Author fest uses storytelling to connect readers in the digital age

TIFA celebrates creatives from all over Canada and the world

Novelist Patrick DeWitt speaking at TIFA
Novelist Patrick DeWitt talks about his recent book, The Librarianist, at the 44th edition of the Toronto International Festival of Authors. (Luis Felipe Mussalém/Toronto Observer).  

In an era marked by social media, the annual Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA) brought a range of authors from different genres to connect with their readers.

“We are totally addicted to our devices … and books feed your brain in a way that social media doesn’t. Everybody knows that feeling,” said Martha Kehoe, a TV director and producer who went to a talk with novelist Patrick DeWitt with friends.

After the pandemic measures were lifted, “everyone is trying to go back to life a little bit,” she said.

This year’s theme at the 11-day festival was “Taking Flight,” a celebration of human imagination, connection, and freedom of expression. It featured conversations, performances, and other interactive activities that happened at the Harbourfront Centre from Sept. 21 to Oct. 1.

“Alongside TIFA’s signature conversations and readings, stage performances, writing workshops, and TIFA kids activities, this Festival offers a multitude of new experiences to explore,” director Roland Gulliver said. “TIFA celebrates storytelling in all its forms.”

The event generates diverse conversations across global and local communities. It started as a series of author readings but it has expanded to include different forms of expression.

Creative Writing students from the Ontario College of Art Design University ran an exhibit for Toronto Typewriters, highlighting the importance of having a range of diverse literary voices in the event.

“It feels nice to be able to connect to writing in a different medium that is not a laptop — it’s inspiring,” said a student at the exhibit.

The typewriter is also bringing the generations together, the student said.

“The younger people are so intrigued, and the older people feel nostalgia. That was really fun to see.”

Embracing diversity in storytelling

The festival features different story creators: writers, musicians, publishers, and more.

Toronto is the perfect place to host an event that brings in artists from different backgrounds, Gulliver said. It’s important for the festival to represent as many voices as possible.

“Toronto is remarkable for its worldliness, representing the globe through its combination of neighborhood communities and linguistic cultures,” Gulliver said.

He pointed out Arabic writers were also a big part of this year’s program. Multilingual events took place in Arabic and English and the Canadian Arabic Orchestra the performed.

The festival included talks with Oscar-winner Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley and award-winning Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood.

TIFA takes place annually, but there are also year-round events like the TIFA Book Club and Toronto Lit Up, a series of book launches from emerging Toronto writers.

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Posted: Oct 2 2023 8:49 am
Filed under: Arts & Life News Things to do