Unleash your ‘wild writer’

Over the weekend of November 8-10, hundreds of writers got down and dirty at the Wild Writers Festival in Waterloo at the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA). Hosted by local literary magazine The New Quarterly, Wordsworth Books and BSIA, the second annual Wild Writers aimed to bridge the gap and build connections between new and seasoned writers.

“We thought the festival last year worked pretty well it was a very compact festival,” said Pamela Mulloy, editor-in-chief of The New Quarterly and developer of Wild Writers.

Featuring a Saturday night speakeasy, numerous free panels, many paid classes and the opportunity to network with a number of established writers in the area, Wild Writers Festival had a little something for everyone.

“[We had] panels and conversations that were really open to writers and readers. We had a lot of people who were interested in listening to writers talk about their work,” noted Mulloy.

Claire Tacon, an English professor at St. Jerome’s University at University of Waterloo campus, made mention of a similar observation.

“The interest in writing is definitely at a high right now. Particularly in the states, master of fine arts (MFA) programs are popping up everywhere for people who are interested in studying it formally and the Canadian MFA programs are quite popular as well. I know a lot of the festivals we have in Canada are well attended but tend to be concentrated in large urban areas like Toronto and Vancouver. It’s great to see a festival as robust as the Wild Writers in the Kitchener-Waterloo community,” said Tacon.

Though only in its second year, Wild Writers seems to have satisfied audiences in term of cultural demand and, in the opinion of Mulloy, in terms of size and programming. “I think we feel like we don’t need to expand anymore because we feel like this is the right size of the festival. Keeping it as an intense weekend event is really the right formula so we’ll continue to do that … we try to link some of the themes to what’s happening in the magazine,” reflected Mulloy on future changes to Wild Writers. “[For example] we had a panel discussion with three authors who spoke about their experience of going to MFA programs or not so it was called ‘Schooled/Unschooled.’ Those three writers that were on the panel also wrote about it in the current issue of The New Quarterly. We will continue to have that link between the actual magazine and the festival.”

The name “Wild Writers” was inspired by a conference Mulloy attended 12 years ago also entitled “Wild Writers.” In early planning, it was mutually decided that the name would stick due to the imagery the term “wild writer” brought to mind.

“The idea of wild writing—there’s something very freeing about that. Each individual writer has their own style and being a writer is a bit wild as well. We thought it’d be a good fit for the festival,” said Mulloy.

The name seemed to influence the overall atmosphere of the event as Tacon described it as “unpretentious but informative.”This translated well into the overall aim of the festival: to give young writers a chance to see the opportunities that await them.

“[One of our goals is] to support emerging writers who are just starting out, having their first publication, having their first opportunity to do readings. Those two things are the key things: to have that showcase or platform for new writers as well as an opportunity to promote our work [at The New Quarterly],” said Mulloy to The Cord.

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