Ottawa International Writers Festival

Transcending barriers of race, class and culture

Ottawa is lucky to have a writers’ festival committed to bringing world-class thinkers to the capital city every year.
Ottawa International Writers Festival

Ottawa is lucky to have a writers’ festival committed to bringing world-class thinkers to the capital city every year.

Luminaries such as theoretical physicist Lee Smolin, award-winning authors such as Ireland’s Colm Tóibín and a fistful of writers including crime writers, religious writers and poets descended on Ottawa to celebrate the written word in all its variations.

According to Alan Lightman in the May 3 edition of The New York Times, Lee Smolin in his new book, “Time Reborn, From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe,” argues that the “now has been taken out of physics and it is time to put it back in.”

Lightman goes on to say that Smolin suggests “major structural revisions to the two fundamental pillars of modern physics, relativity and quantum mechanics.”

Smolin works mainly on the problem of quantum gravity. He has also contributed to cosmology, the foundations of quantum mechanics, astrophysics, theoretical biology, the philosophy of science and most recently, economics. This is a must-read book in layman’s language and one I will read with relish.

Lee Smolin’s Ottawa talk was on April 30 at Knox Church.

The 2013 Spring Edition of the festival opened on April 25 with Germany’s Thomas Pletzinger and his book “Funeral for a Dog,” America’s Ron Currie, Jr. who wrote “Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles,” and British Columbia’s Ruth Ozeki, showcasing her novel, “A Tale for the Time Being.”

Most events were held at Knox Church on Elgin Street in downtown Ottawa.

This year, on April 27, the north was featured in an evening of poetry and storytelling hosted by CBC’s Lucy van Oldenbarneveld. Throat singer and spoken word poet Taqralik Partridge, originally from Kuujjuaq, Nunavik and multiple award-winning spoken word artist, storyteller and author Ivan E. Coyote from Whitehorse took the stage for a fascinating presentation.

The evening of April 29 was supposed to start with a sold-out talk by best-selling author Rabbi Harold S. Kushner. His book, “When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person,” gives readers an idea of what a thoughtful look at a biblical text, “The Book of Job,” can teach us in a troubled world. Due to bad weather in Boston, the talk had to be postponed.

Another event provided a look at three novels set in Africa, including “Johnny Mad Dog” by Emmanuel Dongala (France/Congo) and “The Lion Seeker” by Kenneth Bonnert (Canada/South Africa). Mozambique writer Mia Couto was also part of the trio, with “The Tuner of Silences.”

Post-Festival special events included a Books and Brunch at the National Arts Centre with Sandra Martin (“Working with the Dead Beat”); Dorothy Speak (“Reconciliation”); Carolyn Abraham (“The Juggler’s Children”); and Stephen Maher (“Deadline”).

There were other events as well – a free one at City Hall on May 8 with James Cunningham and his book “Eat Street,” and on Monday, May 13, there will be a talk hosted by Charlotte Gray about the book “Paris” by Edward Rutherford, to be held at the Saint Paul University Amphitheatre.

The fall edition of the festival runs from October 24 to 30. Special festival rates for out-of-town visitors are available at ARC The Hotel (1-800-699-2516). For more information, visit

Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings and Doctor’s Review among many others. Email: [email protected].

Related Topics