Welcome to the second season of The ReWrite podcast from the Toronto International Festival of Authors. As the world continues to shift and adapt from the effects of COVID-19, we are back to revisit our thoughts about the pandemic and see how the expectations of authors, literary award organizers, booksellers and publishing professionals at the beginning of the pandemic, played out during the course of a very uncertain year. Tune in to hear a wide range of conversations exploring the power of community, taking risks and finding new ways of celebrating books.
Episode 1: Toronto International Festival of Authors in 2020
Hear from staff at the Toronto International Festival of Authors about their experiences in 2020 and the process of planning a digital programme with over 200 events. In the first episode of the new season, our host Stephanie Fraser sat down with Roland Gulliver and Jamaal Azeez to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Festival and their favourite moments from the 41st edition.
Roland Gulliver is the Director of the Toronto International Festival of Authors, and a leading international figure in the literature sector with over 12 years’ experience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival as Associate Director. His programming explores the potential of live performance, alongside commissions for new multimedia storytelling. Gulliver champions communities by facilitating access and empowerment, and creating spaces for authors and audiences to engage in discussion. He is on the Board of Directors for the Toronto Arts Council and Chair of their Literary Advisory Committee, and is a Member of the Academy for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. Photo credit: Robin Mair.
Jamaal Azeez joined the Toronto International Festival of Authors in 2018 as Festival Assistant, Communications, and transitioned to the role of Event Coordinator in 2019. Prior to joining TIFA, Jamaal was a Producer and Digital Communications Lead on I Am Rohingya: A Genocide in Four Acts, an independent feature-length documentary that has screened in film festivals around the world. Jamaal holds a Master’s in Digital Media from Ryerson University.
Episode 2: Writers and Writing in the Pandemic
From cancelled contracts to publishing a book during a lockdown, the pandemic has been challenging in different ways for writers. In this episode, we spoke with Canadian writers Omar Mouallem and Bridget Canning about their experiences during a year of isolation, virtual events and finding new ways to connect through writing. Tune in to hear how Omar became the Fake Dean of the Pandemic University School of Writing in 13 days and what it was like for Bridget to attend an in-person event in October 2020.
Omar Mouallem is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. He’s reported on Muslim and Middle Eastern issues for the Guardian, the Ringer and WIRED, authored the forthcoming book Praying to the West: How Muslims Shaped the Americas (Simon & Schuster), and directed The Last Baron, a documentary about the unlikely connection between the Lebanese civil war and a rogue burger chain. In 2020, he founded Pandemic University School of Writing, a virtual school in support of writers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with his family. Follow him on Twitter @OmarMouallem and find him at OmarMouallem.com. Photo credit: Curtis Comeau.
Bridget Canning’s debut novel, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes, was selected as a finalist for the 2017 BMO Winterset Award, the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award, the NL Fiction Award, and was longlisted for the Dublin International Literary Award. It is currently being adapted to film. Her second novel, Some People’s Children, was a finalist for the 2020 BMO Winterset Award and the Thomas Raddall Award. Bridget holds a Masters of Arts in Creative Writing from Memorial University and a Masters of Literacy Education from Mount Saint Vincent University. In 2019, she received the CBC Emerging Artist Award with ArtsNL. She grew up in Highlands, NL and currently lives in St. John’s.
Host/Editor/Producer: Stephanie Fraser
Executive producer: Amy Dennis
Technical support: Jamaal Azeez
Research support: Mallika Khosla
Music for Manatees by Kevin MacLeod