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Ottawa Literary and Book Scene

I was asked by a local writer if Ottawa has anything literary going on.

Once, after a decade writing here, I hadn’t noticed the Ottawa’s Writers Fest. Then once I did, literary was increasingly everywhere. Literary Tourist has a lot of nodes for here including bookstores and libraries but there’s much more.

Festivals: We have two major international literary festivals bringing in over a hundred authors a year, Writers Fest with events throughout the year and clusters in late October and spring. (Buffy Sainte-Marie is coming to it in a few days in an on-stage discussion.) With a schedule coming, the next VERSeFest is coming in spring.

There’s also Canadian Literature Symposium that comes once a year, and the new Prose in the Park one summer day extravaganza. As EnRoute’s profile on Ottawa mentions, WestFest in June has a literary stage as well as music.

Reading Series: We have over a dozen reading series in town including Tree Reading Series, Capital Slam Collective, Urban Legends, Factory Reading Series, Ottawa Storytellers, Chi Series, Sawdust, KaDo, A B Series, In/Words, Blue Monday Reading SeriesTellers at the Well, El Dorado, Railroad, Studio Nouveau, OPL poetry month series, and the reading that happen with Octopus Books.

I hear there’s a French series too but I don’t know its details. Bibliothèque municipale de Gatineau has author talks and has Café littéraire. There’s Guy Jean‘s events, but there must be more.

Open Mics: Sawdust, In/Words and Tree have open mics. There’s also the downtown Spirit-of-Umi Open Mic at The Tea Store, 53 York St. and in the south end, Spoken Word/Poetry Saturday Night Open Mic at 4000 Bridlepath at Grumpys Pub and Eatery. In the East, Open Floor Readings at Gaia Java, 1300 Stittsville Main Street. (First Tuesday of the month? see Bywords for details.)

Central Listings: Check, for all events or to list events or the news link. Each 15th of the month is the deadline to submit poems to their online journal, also at that link.

Small Press Fair: To meet some book and chapbook publishers, local letterpress community and zine community, Nov 7th, Ottawa small press fair. It’ll happen again around June. Some pics of past fairs.

Ottawa-based Magazines: Arc Poetry Magazine, Saturday Night Reader, Ottawa Magazine, The Ottawa Arts Review, Touch the Donkey, Ottawater, Peter F Yacht Club, Byline Magazine, and In/Words magazine & press, Damn (a music magazine). YgdrasilMaple Tree Literary SupplementPostscripts to Darkness, 17 secondsOttawa Review of Books, and The Steel Chisel. Amanda Earl, editor at Bywords, runs a few presses: AngelHouse, DevilHouse (subversive), National Poetry Month, and Experiment-O (vispo).

Ottawa-area Chapbook Presses: Apt. 9, Shreeking Violet, 40-Watt Spotlight, above/ground, Textualis Press, Black Bile Press, 1cent, Bondi Studios, phafours press and Hussy.

(P&W magazine has a US list of 400+ small presses. This wikia of small press Canada gives 480+ more and some context.)

Literary Book Presses: Buschek Books, Chaudiere Books,Les Éditions David, Oberon Press, ChiZine Publications (genre), Éditions des petits nuages (haiku and tanka), Deux Voiliers Publishing, Crowe Creations and Renaissance (genre).

(There’s a list for Canada at And rob has made a publisher index of with profiles of former presses, presses of former residents, current presses with interviews.)

Literary Printing and Speciality Books: The Grunge Papers, Ottawa Press Gang (letterpress), and room 302 books. Literary Tourist does oral interviews of bookish people and has a guide to bookstores.

Ottawa Zines: A zine scene with a couple zine offs a year. Pressed Cafe stocks a rack. Here’s a map of Ottawa zines nodes are at, made by Rachel Gilmore. A regular zine that bridges magazine and chapbook an zine is Chrysalis.

On Facebook there’s Ottawa Writers with almost 700 members, English and French, and Ottawa Independent Writers with over 1200 members and growing. uOttawa Literary has a round-up.

Online and off writers groups: OIW has a site and monthly meetings and their own book for self published as well. The Writers Union of Canada has occasional events here and The League of Canadian Poets does in-school or on-street poem-in-your pocket events. On the Gatineau side, there’s L’association des auteurs et auteures de l’Outaouais. For readers/writers there’s the science fiction book club.

If you do non-poetry as well there’s the Canadian Author’s AssociationCapital Crime Writers Association that meets monthly and a Ottawa Romance writers and a pretty big sci-fi fantasy core but I’m not as hooked into where they meet up other than ComicCon. There’s also Comic Jam.

Apt613 profiles regularly writers, recently a guide to literary blogs.

Workshops: The Bywords calendar lists a few, including the weekly In/Words at Black Squirrel. Tree has the Tree Seed Workshops twice a month. The Ottawa Public Library has a series of January and February youth writing workshops and April poetry workshops. Workshops may pop up anytime. This year the library has resumed its OPL Writer-in-residence with Michael Stewart.

rob mclennan is running a series of workshops near Alta Vista now which is about halfway through, but are likely to recur.

Radio: And then how could I not mention radio? CKCU Literary News, Literary Landscape with JM, Kate and myself and CHUO’s Click Here with Mitchell.

2000-3000 people would be in the ballpark.

Who all did I miss? Leave a comment and I’ll add them.

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Categories: PSA, Poetry.

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2 Responses

  1. Wow, Pearl. An impressive compendium.

  2. Thanks for this quick overview, easy to send to anyone coming this way for a visit and want something literary to do. Makes me proud! Thanks again.

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