Unlike the author-focused spring program, the fall fest offers local writers a chance to explore their creativity and ask the pros any burning questions they may have about the industry.
“It’s open to everybody, and hopefully there are events that will appeal to everybody, but it’s very specifically geared to people who are writers or are interested in writing and the process,” says gritLIT Artistic Director Jennifer Gillies.
The two day virtual festival boasts workshops, writing contests, a virtual book club, and a Q&A with award-winning Indigenous writer, Drew Hayden Taylor.
“Hamilton is such a fascinating city, and I think a lot of it has to do with the way we have reinvented ourselves over the past couple of decades,” says Gillies. “When I was growing up, Hamilton was a steel town. That’s how people knew us; that’s how we identified. The steel town roots are still there and we’re really proud of that part of our heritage. But then there’s also this growth in the artistic community. . .so I think that having a festival where we’re sharing experiences, and sharing stories, and teaching each other, and learning from each other about how to share stories in a place that is undergoing such a creative growth is amazing.”
Like Hamilton, gritLIT has been doing some growing of its own, in both size and diversity. Though the festival has always worked to represent the wide range of voices in this city, recent gritLIT incarnations have drawn authors and audiences from a broadening range of communities, with an aim to tell Hamilton stories from as many perspectives as possible.
“[We’re] trying to make sure we’re offering reading opportunities, we’re offering a platform for as many different voices as we possibly can,” says Gillies. “Diversity is a huge part of our mandate in terms of programming and I think we’re starting to see that in the audiences, as well as we bring in more diverse authors. We’re seeing people from all different communities being drawn to the festival, being drawn to these stories that they’re telling and I also think—especially after this couple of years we’ve been through—there’s just such an appetite there now for people to reach out and to connect with each other. And how better to do that than through stories? That’s how we communicate as human beings: we tell stories to each other. So to have a festival that’s devoted to people telling stories is a very instinctive, very visceral way to connect with other people.”