By Diana Lyuber
Alberta’s 100th birthday is upon us and in the midst of centennial celebrations the University of Calgary will be hosting the Wild Words literary conference to remind us that being Albertan isn’t all about rolling in oil and loving our beef.
“I think the writing community in Alberta, particularly in Calgary, is very strong,” said Wild Words committee founder Donna Coates. “It was in early fall of 2003 that I noticed nothing was being done in the province to celebrate Alberta writers, so I talked to my department head and I gathered up a couple of other people who thought it was a great idea.”
Wild Words runs from Wed., Oct. 19 to Sun, Oct. 23 and is a celebration of Alberta’s literary culture over the past 100 years. The five-day event fuses daily academic panels with nightly readings and keynote addresses by world-renowned writers bred in our own backyard.
“We wanted to really look at what Alberta literary history has been about, what has captured the imagination of Alberta writers and what they see as important issues in Alberta writing,” explained Coates.
From celebrated playwright Sharon Pollock to puppeteer Ronnie Burkett, the conference boasts several big names in Canadian arts and literature. Academics from home and around the world will also join the celebrations by presenting panel discussions on various topics revolving around Alberta literature.
Students are welcome at any of the evening performances free of charge. Readings and keynote addresses are open to the general public, while panels held during the day are restricted to those registered in the conference. Academically-minded students need not fear, however; the standard starving student rate for Wild Words registration is only $35, barely a third of regular cost.
“I think it’s a rich potpourri of literary events, and I would really encourage people to come to the free open events,” said Coates, adding that attending academic conferences of this nature could be beneficial to students in many ways.
Although she is looking forward to a fantastic celebration, Coates admits the initial party had been envisioned on a far grander scale.
“We started off with a huge project and eventually it just became overwhelming,” said Coates. “I have to say that one of the big problems has been finding money. We haven’t been able to attract much provincial money and it’s disappointing that the Alberta government has done so little to promote the event.”
By putting Alberta writing in the spotlight, Coates hopes that Wild Words will help discourage our tendency to overlook great works of literature produced right here at home.
“I think as Canadians we used to think writing that came from somewhere else was better, but now we know that Canadians are among the best writers in the world and that many of them are living in Alberta,” she said.