Literary Festivals Respond to COVID-19

A woman in a full auditorium leans forward in her seat, resting her head on her hands and her elbow on her knees

Change is at the forefront of our minds these weeks, as the global COVID-19 health crisis forces us all to rethink and rework our daily lives. The literary festival community is also navigating uncharted territory, as festivals large and small, near and far, face the question: How do we keep bringing readers and writers together in a socially distant world? Limits on public gatherings, travel restrictions and very real concerns about health and safety, are among many the factors compelling festivals to make unprecedented decisions. Some are cancelling their 2020 programming, others are postponing, while many more are adjusting their celebrations to suit these changing times.

We know first-hand that a tremendous amount of time and effort goes into the creation of a book festival. We appreciate that none of these decisions are being made lightly, and that most are accompanied by a great deal of economic risk and personal heartbreak. For these reasons, we applaud our festival community and commend those who have decided to put the health and safety of the book-loving community above all else.

To show our support, here is a roundup of some of the extraordinary spring festivals that have been impacted by COVID-19. Learn how they are adapting to the current situation, and how you can still join them in celebrating words and ideas.


Supporting Local Bookstores While Social Distancing

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Since governments worldwide have forced the closure of non-essential services, many bookstores have had to make some big changesIn Toronto, some independent bookstores have had to cease even their online operations as a response measure to COVID-19. With so much uncertainty, there is one thing that we know for sure  independent bookstores need your business now more than ever. Bookstores play an important role in our communities, so as social distancing presents us with more time to read, we’re asking everyone to consider the [positive] impact that stockpiling books could have on your communityHere’s a list of booksellers, or social distancing superheroes, that would love to supply you with your next read.

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National Poetry Month with the Toronto Writers Collective

The Toronto Writers Collective (TWC) is a non-profit organization that runs writing workshops for vulnerable and marginalized community members in Toronto, Mississauga and Ottawa. As part of National Poetry Month, we asked a selection of TWC mentors and authors to share their favourite poems or poets from this talented community as part of National Poetry Month. The poems featured below are from the TWC's Front Lines anthologies, which will release a new edition this spring.

In my five years of working with the Toronto Writers Collective, I have had the privilege to listen to the poetry and prose of wonderful writers like: Puneet Dutt, Banoo Zan, Tom Hamilton, Andrea Thompson, Jay Teitel, Pat Connors, Al Moritz, Katrina Onstad, Susan Ksiezopolski and Julie Hartley, who inspire, not only with their writing, but through their support of unheard voices and emerging authors in TWC workshops and through our Front Lines anthologies.

Jesse Cohoon, Director of Programming at the Toronto Writers Collective

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Meet TIFA Director Roland Gulliver

This past February, TIFA welcomed its new director, Roland Gulliver, to help usher the organization into a new decade. The former Associate Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival begins his tenure with TIFA by preparing for the 41st edition of the Festival, taking place this fall. In mid-March, we checked in with Roland about his first impressions of his new city, his literary firsts, what he's reading and whether he's a re-reader. Read on, and get to know our new director.

While you're here, be sure to check out our blog post on local bookstores who are still operating via online and telephone orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of them have been mentioned in the interview below.

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Make Lit Fashion: An Interview with Book Cover Designers

Cover art (left to right): Kai and Sunny, Sarah Brody and Sean Kapitain (Type Design), and Emmanuel Polanco. Art direction: Gigi Lau.

Cover art (L to R):  Kai and Sunny, Sarah Brody and Sean Kapitain (Type Design),
and Emmanuel Polanco. Art direction: Gigi Lau.

New York. London. Milan. Paris. What do those cities have in common? They've all had fashion weeks occurring in the month of February. Fashion isn't usually a preoccupation of a book festival but when you think about it, book covers are the outfits that stories wear. It's the first impression and it's hard not to judge a book by its cover when there are thousands published in a given year. When a striking cover catches your eyes? It's a magical moment.

There are people behind those magical moments: book cover designers. Three of them—Oliver McPartlin, a freelance designer; Gigi Lau, Art Director at Harlequin; and Jessica Boudreau, an in-house designer at Simon and Schuster—have agreed to discuss what it's like to design a cover, their most interesting moments and the trends they've noticed on book shelves.

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