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 6: Kids, Educators & the Power of the Arts
The transcript is coming soon!
What started out as a few weeks of schools being shut down in March 2020 suddenly turned into a long-term situation of juggling at-home schooling and trying to keep kids engaged. In this episode, we reached out to three individuals to hear about their experiences supporting kids and teachers, and the impact the arts had on creating connection for students during a confusing and isolating time. Tune in to hear from Tessa Eisenberg from First Book Canada, Tim Walker from Harbourfront Centre and William Wallace, a high school English teacher with the Toronto District School Board.
Tessa Eisenberg has served on the First Book Canada team as the head of the Engagement department since 2017. She has a B.A. from Dalhousie University in English and Creative Writing and earned her postgraduate certificate in Creative Book Publishing at Humber College. Originally from Vermont, Tessa loves to take any opportunity to speak to the work of First Book Canada and to ask you what book you’re reading. After hours, you can find her out singing somewhere or practicing improv at The Second City Toronto. You can visit First Book Canada’s marketplace here.
Tim Walker is currently the Manager, School Visits at Harbourfront Centre. School Visits provides experiential, hands-on, inquiry-based learning to students of all ages. In addition to his role at Harbourfront Centre, Tim serves on the Board of Directors for Arts Education Network of Ontario and on the Programming Committee at Prologue Performing Arts. Tim completed his undergraduate degree at University of Toronto in Geography and Sociology. He went on to complete his Bachelor of Education at Trent University and is currently working on his Masters of Education at York University. In his (rare) spare time, Tim loves to travel, see live productions of any kind and eat as much diverse cuisine as possible.
William Wallace is a high school English teacher with the TDSB. He has long had an interest in student writing and has been part of the Toronto Council of Teachers of English, a volunteer group of TDSB teachers who have run the TDSB’s Short Fiction Contest, since 2003. He helped initiate and co-coordinates the Young Writers’ Conference, now entering its fourth year, in partnership with TIFA.
Episode 5: Book Publishers & the Changing Industry
Through the editing stage to organizing author appearances at festivals, readings and more, there are many people behind the scenes at publishing houses who work together to get books into a readers’ hands. In this episode, hear from two publishing professionals, Cory Beatty at HarperCollins Canada and Jillian Levick at Simon and Schuster Canada, about their experiences in the last year and a half. From an online bookstore finder to virtual book launches, their teams have found exciting new ways to connect authors and readers.
Cory Beatty has worked in publishing for two decades. He is the Senior Director, Marketing & Publicity at HarperCollins Canada where he oversees the promotion of all HarperCollins titles in the Canadian market. Photo credit: Lori Waltenbury.
Jillian Levick is a Senior Publicist at Simon and Schuster Canada, where she has been since 2019. Prior to that, she worked as a Publicist in London, UK with Watkins Media and Nourish Books. She lives in Toronto.
Episode 4: Book Events & the Digital Landscape
In 2020, many organizations were faced with the impossible situation of determining how to proceed with their book events when Toronto was shut down to keep people at home. After months of planning, some were forced to cancel or postpone indefinitely, but many organizations took on the challenge to find new ways to reach audiences through online events.
In this episode, we spoke with Gregory McCormick, the Manager of Cultural and Literary Programming at the Toronto Public Library; Tara Mora, an Executive Producer at CBC Books; Amanda Halfpenny, an Events and Program Coordinator at Canadian Children’s Book Centre; and Daphna Rabinovitch, the Submissions and Marketing Manager of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, to learn more about their experiences last year.
Gregory McCormick is the Manager of Cultural and Literary Programming at Toronto Public Library, the largest urban library system in the world. After finishing a master’s degree in literature from Université de Montréal, he served for six years as Director of Programming for Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival. Originally from the USA, he has lived in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Grenoble and Buenos Aires. He divides his time between Toronto and Montreal.
With creativity, persistence and entrepreneurial spirit, Tara Mora has dedicated her career to the digital evolution of Canada’s cultural industries. First at Warner Music Canada and then at MapleCore Ltd., she led teams in using the Internet to create opportunities for Canadian musicians. Now as Executive Producer for CBC Books and Literary PartnershipsTara is responsible for the strategic vision, editorial and digital direction of the CBC’s literary properties, including Canada Reads, The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers, Writers & Company with Eleanor Wachtel and the CBC Literary Prizes. Connect with Tara on LinkedIn here.
Amanda Halfpenny is the Events and Program Coordinator for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Amanda graduated with a BA in Literature from Université Laval and then launched her career at a small but mighty independent bookstore in Quebec City. She then completed her Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University and has worked in three different provinces in public libraries, in school libraries and as a professor at the School of English and Liberal Studies at Seneca College. Amanda has read Moira’s Birthday by Robert Munsch over 100 times (to herself and aloud to children) and insists that it remains just as funny every time.
Daphna Rabinovitch is the Submissions and Marketing Manager of the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Episode 3: Bookselling in a Digital World
The book industry has gone through many transformations within the past decade, but 2020 took those changes to a whole new level for booksellers. Readers were thrilled when their favourite independent bookstores extended beyond their local neighbourhood boundaries with the creation of online bookshops. And with ebooks and audiobooks available 24/7 at their fingertips, it was a book lover’s world. In this episode, we spoke with Alex Snider, co-owner of Queen Books; Hannah White, Marketing Manager at the University of Toronto Bookstore; and Kobo‘s President & CEO Michael Tamblyn to learn more about their experiences last year.
Alex Snider is co-owner of Queen Books, an independent general interest community bookshop located in Toronto.
Hannah White is the Marketing Manager for the University of Toronto Bookstore (“UofT Bookstore”). With previous experience in the world of tech startups, she joined the UofT Bookstore team in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to support the transition to digital operations. As a UofT alum herself, her focus is on building strong, supportive communities around the store’s locations on all three campuses. Connect with Hannah on LinkedIn and learn more about the Bookstore at uoftbookstore.com.
Michael Tamblyn, President and Chief Executive Officer at Rakuten Kobo, drives growth, profitability and international expansion in a fiercely competitive market. In addition to leading Rakuten Kobo, the global digital bookseller, he advises startups focused on aging and technology as Chief Entrepreneur of Age-Well NCE, is on the board of directors of the Law Commission of Ontario, Ontario’s law reform body, as well as The Power Plant, Toronto’s foremost contemporary art gallery. Michael has been a part of Rakuten Kobo’s executive team since its inception in 2009, and previously held the role of Chief Content Officer. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario.
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.
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.
Host/Editor/Producer: Stephanie Fraser
Executive producer: Amy Dennis
Technical support: Jamaal Azeez
Research support: Mallika Khosla
Music for Manatees by Kevin MacLeod