Whistler Writers Festival: 7 Steps to Creating a Literary Retreat in Whistler

A man and a woman sit on a dock on Alta Lake in Whistler reading and discussing books.

Whistler Writers Festival: 7 Steps to Creating a Literary Retreat in Whistler

In biology, a species’ ability to adapt to its environment makes it more likely to survive. As we tread past the six-month marker of the pandemic, it’s possible to apply adaptation as a rather handy survival tool to almost every aspect of our daily lives.

Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Keep your distance. No big groups. That’s how you stay safe. But what about thriving? What about connection, and intimacy, and sharing ideas that make us feel part of a community? This year the Whistler Writers Festival (WWF) has undergone its own adaptation to create a special virtual edition to deliver all of these values — and keep everyone safe.

1. Join Us for a Literary Getaway

Although festival audiences can’t get together at the same venue in Whistler this year, it is still possible to visit Whistler and attend the festival, happening October 15 – 18, 2020. Book yourself and your bubble a readers or writers retreat.

Come to Whistler and revel in the bright autumn colours. Take a peaceful stroll out to Lost Lake to ruminate on your latest page-turner. Register for a full festival of virtual reading events, craft workshops and industry panels delivered by some of the finest Canadian and international literary authors.

2. It’s All About Connection

One of the key cornerstones of the festival is to connect readers to authors and writing. In 2020, this hasn’t changed even though we need to stay physically distanced. In fact, connection and discourse are more important than ever. To that end, the theme for the 2020 Whistler Writers Festival is listen, write, read, connect.

 

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Tanya Boteju (@tboteju) is a teacher and writer living on unceded Coast Salish territories (Vancouver, BC). She spends much of her life in a classroom, teaching English to clever and sassy young people. Her novel, Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens from @simonandschuster, was named an Indie Top 10 Pick of the Summer by the American Booksellers Association, got a starred review on Shelf Awareness, and a Top Teen Book of 2019 by Indigo. Her work appeared in the short story anthology Out Now (Inkyard Press) and Boteju’s next YA novel, Bruised, is due out with @simonandschuster in 2021. Tanya is grateful for her patient wife, supportive family and friends, committed educators, cheeky students, and hot mugs of tea. She hopes to continue contributing to the ever-growing, positive representation of diverse characters in literature. You can take a workshop with her at the #whistlerwritersfest! Check out our website to register for Teenagers are Smart! Ideas for Writing Characters that Will (Hopefully) Speak to Them at 9 a.m. PDT on Oct. 18.

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All reading and workshop sessions will be presented online in the Zoom format, where audiences will have opportunities to ask questions, share insights and engage in thoughtful discussion at après events. Plan to cozy up to the fireplace with a hot toddy and snuggle in for an abundance of authors, books and ideas.

3. Good Reads

Typically, the festival has a pop-up bookstore onsite where fans can grab an author’s book right after a rousing reading. This year you can find all of the festival books (or almost all, some release right before the festival) in a special section at Whistler’s favourite indie bookseller, Armchair Books.

To help festivalgoers easily locate all of the guest authors’ current book releases, we’ve created a WWF Virtual Bookstore. The curated store comes complete with links to buy or pre-order online from indie bookstores across Canada, for those who wish to shop in advance of their visit to Whistler.

4. Be Sure to Make Time for Après

Whistler is famous for its après, a time when folks gather in a communal space, raise a glass and share thoughts on the uplifting activity they’ve just experienced. To honour Whistler’s hospitable après tradition, and our theme of connection, the WWF has built online après Zoom lounges that take place after four marquee events: the Opening Night Showcase, Booklovers’ Salon with Marina Endicott, Saturday Night Gala with Wade Davis, and the Sunday Brunch.

Pick up a pack of craft beer from one of Whistler’s breweries, or order wine online from a local liquor store, and discuss the literary landscape with friends, authors and other book lovers.

5. Elevate Your Craft

Whether you’re a scribbler who’s a dabbler or a devotee, the WWF has a craft writing workshop with your name on it. Try the smorgasbord of offerings at the Self-Publishing Buffet, which includes topics from the role of the editor to getting past writer’s block, and the Canadian publishing landscape to book design essentials.

 

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Ever wonder: “how did the author think of that?” Katherine Fawcett (@katherinefawcet) helps unwrap the mystery of conjuring up characters, settings and tales from thin air at the 2020 #whistlerwritersfest. Whether it’s a sci-fi fantasy, a travel adventure or a new-fangled fairytale, no story is possible without imagination. In the #whistlerwritersfest workshop How Did You Think of That, Fawcett, who is the author of The Swan Suit, aims to explore how curiosity, receptivity, passion and immediacy can sharpen the creative instinct that lurks in us all. Be prepared to write. Workshop is Oct. 17 at 9 a.m. PDT, online. Tickets are $10 at https://whistlerwritersfest.com/. ••• #writingtips #learntowrite #katherinefawcett #theswansuit #fantasy #imagination #creativity #theswansuit

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Jump into a workshop on how to sharpen your creative instinct in How did you think of THAT? with Squamish author Katherine Fawcett, or a session on developing humour in bleak situations with New Zealand author Amy McDaid in the workshop Laughing in the Dark.

6. We’re All in This Together

Now in its 19th year, the “little festival that could” has been able to pivot online thanks to almost two decades of support from Whistler businesses and organizations. While you’re here, support the festival by shopping locally. Order a delicious take-out meal to pair with the popular Friday night Literary Cabaret—an evening of author readings twinned with local musicians from the band Some Assembly Required.

During your stay, take the time to generate new perspectives by exploring some of Whistler’s other cultural offerings. Enjoy a guided tour of the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center to learn about the traditional culture and heritage of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations. At the Audain Art Museum, experience the art of BC in the permanent collection, and the international arc of photography in its current special exhibition, The Extended Moment: Fifty Years of Collecting Photography.

7. Refresh Your Mind

Learning to live with the novel coronavirus has demanded we all adjust our lives in countless ways. This can be stressful, and you may have found it hard to focus on your reading or writing. To connect with your inner thoughts and experiences, gain insights by paying attention and fuel your curiosity, register for the Connecting with Our Inner Observer: Insight through Mindfulness workshop.

Facilitator and mindfulness educator Nicola Bentley leads this short experiential session and guided meditation practice to help you connect and improve your wellbeing. Come away with the knowledge to give yourself a fresh outlook and tools for resilience in challenging times.

This October, connect, adapt and thrive with us in Whistler, while staying safe and enjoying the crisp mountain air of autumn.

Room rates start at $139 and you get a free $25 Dining Voucher when you book a stay of two nights or more. You could also consider staying midweek for even more savings and a quieter village. For more ideas about what to do in the mountains in fall, take a look at When Seasons Collide: 12 Quintessential Whistler Experiences.

Rebecca Wood Barrett

Rebecca Wood Barrett

Rebecca Wood Barrett is an award-winning filmmaker and writer living in Whistler, BC. Her short fiction has been published in Room, The Antigonish Review and Pique Newsmagazine.

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