INSPIRE International Book Fair

On the snowy weekend of November 13th and 14th a few die-hard book friends and I found our way to the Convention Center in Toronto to enjoy the International Book Fair. I know it’s now 2015 but I wanted to share some of the pictures and thoughts from the weekend.

It was a fabulous event full of hundreds of author interviews, signings and sessions to help potential writers become inspired. There were 5 main stages and other countless smaller show areas, and the authors present represented every genre from Children Literature to Memoirs. There were also major vendors like Indigo and Harpers (props to Harlequin for their cute display!) and of course, the highlight for many of the attendees – the book signings where you could talk for those few moments with an author you admired!

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The highlight of the weekend was most certainly Ms. Maggie Stiefvater, Teen author extraordinaire. The crowd was fuuuuull of teeny fans but thankfully we camped out early enough to get front row seats. Stiefvater was highly entertaining and she shared stories that influenced her writing, including her love of fast cars and the quasi-supernatural experiences she’s had throughout her life. She moved around while talking and was extremely animated, which made it an extremely entertaining listen. After witnessing her awesome quirkiness in person, I have so much more respect for her writing style and storytelling. And yes, I got my book signed!

*Maggie Stiefvater is the author of the Raven Boys Cycle (The Raven Boys, Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue), the Shiver series and The Scorpio Races

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One of the speakers that I found the most interesting was Deborah Harkness, the author of The Discovery of Witches and its two following volumes. She is a Professor of History and spoke extensively about writing Historical Fiction, something I hold close to my heart (my Masters in History is giving a nod at the moment). I have to admit that I gave up on reading The Discovery of Witches early on but after listening to Harkness, I have vowed to give it another try. Listening to her describe how she did the historical research and the thought process for this series helped inspire my own ideas for future writing excursions based in historical settings.

*Deborah Harkness is the author of the All Souls Trilogy (The Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night and The Book of Life)

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For you lovers of 50 Shades of Grey, turn away now. Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series blows Christian Grey out of the water. Not only is Sylvia Day one hell of a classy lady in person, but her intelligence is something fierce. It was crazy interesting to hear how her characters take on a voice in her mind who sometimes chastise her for what she has them doing in the story and how what started out as a 3 book series how now evolved into something much more (5 books in total by the end). I also had a run in with her in the bathroom that included a conversation about the Canadian delicacies of poutine and Beaver Tails, so props to Day for hearing out our weird, but delicious, food choices.

*Sylvia Day is the author of countless Romance novels but the Crossfire Series is likely the most well known (Bared to You, Reflected in You, Entwined with You and Captivated by You)

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I attended a session concerned with writing about topics that can be rather touchy, such as disabilities and harrowing personal experiences, which was headed by Amanda Lindhout and Lisa Genova.

Lindhout’s memoir, A House in the Sky, describes her terrifying experience of being kidnapped and held hostage for over a year while traveling through war-wracked Somalia as a reporter. I read this book and was both disturbed by what she experienced and yet impressed that any person could maintain their sanity while enduring the starvation, torture and mental deterioration that Lindhout did. In person, she was incredibly open and honest about her experiences and gave further insight to what she had written in her memoir.

Lisa Genova is best known for writing novels that include characters suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer’s or the very rare, Huntington’s disease. The screen play of her book Still Alice is currently receiving Oscar attention for its portrayal of a woman struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. Genova was incredibly well spoken in regards to giving voices to those who suffer from various neurological conditions and diseases, allowing her own expertise as a neuroscientist to lend further credence to how the lives of people change and the difficulties they face when they are inflicted by mental diseases.

*Lisa Genova is the author of Left Neglected, Inside the O’Briens and Love Anthony

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I have to admit that I ended up seeing Sarah Richardson and Tommy Smythe because Maggie Stiefvater was on the same stage afterwards and I wanted a prime seat, yet I have to admit that I really enjoyed listening to them! I’ve always known Sarah Richardson as the classy decorator from Toronto that my Mom is obsessed with (and who later received a signed copy of Richardson’s Sarah’s Style quite happily!). The chemistry between them provided a hilarious interview and hearing the stories of Richardson’s junk collecting made it well worth it!

*Sarah Richardson has numerous decorating shows on HGTV including Design Inc., Sarah’s House and Sarah 101.

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While those were the highlights, there were many other fantastic authors present including Margaret Atwood (while I missed her session it was the most packed of both days), Anne Rice (whose views on gender and sexuality are beyond her time), Eric Walters (who has an obvious passion for helping children living in poverty across the world), Will Ferguson (the author of 2012 Giller Prize winner 419) and Wayson Choy (an amazingly enlightened man who I had seen speak a few years prior as well). On the kid side of things there were also great writers present, such as Jeff Kinney the author of the Diary of the Wimpy Kid series and Jon Klassen, author and illustrator of I Want My Hat Back, This Is Not My Hat and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.

There were also countless amazing workshops to inspire writing by the Humber School for Writing. I attended two that gave me a clearer vision of writing non-fiction: “Writing about Family: Fraught or Fiction?” and “How to Write a Memoir”. There were many others and it was a great opportunity for aspiring writers to hear tips and advice from seasoned literary veterans.

Unfortunately it was announced on February 9th that they will not be holding the event against next year. It was extremely disappointing news and I can only hope they change that decision in future years. It was a fabulous weekend, full of literary creativity and bookworm friends!

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