Elizabeth Hay will be one of the presenters in Okanagan College’s first Shuswap Book Fest Oct. 1 and 2 at the Salmar Classic.

Power in written word

Book fest: Esteemed writers part of inaugural event.

  • Sep. 23, 2015 5:00 p.m.

Elizabeth Hay and Eleanor Wachtel, host of CBC Radio’s Writers & Company, are two internationally renowned writers presenting in Shuswap Book Fest, a community event that aims to bring book lovers and writers together and build public dialogue and discussion.

Hay, is the author of the #1 nationally bestselling novel Alone in the Classroom, the Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning novel Late Nights On Air, as well as three other award-winning works of fiction, A Student of WeatherGarbo Laughs, and Small Change.

Formerly a radio broadcaster, she spent a number of years in Mexico and New York City before returning to Canada. She lives in Ottawa.

An avid reader, Hay is forthright about the importance books play in her life.

“Books for me are a source of sanity, comfort and release,” says the author who will make a presentation at 7 p.m. Friday at the Salmar Classic. “My life has always been books; it’s how I got through childhood and how I get through difficulties…”

Hay will introduce her new book, His Whole Life.

Hay says her new novel is an exploration of the relationship between a mother and son.

“I wanted to have divided loyalties at the heart of the book,” she says, noting the story covers a span of seven years. “He’s an American boy with an American father and a Canadian mother. He lives in New York and every year he goes up to an Ontario Lake to spend time with his mother.”

Hay says inspiration for her novels comes from the things that preoccupy her.

“I have a son and daughter so naturally I am interested in relationships between parents and children,” she says, noting she is married to an American and has aunts and uncles who moved to the States. “I lived in New York for six years so the tug between two places has been a huge part of my life.”

While she has read books exploring similar themes, Hay did not think they had delved deeply enough into the issues.

In His Whole Life, Mom Nan also has an estranged son about eight years older.

“At the heart is the attachment between a mother and her boy. She is aware she will lose him (as he grows up), a kind of dispersal that’s very loaded emotionally,” she says. “I explore emotionally loaded territory, frequently in family life.”

Hay describes readers as solitary people, who enjoy very private pleasure and says book fests bring people together, creating a shared experience.

“It’s really marvellous to talk about something you’ve just read, it makes experience last longer,” she says.

Hay will be interviewed on stage by Okanagan College English professor  Alix Hawley, whose latest book All True Not a Lie in It won the Amazon.ca/Walrus First Novel Award in 2015.

Presenting at 7 p.m. Oct. 1, Eleanor Wachtel is the host and co-founder of CBC Radio’s Writers & Company, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this season. She is the winner of the New York Festivals Award. She also hosts Wachtel on the Arts, which features the best artists from around the world.

Wachtel’s most recent books are Original Minds and Random Illuminations: Conversations With Carol Shields.  Wachtel has been widely recognized for her contributions to Canadian cultural life, including eight honorary degrees and Officer of the Order of Canada.

Her unique talk, The Lives of Writers, will include interview clips with great writers and will look at several aspects of the relationship between the writer, their work and the readers.

Shuswap Book Fest promoter Miki Andrejevic worked for an entire year with Okanagan College (president Jim Barmby to put what is hoped will become an annual event.

“The concept was to create a community engaging festival,” says Andrejevic, who has produced a number of different festivals.

A graduate in law from University of Belgrade, Grant MacEwan University’s  arts administration program, and the Banff Centre Arts Management Program, Andrejevic has a long and distinguished career in arts management.

“I volunteered to do this one; this is my contribution to my community,” says Andrejevic, who has a home in the North Shuswap and plans to retire to the region he loves in the near future.

Tickets are available at Okanagan College, Wearabouts, Salmar and Classic theatres and online at www.SalmarTheatre.com.


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