Toronto is one of the most diverse and culturally inclusive cities in the world. The city hosts thousands of festivals each year, and for writers and readers, few are more celebrated than the Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA). Through the decades, TIFA has made significant imprints on the Canadian literary scene. The festival emerged in 1974 and has since gone through many adaptations, growing from its humble start as a newspaper segment to an internationally recognized organization. This year, TIFA 2020 spanned 11 days and featured nearly 200 authors, writers, poets, screenwriters, and illustrators from all over the world.
While the festival’s 41st season ran a bit differently this year, it continued its growth in communities across the globe. Each day, events took place from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. via an online platform or through live sessions with limited capacity. There was an event for every literary form, with no restrictions based on artistic style or academic level. Many virtual events included masterclasses hosted by TIFA guests, Humber College professors, and industry professionals. Although mostly virtual this year, the festival was just as successful as previous editions. In fact, holding events online allowed more attendees to join from distant locations.
Many famous writers attended TIFA, headlined by Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood. On October 22, Atwood spoke about her former publications, including her popular novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. This was an inspiring event for fans of the book and those who watched the hit HBO adaptation. Atwood also introduced her newest poetry collection, titled Dearly. This marked her first poetry publication in almost a decade and came from the reflection of prosperity and growth. In Dearly, the Canadian author connects her emotional absences in the past to the passage of time.
The festival hosted other influential artists and storytellers, including Cree author Michelle Good, who discussed her novel Five Little Indians, a nonfiction story about the Native Canadian men and women forced into residential schools. During her conversation, Good detailed her book’s progression from idea to publication, illustrating personal experiences along the way.
Other notable speakers at TIFA included Marc Herman Lynch, the author of Arborescent, and Jack Wang, the author of We Two Alone. Both of them offered first-hand accounts of their experiences as young immigrants in their novels. The two books are available for purchase at the University of Toronto bookstore.
Many Toronto festivals only showcase writers and artists established in their industries. While TIFA brought in a few icons, the festival also welcomed local up-and-comers. There was no restriction on content or publishing experience. At TIFA, every author has the space to show their knowledge, talent, and passion.
It’s never easy for new and young writers to get their work recognized, especially during a pandemic. TIFA celebrates the work of talented authors worldwide who deserve a platform. While slightly different this year, TIFA’s 41st season was an inspiring event, one you can re-experience by visiting the online catalogue of conversations at the Festival of Authors website.