose debut novel A Minor Chorus was longlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize, said events like the North Shore Writers Festival provide a window, “no matter how small,” into the conversation on Indigenous history and colonialism.
“I think that various facts of history we can’t turn away from anymore, and so, understandably, people are trying to learn and to grapple with and contend with history,” he said, adding how the rise in thirst for education is “a good sign” of things to come.
Belcourt’s book follows an unnamed narrator as he abandons his thesis to discover queer and Indigenous experience in his hometown in rural Alberta. The plot and its themes will be the centre of conversation when he sits down with nehiyaw (Cree)-white settler Selina Boan on April 27.
Elsewhere, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) author and ethnobotanist Leigh Joseph will discuss her own cultural journey toward reclaiming identity, during a sit down talk with nehiyaw iskwew (Cree) journalist and singer Eden Fine Day.
The two will delve into Joseph’s recently released Held By The Land, an extensive guide on the medicinal and nutritional benefits of Indigenous plants.
Crowe said celebrating Indigenous creators and stories is an essential part of promoting truth and reconciliation for the North Shore libraries.
“It is important to us that we provide platforms for Indigenous authors to share their stories and perspectives and for non-Indigenous people to learn about Indigenous culture, history, and ways of knowing,” she said.
“The Coast Salish Peoples have a long and ongoing tradition of storytelling. As a literary festival, we see this powerful tradition as an imperative part of our goal to bring authors and readers together.”
Fans of true crime will revel in the conversation to be had between crime writer Eve Lazarus and journalist John Ackermann, who will both discuss the rise in popularity of true crime and Lazarus’ latest book, Cold Case BC: The Stories Behind the Province’s Most Sensational Murder and Missing Persons Cases.
Lazarus said guests can expect much discussion on high-profile cases like the murders of Canadian couple Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg in 1987, and the infamous Babes in the Wood murder mystery, before taking on topics such as genetic genealogy and the future of cold case investigation.
Understanding there is quite the appetite for any information surrounding the ever-popular topic of true crime, alongside that on the cases themselves, Lazarus said she hopes the crowd will “ask questions” and “get involved.”
Among the discussions and author events will also be the festival’s 10th annual Literary Trivia Night, with broadcaster, musician and writer Grant Lawrence set to make his final appearance as host.
For more information on who’s on and when, visit the event’s official webpage.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.