An evening of transformational fiction

On a cool Friday evening in Ottawa, I walk into a beautiful downtown venue, with free parking, where I chat with the ticket lady for a few minutes before getting some beer for me and a glass of wine for my guest. I make my way to the event room where three authors will chat about themselves and their books.

As a writer, I think of myself as a creative person, but I also think of writers as creative in isolation. A painter can go to an art museum to appreciate art and get new ideas. An actor can watch a play. A writer – well, what does a writer do, stay at home and read? After hearing about the Ottawa International Writer’s Festival, I thought I should take a look to see what it’s about. Maybe this is the “writer’s museum.”

I wasn’t sure what type of crowd would be at a writer’s festival or if I would enjoy it at all. I secretly imagined snooty, judgy people that might look down on you if you weren’t wearing black, grey, brown, or beige. Instead, I experienced a warm, friendly atmosphere of artistic and open minded people who were there to discover authors they didn’t know and learn more about authors they did know.

I got the opportunity to sit in on Imagining Truths, an event hosted by Peter Schneider, featuring Omar El Akkad, Cherie Dimaline, and Timothy Taylor.

Timothy went on to read from “The Rule of Stephens,” a book about the survivor of a plane crash who begins to discover a very disordered and mystical world, with words so poetically brilliant in every way that you could easily find yourself getting lost in the story.

Omar El Akkad, gave a very humble and at times self-deprecating reading from the very brilliant “American War,” a novel that creates a plague and has the US turning its weapons on itself for prevention and protection. It very easily starts to parallel what US international policies look like in foreign lands. This book is sure to activate the activist while disrupting the traditionalist.

Cherie Dimaline read from her book “The Marrow Thieves,” where the world is in chaos because of global warming. Non indigenous people have lost the ability to dream, and now they will harvest the marrow of those who can dream. In Cherie’s own words, she has truly created “transformational fiction.” Those words really resonated with me, “transformational fiction.” She created a novel, a work of fiction, that makes readers think about how indigenous people have been treated and are being treated.

The Writer’s Festival hosts many more events with international writers who write just about anything, and I’ll be sure to check it out again in October when they are running their next event. In the meantime, I have been transformed from the experience of this “writer’s museum,” and I hope others will be too.

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