On Creating a Literary Festival: Five Questions with AfterWords Co-Organiser Stephanie Domet

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Understorey Magazine: AfterWords is a brand new literary festival for the Halifax area. What inspired you take on this project?

Stephanie Domet: My co-organiser, Ryan Turner, and I have had the idea for AfterWords since the final Halifax International Writers Festival back in 2008. Halifax hasn’t had a multi-day literary festival for the past ten years. We aimed to create the kind of event we would like to go to. There’s so much happening in Nova Scotia. We wanted to show writers who travel here for the festival—as well as local readers and writers—the very best that Halifax has to offer.

UM: Tell us about the AfterWords slogan: “Where writers and readers meet.”

SD: The focus of the festival is on conversation and hospitality, not just readings to an audience. So we have a lot of different venues, including Cafe Lara and the Agricola Street Brasserie. Some events free. Some have food and drink. We hope to widen the appeal of a literary festival, especially to people who might not think “literary” is their thing. This is not an elite event. It’s for everyone. Continue reading

Women on the Ballot by Betsy McGregor

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It is an unfortunate fact that there have been more MLAs named John elected to Nova Scotia’s provincial legislature than there have been women. Women on the Ballot: Pathways to Political Power (Rubicon, 2019) bills itself as an “essential roadmap” to correct this imbalance by empowering women to run for political office.

Author Betsy McGregor ran for Liberal nominations three times and for Parliament twice. I have also run as both a federal and provincial NDP candidate and can say that many of the experiences and insights shared throughout this book ring true. McGregor interviewed more than 90 women with experience at all levels of politics. She spoke to Liberals, Conservatives, and New Democrats—from women of experience like Alexa McDonough, the first woman leader of the Nova Scotia NDP, and Hazel McCallion, Mississauga’s longest-serving mayor, to Roseanne Archibald, the youngest Chief at 23 years, and Farheen Khan, the only hijab-wearing woman to run during the 2015 federal election campaign.

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The Nap-Away Motel by Nadja Lubiw-Hazard

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We all have stayed at the Nap-Away. For a night or a week or a longer time, at some point and for some reason, we all have found refuge in a small motel on the edge of a city. The facade is nondescript except for one or two curious features. The same might be said of the staff. Because it’s the residents who, for the length of their stay, define the motel and create its story.

The Nap-Away in Nadja Lubiw-Hazard’s debut novel (Palimpsest, 2019) is somewhere in Scarborough. Its walls are yellow, the roof grey. Behind the Nap-Away is a huge oak tree and butterflies. In front is an open space where pigeons alight. And for the length of Lubiw-Hazard’s beautiful tale, the Nap-Away is home to three wildly different, struggling characters.

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No Meeting Without Body by Annick MacAskill

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Annick MacAskill’s debut poetry collection No Meeting Without Body (Gaspereau Press, 2018) strikes me as off limits—as fenced-in under high security. Perhaps MacAskill’s personal vignettes and anecdotes—conveyed through the work and labour of figures such as Aristophanes, Hildegard von Bingen, and Ovid—will resonate with the guiding metaphors of other readers’ life and loves. But I am straining, from the other side of a barrier, to hear conversation that may not want to be heard.

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Shut Up, You’re Pretty by Téa Mutonji

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“But who was I?” asks Loli, the singular narrative voice uniting Téa Mutonji’s engaging collection of short stories. Shut Up, You’re Pretty (forthcoming, April 2019) is Mutonji’s debut and the first publication by VS Books, a new imprint of Arsenal Pulp founded by Vivek Shraya. The stories follow Loli from childhood, when she moves from Congo to Scarborough with her family, through to young adulthood. Loli’s question, posed after an awkward night out, highlights the themes of self-exploration and identity that permeate the book.

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