Saskatchewan Festival of Words

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Saskatchewan Festival of Words Inc. is a registered non-profit organization based in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Established in 1996, it promotes literacy and celebrates in various forms the imaginative use of words, written or oral, by Canadians. The organization operates on a year-round basis offering literacy and literary programming with an annual four-day summer festival held the third week of July in Moose Jaw. The 18th edition of the summer festival takes place July 17-20, 2014.


In 1996, a founding committee led by local teacher and poet Gary Hyland began laying the groundwork for a literary festival in the city of Moose Jaw. Realizing the need to differentiate from other book-based literary festivals, the founders developed a festival concept emphasizing all aspects of creative language and promoting literacy and lifelong reading. Books and authors would be the foundation of the festival, but variety would come though the addition of storytellers, illustrators, journalists, editors, singer-songwriters, filmmakers, dramatists, and actors. It was also early in the planning stage that efforts to provide programming for a variety of age groups and that year-round programming promoting literacy, creative writing, and lifelong reading would be part of the organization's vision. Over the following months the Living Skies Festival of Words was born and all of these goals would come to pass. In June 2010 the organization formalized a name change to become the Saskatchewan Festival of Words Inc and by 2013 the Festival of Words was designated charitable status.


Over 140 volunteers contribute to the delivery of programming offered by the festival. Volunteers play a key role in all areas from planning programming to fundraising. The annual summer festival sees volunteers donate over 1,000 hours of time in a four-day span and is the backbone of its success.


The festival has over 500 paying members from across Canada, the United States, and as far away as Australia. Membership in the organization is a way for people to show their support for the organization. In return, members receive a regular newsletter containing information on upcoming events.

Summer Festival[edit]

The annual summer festival is the centerpiece event for the organization. It takes place in the third week of July in Moose Jaw beginning on Thursday and closing on Sunday. One of the guiding principles behind the summer festival is to provide intimate venues allowing for high levels of interaction between writers and readers. Another principle is to offer a program that promotes both established and emerging voices working in a variety of genres and mediums. Workshops, plenaries, Q&A sessions, readings, panel discussions, live entertainment and trivia contests give attendees plenty to choose from. More than 25 presenters attend each year with approximately 60 events held during the four days.


All festival events, occur in a two-block radius in the heart of historic downtown Moose Jaw. The Moose Jaw Public Library, Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery, The Moose Jaw Cultural Centre, and the Temple Gardens Mineral Spa Resort are the main venues of the festival.

17 Festivals and Counting[edit]

Since the first summer festival in 1997, the reputation and popularity of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words has grown. Literary heavyweights such as Margaret Atwood, Alistair MacLeod, Joy Fielding, Lorna Crozier, John Ralston Saul, Jane Urquhart, Lawrence Hill, Robert Currie, Yann Martel, Robert Sawyer, Guy Vanderhaeghe, David Adam Richards, Elizabeth Hay, Nino Ricci, Pamela Wallin, and dozens more have attended over the years.

2016 Summer Festival[edit]

The 20th annual Saskatchewan Festival of Words takes place July 14–17, 2016. A few of the following presenters have been announced:

The full line-up will be announced in April.

Spring Launch[edit]

In the third week in April the festival holds its annual Spring Launch announcing all confirmed presenters for the summer festival. The list of presenters had in the past been a closely guarded secret prior to the launch. However at the close of the 2009 festival, organizers broke with tradition revealing the names of three presenters for the 2010 edition with more names to be revealed over the following months through the festival's website and other communication channels. The Spring Launch also serves as the platform for announcing the recipient of the Honour's Award. Established in 2001, the award is presented annually to recognize a citizen's lifelong contribution to the community of Moose Jaw.

Festival Programme[edit]

Thursday Features

  • Film: the festival officially begins with a film on Thursday evening featuring a Canadian connection.
  • Readception: a handful of presenters give mini readings from their work.
  • Workshops: aspiring writers learn from published professionals in a number of genres.
  • Kids Ink: a half-day workshop for children ages 9–13, consisting of writing exercises, dramatic play, music, and tips to help youngsters explore creative expression.
  • The Great Big Book Club: a chance for festival attendees to discuss with the author, his or her latest work.

