To be the organization in our community that celebrates the power of the written word by connecting writers and readers in conversations that inspire, engage, and change our worldview.
To foster the artistic development of individual writers, promote literary expression and develop an audience for the literary arts.
Kingston WritersFest, a charitable cultural organization, brings the best of contemporary writers to Kingston to interact with audiences and other artists for mutual inspiration, education, and the exchange of ideas that literature provokes.
Through readings, performance, onstage discussion and master classes, Kingston WritersFest fosters intellectual and emotional growth on a personal and community level and raises the profile of reading and literary expression in our community.
Our Goals & Artistic Objectives
- To expand the local and regional audience for local, national, and international authors
- To nurture literary expression in emerging and established writers of all genres
- To foster literacy and creative writing skills in people of all ages, interests, and backgrounds
- To promote literacy and appreciation of the literary arts among young people and children
- To forge a vibrant and integrated cultural community through outreach to educational institutions and arts organizations
- To reinforce Kingston’s place on Canada’s literary map
Kingston is arguably Canada’s most literary town. Embedded in the foundation of Kingston Penitentiary lies a copy of the first novel printed and published in Canada –St. Ursula’s Convent, or The Nun of Canada, written by Julia Catherine Beckwith Hart, who visited an aunt in Kingston in 1820. She stayed on to marry a bookbinder who, in 1824, issued her novel. The first Canadian cookbook, The Cook Not Mad, was published here, too.
Among the authors associated with the city are Robertson Davies and Grant Allen (who completed one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels, thus producing the first Canadian detective novel), Matt Cohen, David Helwig, Tom Wayman, Tom Marshall, Bronwen Wallace, Gérard Besette, and Stan Dragland. Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, and Kate Stearns have all set novels here. Judith Thompson made the city famous with her play The Crackwalker. Some 300 published authors live in the region, and several writers of international stature make their homes here now.
Kingston is a city that not only writes, it reads. The metropolitan area supports a major chain bookstore and half a dozen independent or specialist booksellers as well as three antiquarian retailers. There are scores of book clubs: the public library alone services 166.
Into this vibrant literary environment, Kingston WritersFest was launched in 2006 by a core group of dedicated and hardworking volunteers under the auspices of Kingston Frontenac Public Library and Kingston Literacy.
In 2009, under the direction of a new team headed by Merilyn Simonds, Kingston WritersFest was professionalized, moving to its home at the Holiday Inn Kingston Waterfront and expanding to include dozens of writers in every genre. Over the next five years, WritersFest developed outreach programs that touch thousands of local children and youth: Festival Field Trips for high-school students, Authors@School for elementary students, Kids on Sunday for families, and free rush seats for Queen’s and St. Lawrence students. Barbara Bell stepped into the role of Artistic Director in 2014.
Still lovingly organized by a dedicated staff and a corps of book-loving volunteers committed to fostering a love of literature, the festival now welcomes an audience of 6,000 to more than 50 events featuring some 70 authors from around the world, across the country, and down the street. Hailed as one of the best festivals in the country, it is renowned for its unique programming and the intimate atmosphere within which this community of readers and writers continues to grow.
2018 Festival Staff
Author Patron Coordinator
Author Patron Assistant
Box Office Services Coordinator
Amanda di Vito
Box Office Manager
Kimberly Sutherland Mills
Program Guide Editor
Junior Programming Advisors
Volunteer Technical Support
Tracy John Creative
Fund Development Consultant
Tye Consulting – Paul Tye
Curious You Production
2018 Festival Service Providers
Collins Barrow – Brent Wilson
Novel Idea – Oscar and Joanna Malan
Sound and Lights
Kingston Sound Works