Culture

THE LIST: In honour of Writers Fest, director Sean Wilson on food, fiction, and eight more favourite things

In celebration of the literary extravaganza that is the Ottawa International Writers Festival, here are 10 things artistic director Sean Wilson can’t live without. Surprise — they’re not all books!

Sean Wilson, artistic director of the Ottawa International Writers Festival, loves quality historical fiction — and comic books. Click on the image for more photos from his list. Photos by Lindsay Ralph.

1. Bedtime stories
Being able to spend time reading beautiful stories to my son, Aidan, every night — Roald Dahl is a favourite. That’s gotta be number one.

2. My iPad
For me, it broke the barrier for e-reading because it not only allows me to go online in a very portable way but also helped us commit to our environmental policy that much more. We get about 700 book submissions every year, and as more publishers move to NetGalley, we’re able to cut down on the number of trees hacked. Aidan has slapped a pirate sticker on it and claimed it as his, but he lets me use it during work hours.

3. Newspapers, magazines, and books
As much as I love the new technology, I’m still radically addicted to anything printed on paper. I think it allows you to keep an eye on the wider world — you end up seeing things that you might not have thought you were interested in.

4. Good conversation
That’s been the huge blessing of the festival for the past 15 years — getting to spend time with some of the best minds in the world. It’s an amazing gift. That includes the members, volunteers, and staff.

5. Garden boxes
We have lead in our soil, so we recently put in garden boxes. I love watching everything grow, especially edible plants. I love ground cherries.

Ground cherries from Sean's garden.

6. Music
Right now I’m loving the Hilotrons, Glenn Nuotio, The National, and Mos Def.

7. Great food
We’re truly blessed in this city. From my point of view, Ottawa has the best restaurants in any North American city. I would defy anyone to find a better meal than at the Fraser Café. Then there’s Zen Kitchen, Benny’s Bistro, Host India, Jacobsons —there’s really no excuse to eat fast food.

8. Comic books
Given that I spend so much of my time reading for work (though it’s often really pleasurable, it’s still work), it’s such a treat to read something that’s just for me. There’s something really wonderful about the kind of storytelling you can do with graphic novels. Wednesday is new-comic day at Myths, Legends and Heroes, so I don’t like being out of town on Wednesdays.

9. Local reading series
This city has so many great series, from Plan 99 to Tree and all of rob mclennan’s events at The Carleton. For me, it’s hugely satisfying just to show up — and not have to do any work. Plus it’s a nice reminder that the Writers Festival isn’t working in a vacuum.

10. Fiction
I’m an absolute fiction evangelist. With all the politics, Ottawa is such a non-fiction town, and it’s a good fit. But when you read a great piece of fiction, it opens you up to another world. I love history and geopolitics, but the best way to approach all of these things is through fiction. It’s amazing that these little scratchings on a page can transcend any other medium of expression. Language is very freeing — and a very cost-effective way to see the world.

The Ottawa International Writers Festival continues until Tuesday, Oct. 25 at Knox Presbyterian Church and other venues around town. See www.writersfestival.org for event details.

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