Welcome to the first written entry of the WordFest blog. This is a very important year for us. Not just because it is our fifteenth anniversary, but because this is the first time the public will be able to get a glimpse of the behind the scenes, furious workings of the WordFest team
Something that we’ve talking about in the office a lot lately, is the Canada Reads competition. Four out of the five contestants are WordFest alumni, and we are also quite proud to say that Roland Pemberton appeared at WordFest just this past year, alongside the author he has nominated, Douglas Coupland. Coincidence? I think not.
As an avid—and up until today—silent surfer of literary blogs, I have come across an interesting pattern. Many Can-lit bloggers have inevitably commented on the Canada Reads competition, many of them creating or participating in off-shoots of the contest. Canada Also Reads, Civilians Read, as well as Canada Reads Independently comes to mind right away. The creators of (most) of these contests have felt the need to nominate a different group of books entirely with the idea that the original Canada Reads contest picked books that were already well-known, and have received enough attention as is, without the Canada Reads nod. There is no question that this competition, and others like it, stir attention, and increase book sales which, let’s be honest, every Canadian book could use more of. However from what I can tell (and please correct me if I’m wrong), the Canada Reads panelists are asked to pick their favourite book, one which every Canadian should read. Maybe they should be asked to pick a book that they think doesn’t get a lot of attention, or try to keep it to the small presses, or an author who’s never been nominated for anything else, etc. But they’re not. The panelist (usually a media personality) tends to pick a well-known and well-loved book. I personally don’t see anything wrong with this. If we are going to have a contest that is meant to shed light on Canadian books that no one knows about, let’s call it Canada Should Read, with the sole intention of stirring up attention for previously under-publicized books.
People who are excited about the Canada Reads picks are allowed to be excited about the Canada Reads picks, even though most are fairly popular and well-known already. I am an avid reader, and not ashamed to say I enjoy the popular Canadian authors, just as much as I enjoy the obscure Canadian author.
Some of you may think this post is nitpicky, getting caught up in the minute details of things. I am more inclined to think these thoughts are justification for readers of the world, who are just as eager to hear about a new author as they are to sit down with a classic Atwood.