Winnipeg Thin Air Festival

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Image from here.

This year is the 17th annual Thin Air Writers Festival. It’s eight days of readings and discussions led by renowned writers, as well as author-led writers workshops for anyone who’s interested. During classes this week, I got the pleasure of listening to three readings by four very different authors.

The first was a discussion led by Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan who are primarily performance artists, who also work in film, installations and evidently the written word. The two work have worked together for over 25 years and co-create everything that they make. It was interesting to hear how collaboration works, especially since writing is often seen as a solo-mission. They read several short stories from their book Bedtime Stories for the Edge of the World which is an imagining of common stories, such as Tonto and the Lone Ranger, from a female and a lesbian point of view. Their spin is an interesting look into gender and sexuality hierarchies throughout history.

The second discussion was led by Michel Cormier, who is a world-travelled journalis. His new book The Legacy of Tiananmen Square is a look into the lives of those involved in the Tiananmen Square protests in China, 20 years later. Cormier had an interesting take on journalism and described feeling embarrassed about the way news stories attempt to capture their subjects whole story in a 2 minute window. Yet as a journalist himself he has had many profound interviews with people in war torn and politically stratified counties.

Lastly we got to listen to a reading by Jim Nason from his book I Though I’d Be Happy, which is a fictional story about several characters who climb Mount Olympus and confront the various ideas of happiness throughout their journey. Nason’s talked about how he creates characters and what he puts them through in order to seem authentic, he also described how interesting and rewarding research can be. His take on inspiration and its unexpected nature  was very interesting. My take away was that characters and stories can take start with real life inspiration and that dedicating time to writing everyday can be fruitful.

These readings couldn’t have come at a better time for me personally. Since starting school I’ve had a hard time feeling creative, especially since I’m in such a creativity based program. I’m getting used to the demands but I find myself questioning my ideas and even my abilities as a writer. I feel slightly more confident listening to other writers and their personal struggles with writing and techniques for being creative!

Here is a video about the 2011 Thin Air Festival:

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