Sunday, January 25, 2009

Writers Festival Silent Auction - send us your swag!

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture," Ray Bradbury wrote. "Just get people to stop reading them."

The Ottawa International Writers Festival is a force for literacy, and not only through its festival programming. Its Step into Stories festival brings the world's best writers and illustrators into contact with young readers, many from disadvantaged schools. The festival, with its literacy partners, is working to create opportunities for readers and writers who have been pushed to the margins for too long.

And you can help.

The 2009 Spring edition of the Festival will feature, for the first time, a silent auction to raise funds for the festival's literacy programming. We need friends of the Festival to donate signed books, photographs or other items. Ideally, the item for sale should have some connection to the festival, or at the very least to the writing life, but that connection can be ... creative. (Have a cellar of wonderful wine that pairs well with a good read?)

Here are some ideas to get you started:

- Maybe you got Camilla Gibb to sign Mouthing the Words back at the 2000 festival and although you love it, you're willing to part with it for a good cause.

- Maybe you're Alan Cumyn... or Elizabeth May... or Paul Quarrington... or Ivan E. Coyote... or Joan Barfoot... or Jay Ingram... somebody else who has read at the Festival and are willing to send along a signed proof of one of your books, or your first typewriter, or a chance to have lunch with you, or play a game of laser tag with you.

- Maybe you a snapped a stunning photo of David Gilmour in 2005 and you're willing to donate a print.

- Maybe you were at the inaugural writers festival in 1997 and you kept the program.

- Maybe you doodled Susan Musgrave at the 1999 festival on a cocktail napkin and kept the napkin.

- Maybe you stole Austin Clarke's pen at the last festival and are willing to (a) fess up and (b) donate it.

- Maybe you, the host, introduced Alistair MacLeod... or Megan Butcher... or Mark Kingwell... and kept your notes, last-minute marginalia and all.

- Maybe you're a bookstore owner willing to put together a package of books or a gift-certificate package.

From the silly to the sublime, we're looking for it. Kate Heartfield, a journalist at the Ottawa Citizen and long-time festival host with a pile of signed books from all her years hosting the festival, is collecting the goods for the auction. Drop her a note at and let her know what you have, by Friday, March 6th. And please share this letter with your friends.

The last word goes to Albert Camus: "Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future."

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