The Word On The Street Toronto festival confirms printed books and literacy never go out of style

Word On The Street
Photo by Deepi Harish

By Deepi Harish

After a decade of calling Queen’s Park home to The Word On The Street Toronto Book & Magazine Festival, organizers have moved the festival to the Harbourfront Centre.

In 2014, the International Festival of Authors (IFOA) announced its new partnership with The Word On The Street Toronto. The Harbourfront Centre has always hosted the IFOA, and with the Queens Quay Revitalization project underway, it made sense to combine two of Canada’s biggest literary festivals. The combination of the festivals at the Harbourfront Centre allows for the use of both outdoor and indoor spaces to create a more enticing and creative exhibitor marketplace for the public.

“At IFOA we have spent decades as a hub for the Canadian and international literary communities, and we are now excited to become even more engaged with the vibrant community of readers and writers here in Toronto,” IFOA Director Geoffrey E. Taylor said at the time.

Returning for the twenty-seventh time, the 2016 Word On The Street Toronto has grown in size and popularity, with more workshops, readings, panel discussions, tents, stages, sponsors, and partners than in previous years.

With more than 200 publishing houses, 70 art organizations, 30 magazine publishers, 20 literacy groups, hundreds of authors, and thousands of discounted books, this festival can get overwhelming — in a good way.

Toronto Book Awards
Photo by Deepi Harish

The Word On The Street Toronto celebrates local talent, independent authors, and diversity of Canadian literacy. Whether you fancy reading fantasy, sci-fi, comics, cookbooks, true crime, or any other genre not mentioned above, this book fair is one of Toronto’s biggest outdoor bookstores, giving attendees the opportunity to connect with people from the Canadian publishing world.

With five main stages to explore, I stopped by the Bestsellers Stage. This stage featured author readings for all audiences, including 2015 Giller Prize winner André Alexis, author of The Hidden Keys. Neil Pasricha, known for writing the The Book of Awesome and The Happiness Equation, was also present to sign autographs.

During my visit to the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) exhibitor tent, I learned about a new literary event. FOLD is dedicated to promoting diversity in Canadian literature by hosting a new festival in Brampton, making it easier for those who cannot make it to Toronto.

This year’s festival emphasized kids’ literacy. Half of the events and spaces catered to children’s books. The TVOKids LIVE! concert stage had a whole day of “fun-filled literacy-focused entertainment including music, stories, readings and interactive sessions.”

Photo by Deepi Harish

Other highlights from this year’s festival included the Genre Zone Stage, which showcased diverse anthologies, graphic novels, and more from independent authors. Not to be missed was a Youth Spoken Word Showcase, which encouraged teen poets to tell powerful stories rich with imagery through their individual voices. The nine American Sign Language interpreted readings, an important feature added to this year’s agenda, made the festival an accessible event. The Deaf culture and Deaf heritage tent brought poetry, rap, and comedy to the mix to celebrate Deaf Canadians.

I was most excited to visit the Cooks ‘n’ Books stage. Although I regret missing out on the talk by Jean Blacklock, the owner of Prairie Girl Bakery, I was excited to buy a copy of The Prairie Girl Cupcake Cookbook to learn about the ingredients she uses to make her famous cupcakes so decadent.

Deepi Harish is a seasoned storyteller who currently blogs for The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Medium. She has over eight years of experience as a writer and editor, and holds a postgraduate certificate in Publishing from Ryerson University.

This article was copy edited by Christine Albert

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