We’re out of the prairies and into Ontario on our road trip today, and there’s an impossible amount of amazing literary initiatives in our home province! We can’t possibly go into all of them, so as usual, we recommend checking out your local library or college/university creative writing courses if you’re looking for something in your area. Unlike other provinces, Ontario doesn’t have a provincial writers’ association, and is instead home to many national organizations such as The Writers’ Union of Canada, the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada, the Professional Writers’ Association of Canada, and yours truly, among others.
If you run a series, festival, or other organization that you think belongs on this list, let us know! No project is too small. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with details.
READINGS & FESTIVALS
Ontario is a particularly active province in the slam and spoken word scene, with teams all across the province. Spocan lists teams in Hamilton, Burlington, London, Guelph, Richmond Hill, Ottawa (Capital Slam, Urban Legends, and the Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam), Lanark County, Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto (the Toronto Poetry Slam, BAM! Youth Slam and the Roots Lounge), Mississauga, Kitchener-Waterloo, Brantford, St Catharines, and Windsor.
Toronto has a million literary events to offer at any given time, and the easiest way to find out about more events that might interest you is to head out to one nearby–most events have an announcements section of the night, which is a great way to discover similar events and new writers. Some of the regular series that Toronto hosts are the Rowers Reading Series, the Draft Reading Series, Plasticine Poetry, Pivot Readings, Emerging Writers Reading Series, Brockton Writers Series, Common Readings, Speakeasy, Facilitate, HIJ House Reading Series, Underdog Poets Academy, words(on)stages, and WordSpell. This is just a sampling of events that occur on a regular basis–there are also always launches and special literary events taking place throughout the year!
Ottawa also has more to offer than we can possibly list here, but here are a few regular events: Tree Reading Series, (un)told, Poetic Intentions, In/Words Writers’ Circle, the Ottawa International Writers’ Festival, the Ottawa Small Press Fair, Sawdust Reading Series, and Ottawa Storytellers Stories & Tea.
Conspiracy of 3 is a regular poetry reading series that takes place in North Bay each month.
Word Up Barrie welcomes writers, authors, poets, spoken word performers, rappers, comedians, motivational speakers and anyone who loves the magic of language to meet monthly at Unity Market in Barrie to read, to perform and to share art.
Lit Live Readings take place on the first Sunday of each month in Hamilton.
The Cobourg Poetry Workshop is a group of local poets which meets monthly. Its members read their original poetry and discuss poetry in general. As well, the group manages a monthly reading series which is free to the public and includes both local poets and poets from places in Canada such as Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, and places around the world such as Ireland and the USA.
Words Aloud in Durham presents the best in spoken word from across Canada and beyond. With nine main stage performances, it’s a magical alchemy of spoken word’s full range.
Literary Arts Windsor is dedicated to education, understanding, and appreciation of the literary arts by providing performances of an artistic and literary nature in public places, senior citizens’ homes, performance areas, theatres, and educational institutions. BookFest Windsor began in 2002, and in the inaugural year welcomed 450 attendees during its one-day program. Since that time, BookFest has developed partnerships with the University of Windsor, the Windsor Public Library, the Art Gallery of Windsor, the local elementary and secondary schools, local art and music venues, restaurants, and hospitals. In 2012, the festival was included in Canadian Geographic’s list of top literary festivals in Canada. The festival proper has grown to a three-day event, with multiple lead-up activities, presentations and workshops.
The Kingston Writers’ Festival 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.
Spring Pulse Poetry Festival is Northern Ontario’s largest poetry/arts festival and this year celebrates nine years of existence — establishing Cobalt as a “petite paradise of poetry.”
Organized by VERSeOttawa, VERSeFest is an annual international festival of poetry, befitting Ottawa’s place as a world capital, and showcasing the artistic accomplishment and high-level activity of the Ottawa poetry scene. VERSe Ottawa is a fully-incorporated collective of Ottawa organizations who curate and produce reading and performance series. One of the principal strengths of VERSe is the inclusion of written- and spoken word poetry groups, as well as other leaders in the poetry community.
The Lakefield Literary Festival celebrates its rich literary heritage each July on a weekend close to Margaret Laurence’s birthday, and showcases many current Canadian authors. The festival was created to celebrate the work of Catharine Parr Traill, Susanna Moodie and Margaret Laurence, among others, all of whom lived and wrote in Lakefield.
gritLIT is Hamilton’s annual literary festival, a four-day celebration of Canadian authors. Since its inception in 2004, the festival has built a reputation with readers in the Golden Horseshoe as a place to get “up close and personal” with their favourite authors and to discover new voices. gritLIT brings together diverse voices – the biggest Canadian authors, up and coming talent, and local Hamilton writers – in a series of readings and themed events. The festival’s mandate is one of accessibility for both authors and audiences. gritLIT puts a focus on local authors, giving them the exposure to readers that they richly deserve. The festival includes readings at local schools including French language presentations. And gritLIT ticket prices are among the lowest of any Southwestern Ontario literary festival.
Started in 2016, The Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) celebrates diversity in literature by promoting diverse authors and stories in Brampton, Ontario – one of Canada’s most culturally diverse cities.
The 7th edition of the Salon du livre promises to be a celebration of reading that all will enjoy. It will provide great opportunities for friendly and stimulating encounters in the spirit of a book fair as “a people place.” Approximately thirty authors from across the country will take part in this year’s event, which will take place from May 4th to 7th, 2016, at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Sudbury and in other locations across Greater Sudbury.
The Elora Writers’ Festival has been celebrating fine Canadian writing since 1994. Its intimate and unique setting, in the heart of one of Ontario’s most beautiful communities, has made the festival a sought-after venue for both authors and book lovers alike.
Some Ontario-based small presses: BookThug, Insomniac Press, Brick Books, Biblioasis, Black Moss Press, Palimpsest Press, Seraphim Editions, Wolsak & Wynn, Coach House Books, ECW Press, Guernica Editions, Inanna Publications, Mansfield Press, Mawenzi House, Quattro Books, The Porcupine’s Quill, Invisible Publishing, Chaudiere Books.
Some Ontario-based literary magazines: Arc Poetry Magazine, Brick, Canthius, Carousel, echolocation, Feathertale, GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine, Hart House Review, The Humber Literary Review, Little Brother, The New Quarterly, (parenthetical), Petal Journal, The Puritan, The Quilliad, Rampike, The Rusty Toque, Scarborough Fair, Taddle Creek, untethered, and The Windsor Review.
None of these are by any means an exhaustive list of Ontario literary goings-on. Let us know if there’s something you’d like us to add!