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> BY LUCY LAU

The Georgia Straight - - Contents -

As in the realms of film, TV, and mu­sic, those who ex­ist out­side the ac­cepted stan­dard within the Canadian lit­er­ary sphere—or, to put it frankly, those who, for the most part, aren’t het­ero­sex­ual, cis white men—of­ten face height­ened ha­rass­ment, ob­sta­cles, and scru­tiny in their paths to suc­cess. It’s an un­for­tu­nate re­al­ity built on decades of sys­temic dis­crim­i­na­tion that has wrong­fully side­lined many writ­ers who iden­tify as women, peo­ple of colour, or LGBT, or are oth­er­wise marginal­ized for far too long. Lo­cally, though, we’re lucky to have grass­roots fes­ti­vals like Room mag­a­zine’s fem­i­nist Grow­ing Room to help cen­tre these voices, and this fall, Van­cou­ver will wel­come an­other inclusive lit­er­ary event to its cal­en­dar: After­word.

Spear­headed by Room’s man­ag­ing ed­i­tor, Che­lene Knight, the free one­day func­tion fea­tures a lineup of more than a dozen es­tab­lished and up-and­com­ing nov­el­ists, play­wrights, po­ets, li­bret­tists, and other writ­ers liv­ing and work­ing in Van­cou­ver. All of them iden­tify as women, and many are In­dige­nous or peo­ple of colour, and fall some­where on the LGBT spec­trum. In other words, they’re peo­ple who have his­tor­i­cally been de­nied space in Canada’s lit­er­ary arena—and are now re­claim­ing these spa­ces as they share writ­ten works that touch on ev­ery­thing from ’90s Canadian pop and queer re­la­tion­ships to one’s lived ex­pe­ri­ences of grow­ing up as a “free-spir­ited tomboy” in White­horse, Yukon.

“The Canadian lit­er­ary com­mu­nity is so small al­ready, and so these spa­ces are quickly dwin­dling, I find,” Knight tells the Straight by phone. “There are peo­ple who come in and quickly take over, but let’s re­mem­ber there are also peo­ple who need that up­lift­ing. They need some­one to come be­hind them and give them kind of a lit­tle nudge, and say, ‘You know what? This is a space for you. You can to­tally oc­cupy this space.’ ”

After­word was con­ceived af­ter Knight re­signed from her role as ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Word Van­cou­ver in June. The lo­cal poet and mem­oirist was ap­pointed to the po­si­tion ear­lier that same month, though chose to leave due to “undis­closed fi­nan­cial is­sues” in­volv­ing the an­nual event’s or­ga­niz­ers. Knight, who had al­ready be­gun cu­rat­ing a lineup of writ­ers for Word, then de­cided to launch After­word as a “post­fes­ti­val cel­e­bra­tion” that would still of­fer a plat­form to the es­say­ists, screen­writ­ers, and oth­ers she had reached out to. Word Van­cou­ver is sched­uled to take place at venues around Van­cou­ver from Septem­ber 24 to 30.

“Be­cause we pro­grammed an en­tire fes­ti­val in two-and-a-half weeks, we thought, ‘Okay, now we’re kind of leav­ing these au­thors in the lurch. And we still want to be able to pro­vide that space for them, so what can we do?’” ex­plains Knight, who adds that, with After­word sched­uled fol­low­ing Word Van­cou­ver’s last day of read­ings, par­tic­i­pants still have the op­por­tu­nity to ap­pear at both events.

After­word fol­lows Room’s man­date of spot­light­ing only writ­ers who iden­tify as women, though at­ten­dance is open to all. Among the names fea­tured are past Van­cou­ver Book Award re­cip­i­ent Am­ber Dawn; broad­caster, pod­caster, and Ge­or­gia Straight the­atre critic An­drea Warner; and In­dige­nous writer and two-spirit war­rior Jaye Simp­son, who Knight says has an en­ergy that is “mind-blow­ing”. There are also emerg­ing tal­ents like Chi­nese­cana­dian poet Is­abella Wang, who holds the ti­tle of youngest writer to be short­listed for the New Quar­terly’s Edna Stae­bler Per­sonal Es­say Con­test.

For Knight, it was im­por­tant to sup­port such au­thors who are early in or just start­ing their ca­reers. “We’re al­ways talk­ing about new books com­ing out; we’re al­ways talk­ing about this up-and-com­ing author who might not have this big Twit­ter fol­low­ing or a big pub­li­cist or pub­lisher be­hind them,” she says. “We’re al­ways in the nooks and cran­nies, hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions.”

At After­word, or­ga­niz­ers will ac­cept do­na­tions to­ward Room’s Grow­ing Room fes­ti­val for 2019 and the In­dige­nous Bril­liance read­ing se­ries, which the mag­a­zine co­pro­duces. The read­ing will also in­clude a free buf­fet; the venue, mean­while, is fully ac­ces­si­ble and in­cludes non­gen­dered re­strooms. At­ten­dees may come and go from the event, which takes place from 6 to 9:30 p.m., as they please. Knight hopes that this re­laxed at­mos­phere, in ad­di­tion to the di­verse lineup of read­ers, will help fa­cil­i­tate mean­ing­ful di­a­logue be­tween writ­ers and at­ten­dees.

“That’s re­ally what I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to as well,” she says. “Not just the read­ings, but the con­ver­sa­tions that will take place once we’re all in that space to­gether.”

After­word takes place at the Na­tive Ed­u­ca­tion Col­lege on Septem­ber 30, from 6 to 9:30 p.m.

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