The Down-low on The Word on the Street
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The Down-low on The Word on the Street

The annual Word on the Street festival brings Toronto's noses out of books, into the fresh air, and then back into books again.

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Word on the Street
Queen’s Park Circle
September 23, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If summer is filled with music, theatre, and food festivals, then the fall clearly belongs to the book lover. Next month is the always-anticipated International Festival of Authors, but first, Torontonians can whet their literary appetites at the 23rd annual Word on the Street festival.

Fifteen tents will feature book sales, magazine subscription deals, readings, and discussions for book fans young and old all day, including some very big names in a wide variety of genres. To name just a few: Giller Prize–winner David Bergen (The Time in Between, The Matter with Morris); money management guru Gail Vaz-Oxlade; environmental advocate David Suzuki; and the prolific author and essayist John Ralston Saul. But here are a few more suggestions on whom to check out at Word on the Street, before you check them out at the library:

Edward Keenan
Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent, 11:30 a.m.

Ed Keenan isn’t appearing at WOTS to promote a novel or collection of poetry, but rather his new book about our city: Some Great Idea: Good Neighbourhoods, Crazy Politics and the Invention of Toronto. As the lead columnist for The Grid and one of the city’s most insightful City Hall voices, his discussion will definitely be worth stopping in at—if only to hear if there are any updates on his challenge to debate Rob Ford.

Pasha Malla
Great Books Marquee, 12:30 p.m.

Pasha Malla made a triumphant entrance into Canada’s literary scene in 2008 with the acclaimed collection of short stories The Withdrawal Method, winning him the $20,000 Trillium Book Award, the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, and a spot on the Giller Prize longlist. His first novel, People Park, came out in July, boasting his typical wit and quirky humour about the impact of a visiting magician on a fictional city.

Katrina Onstad
The Remarkable Reads Tent, 12:45 p.m.

You can read Katrina Onstad’s writing in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Life, or even in The New York Times Magazine, but her first novel in 2006 How Happy to Be was one of that year’s most celebrated. Her sophomore book, Everybody Has Everything, is definitely worth a look.

Mariko Tamaki
This Is Not The Shakespeare Stage, 1:30 p.m.
The Penguin Pavilion, 4 p.m.

Toronto’s Mariko Tamaki grabbed the literary world’s attention in 2008 with her Governor General’s Award–nominated graphic novel, Skim (illustrated by her cousin Jillian Tamaki), about an outsider at an all-girls Catholic school. She’s back at WOTS with her first young adult novel, (You) Set Me On Fire, about university student Allison, who is covered in burn scars, and her first year in her new all-girls dorm.

Vincent Lam
The Remarkable Reads Tent, 3 p.m.

If you missed Lam at this summer’s Luminato Festival, then be sure to catch his session at WOTS. He first came to acclaim when he won the Giller for the story collection Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures (now an HBO Canada show); now hear him discuss his debut novel, The Headmaster’s Wager, inspired by the Lam family history as Chinese expats in Vietnam.

Anthony Del Col
This Is Not The Shakespeare Stage, 4:45 p.m.

As co-creator of Kill Shakespeare with Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col can not only speak about whether Hamlet, Juliet, and Othello will overcome the evil Lady MacBeth, Iago, and Richard III, but also how the duo is successfully taking their graphic novel across different platforms.

Jian Ghomeshi
Scotiabank Giller Prize Bestsellers Stage, 5 p.m.

You know his voice already as the host of Q on CBC Radio 1. And though he makes a living by asking other famous people about their opinions and projects, Ghomeshi’s first book, the memoir 1982, takes a look at his own past growing up in Thornhill, in the area’s only Iranian family, and how the music he loved formed who he was then, and who he is today.