Friday Features

  • Luncheon: a meal featuring a speech or Q&A with an author.
  • Presenter Sessions: up close and personal sessions offered throughout the day giving a wide variety of options to festival goers. Anywhere from 2-4 sessions occur in a given time slot. Sessions are 50 minutes and run from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
  • Friday Feature: held in the Mae Wilson Theatre, featuring top Canadian literary talents. Authors are interviewed National Post's book editor Mark Medley.
  • Literary Trivia Night: a fun-filled literary trivia event held in a pub setting with teams of four vying for prizes and glory and an author auction.

Saturday Features

  • Presenter Sessions: up close and personal sessions offered throughout the day giving a wide variety of options to festival goers. Anywhere from 2-4 sessions occur in a given time slot. Sessions are 50 minutes and run from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
  • Book Launch: each year a Saskatchewan publisher launches a new work.
  • Saturday Feature: held in the Mae Wilson Theatre, featuring top Canadian literary talents. Hosted Mark Medley, this event usually presents an interview or speech from an author.
  • Saturday Night Entertainment: A concert by great artists with a Canadian connection.

Sunday Features

  • Wind-up: catered brunch with entertainment, book draws, two panels and a final chance to purchase and have books autographed.

2009 Summer Festival[edit]

Life is an Open Book was the theme of the 2009 festival, which saw over 3,500 individual paid admissions. A total of 62 events were held and 32 presenters took part in the four-day festival, including:

Year-Round Programming[edit]

The Saskatchewan Festival of Words provides year-round programming to the province in three areas:

1. Performer's Cafe Performer's Cafe has two featured performances throughout the night, while the rest of the event is open mic. Performances range from songs to poetry and anything in between. It runs the last Wednesday of every month except August and December.

2. Cineview: Cinview runs for two seasons in a year: fall and winter. Each season shows 4 films, usually once a month. The films are selected from TIFF's collection and feature films that are not normally released in Moose Jaw.

3. Summer Festival: Aimed at providing wide public exposure to Canadian writers (authors, storytellers, songwriters, dramatists), and filmmakers with an emphasis on Saskatchewan content.

Program Components[edit]

Program components supporting the three above-mentioned areas include:

Books for Kids: The goal of the Books for Kids project administered by the festival is to promote literact and lifelong reading by providing books for school children to take home and read with their parents or on their own. The program is aimed at children in elementary school and in the past 11 years has distributed 3,700 books to 56 schools throughout the province and three day cares in Moose Jaw.

Writer-in-Residence: When funding allows, the festival has contracted a writer-in-residence to provide writing workshops at Moose Jaw and area schools and with local writers. Since 2008, writer/director/cowboy poet Ken Mitchell and writer Ted Dyck have completed terms as Moose Jaw writer-in-residence.

Teen Writing Experience (TWE): In partnership with Sage Hill Writing Experience, the festival organizes an annual weeklong workshop for Saskatchewan teens ages 14–18. Selected teens work with an established writer and guest presenters to learn the craft of writing. TWE begins on the Monday leading up to the summer festival and culminates with each participant reading from the work they developed during the workshop on the Friday of the festival. Billets are arranged for non-local attendees.

The Great Big Book Club: Involves participants selecting and discussing a book by a Canadian author at a weekend retreat. A version of the book club also takes place during the summer festival.

CineView Saskatchewan: This branch of the Festival, in partnership with the Toronto International Film Festival and Galaxy Entertainment, presents alternate feature films monthly through series passes and individual tickets.

Moose Jaw Honours Award: In 2001 the Festival in partnership with Heritage Moose Jaw instituted the Moose Jaw Honours Gala, an evening banquet at which a citizen of Moose Jaw and district is honoured for lifetime contributions to the community. In 2004 the format was changed and the award is now presented at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words Spring Launch in April. The 2009 Honours Award was presented to the festival founder Gary Hyland.

External links[edit]