I went to a bunch of literary festivals and all you get is this lousy blog post

For a little more in the way of background info, check out my literary festival preview post.

Ted Bishop at LitFest

I wasn’t going to go to LitFest but I happened to see a free preview of Ted Bishop’s talk about his book in Churchill Square. The free talk was not well attended but the actual event was full of well-wishers. I already wrote about it here but I didn’t tell you about the cool fountain pens we got to try out afterward (cool is a relative term, of course, I assume if you’re reading this you might think it’s cool.) This is my second year attending LitFest and it won’t be my last. I hope LitFest continues the free talks on the Square. If you need to make a business case about return on investment, well, it sold me. That’s something!


Joseph Boyden at STARFest

The straight review: STARFest well organized, well attended, and well worth the price of admission. I was there to see Joseph Boyden, who did the standard reading from his latest novel, and chose one of my favourite sections from The Orenda (the first few pages) and he talked about the standard author-appearance stuff – inspiration, research, how the book fits into his larger body of work. He also talked about the tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada (I was surprised he didn’t mention his new anthology on the subject, Kwe) and his own struggles with depression as a teenager. He gave a detailed description of his next book, which sounds like a bit of a legend or fairy tale about residential schools.

The gossipy review: Host and author Diana Davidson stunned in a royal blue dress from The Bay. Classic in a black button up, celeb author Joseph Boyden was powerful, vulnerable, and fascinating. Spotted in line at the book signing: Jason Purcell, noted Book Tuber, surrounded by admirers and on-trend in florals; star-struck Glass Buffalo editor Matthew Stepanic, and festival organizer Peter Bailey. I thought I got a “scoop” when Peter mentioned that David Eggers was coming to Edmonton, but he misspoke and meant David Sedaris, which is still pretty exciting!

The honest review: Joseph Boyden talked to me and touched me and said I was pretty. The end.



Florals are so hot right now. Jason Purcell and unknown fan await an audience with Mr. Boyden.

Florals are so hot right now. Jason Purcell and unknown fan await an audience with Mr. Boyden.

Joyce Carol Oates at Festival of Ideas

The closing night of Festival of Ideas was kind of the opposite of STARfest: It was under-attended (the Winspear was strangely empty; I hung back but there were plenty of floor seats available) and while I did see people I knew, I didn’t play the gossip columnist this time, preferring the company of Bartelby the Scrivener while I waited for the main eventOates was less vulnerable than Boyden too. I doubt she went too far off script, though she joked with host Eleanor Wachtel that she felt like she was in a therapy session. Her life story was fascinating. I was rapt as JCO described her relatives and ancestors, because they sounded like characters out of a novel. Murders, suicides, Jewish grandmothers who concealed their ethnicity in America, growing up blue collar and going on to be a student and then professor Princeton… sounds like an American family saga to me.

Oates is arguably one of the best known authors in the world, but the signing line was calm, orderly, and short. I’m not sure why she wasn’t a bigger draw – maybe we are just that loyal to our #CanLit stars. I was still pretty nervous about meeting her. I didn’t want to freeze up like I did with Margaret Atwood. I remembered she had talked about personas, so I asked if her Twitter account was the real her or a persona. She said it’s very close to the real thing, except, of course, when her cat Cherie takes over:

@JoyceCarolOates IRL

@JoyceCarolOates IRL

An aside: I was so wrapped up in thinking of my question, that I couldn’t figure out why the man ahead of me in line looked so familiar, until he was getting his booked signed and I heard him say his name. It was Mr. Jeffries, my high school English teacher, who taught me One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Heart of Darkness, and John Donne, and The Odyssey, and was always going on about Joseph Campbell. I didn’t think that much of him while I was in school because I didn’t think much of anything at that age, but I recognize now that those classes had an enormous influence on me as a reader and now as a writer. I missed my chance to say thank you, so thank you, Mr. Jefferies. 

Other bookish happenings this fall

I got a #yegwords coffee at Burrow with @Angry_Vegan

I got a #yegwords coffee at Burrow with @Angry_Vegan

A concrete poem outside my kid's school by @onelastpoem

A concrete poem outside my kid’s school by @onelastpoem


Decent book haul from The Great Edmonton Bookswap

Decent book haul from The Great Edmonton Bookswap

The Great Edmonton Bookswap at The Atery - pink light special

The Great Edmonton Bookswap at The Atery

Some of the books at the Bookswap

Some of the books at the Bookswap – OTHERLAND is awesome!

A restrained book haul from the fall library sale

A restrained book haul from the fall library sale

The local author shelf at Tix on the Square

The local author shelf at Tix on the Square

I didn't see these guys, but they look alright

I didn’t see these guys, but they look alright



  1. Carole Besharah

    Thanks for sharing. It’s cool that you got a book signed by Joyce Carol Oates. Oh, and Davis Sedaris trumps David Eggers in my book ;). To hear Sedaris read live would be a dream!

  2. Naomi

    Finally, the picture of you with Joseph Boyden! And, it’s even better than I imagined, although a bit blurry. I hope it was a nice “you’re pretty” and not a creepy “you’re pretty”, because I don’t think I could handle going through all that again (a popular Canadian ‘celebrity’ gone bad).
    Also, the bookswap sounds fun!

    • lauratfrey

      I saw it was blurry but was too nervous to ask for another. It was not at all creepy. He said he thought he recognized me, too, and I was thinking “oh maybe you saw my post last year about how I have a crush on you?” LOL. If anyone is creepy I think it was me!

      • Brie @ A Slice of Brie

        Haha, I don’t think they’re very well known…I discovered them when I was living in BC. Their earlier stuff reminds me of Daniel Wesley, a very beach-reggae vibe. I haven’t listened to their newer stuff. A friend told me they are all self-taught when it comes to their instruments though! Apparently, they wanted to start a band so they all learned to play something. (Don’t quote me on that!).

  3. didibooksenglish

    Cool you know Jason! He’s a sweetheart. I’m impressed with all that you’ve done and seen. Since I live in France the only author I got to see last year was Zadie Smith. I was overwhelmed. She was such a nice, cool, laid back, and intelligent. She also has great taste in clothes. I’m really surprised too that there weren’t more bookish fans out to see Joyce Carol Oates. I bet she was really interesting. I’d love to get a chance to see her.

    • lauratfrey

      Oh my god. So jealous! Did you take pictures or do a post on Zadie Smith? I read On Beauty last year and loved it, and have NW sitting on my shelf. JCO was a great speaker and has lived a very interesting life! And seems much younger than she is!

      • didibooksenglish

        Yes I took a picture but not with her I suddenly got super shy. She asked me more questions than I asked her. lol! I haven’t done a post on it yet but will do. It was 2 days before I was leaving for the States so wi was preoccupied with that and coming down off the euphoria of it all.😆

  4. Matthew Stepanic

    I love this round-up, Laura! Can you please do more gossipy reviews of lit events? I want to know more about what to wear to shine with the who’s who of the Edmonton lit scene! 😀

      • Matthew Stepanic

        If you start a newsletter, I will very happily pay a subscription fee to have it delivered to my inbox. (And I may start throwing drinks or insults at people so that you have something really good to write about.)


    Awesome blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely confused .. Any tips? Bless you!

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