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STARFest prepped for second chapter

Local sci-fi author Karpyshyn just one of several writers on the billet

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012 06:00 am

Humourist Terry Fallis will make an appearance at STARfest on Oct. 20.
Humourist Terry Fallis will make an appearance at STARfest on Oct. 20.
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STARFest 2012
Runs from Saturday, Oct. 20 to Saturday, Oct. 27
All tickets $5 except for the Charles Taylor Prize Gala tickets, $25 each.
Tickets available from the main floor desk at the St. Albert Public Library.
Books will be available for purchase and signing at each event.
Call 780-459-1682 or visit for more information.

When it comes to local literary events, there’s one festival that rules them all. The St. Albert Readers’ Festival is back again this year and along with its slate of unique, interesting and compelling authors, there is one name that will be familiar, not just because of his work, but because he used to live here.

Drew Karpyshyn got his fame as one of Bioware’s writers but at one point he was just another student at St. Albert High. He, along with Patrick Taylor, Terry Fallis, Carmen Aguirre and Andrew Nikiforuk will each be making appearances, talking about their works and their careers, and engaging the literate masses in the intimate setting of the library’s Forsyth Hall.

Director Peter Bailey says that STARFest gives library patrons a new and wonderful reason to look forward to the middle of autumn.

“We were very happy with the success of the first STARFest. Some of the numbers were just out of this world. I was surprised by how many people we got,” he said, adding that he hopes to grow on that popularity this time around.

The eight-day festival starts on Saturday, Oct. 20 and runs not only in conjunction with Edmonton’s non-fiction festival LitFest but also in co-operation with it. The highlight of this collaboration is the Charles Taylor Prize Gala at the Arden Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 25. There are four authors on the shortlist for the prestigious non-fiction prize: Charlotte Gill, JJ Lee, Madeline Sonik and Andrew Westoll.

Bailey humorously added that the nearly 50-per-cent, non-fiction element in STARFest might not last.

“My nefarious plan is to keep getting more and more fiction. St. Albert could be a complement to the non-fiction festival in Edmonton.”

Every presenter this year has been acclaimed in some way, whether it be the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, the Governor General’s Award, winning CBC’s Canada Reads, Game of the Year at the Elan Awards, or simply being on the New York Times bestsellers list.

Heather Dolman, festival director and public services manager at the library, simply can’t wait.

“There are a lot of really good authors coming. Me, I’m quite interested in attending Terry Fallis and Patrick Taylor but that’s just because that’s what I’ve been reading.”

Bailey said it’s a week of ‘can’t miss’ events.

“We work hard to secure award-winning, best-selling, interesting authors, and we find terrific hosts that enhance the experience for the audiences. I think we’re in for a great week.”

Terry Fallis – funny guy (Oct. 20)

Many authors have horror stories and rejection letters from trying to make it in the world of publishing.

Fallis is a do-it-yourself kind of guy. He built a hovercraft at 15 and he had to self-publish his first book, The Best Laid Plans, before it was noticed by a larger publishing house. The political satire eventually went on to win the prestigious Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, and last year it was named as the essential Canadian novel for the last decade. It is now in development as a six-part TV miniseries.

He followed that up with a sequel, The High Road. His latest novel, Up and Down, was just released last month.

After a life in federal politics, he’s happy to provide his sense of humour to audiences.

“I was raised in a family where humour was just a part of everyday life. I think I come by it organically, not any other way,” he laughed. “I’m always looking for the funny side of things, and I’ve often used humour as a way to get you through some tough times. It’s been a constant companion.”

“You’ve got to look at the bright side. Humour helps you do that.”

He said that he’d talk about the similarities between engineering and writing, how building a hovercraft and getting a book out are very similar: both need to be built.

“I think I write my novels as an engineer might write novels: with a blueprint and a very detailed plan before starting.”

Drew Karpyshyn – writing from the dark side (Oct. 21)

There’s a legion of people who love Luke Skywalker and Yoda, but Karpyshyn is one of those writers who prefers all of the Darths.

Formerly a scriptwriter for Bioware (including Baldur’s Gate and Mass Effect), the St. Albert-raised author really got a taste for the world of Star Wars with that company’s game Knights of the Old Republic. From there, he started writing the Darth Bane series of Star Wars books before he returned to his roots with the Mass Effect novels.

He has since retired but still has many stories to tell and share with his hometown crowd.

Patrick Taylor – tales of Northern Ireland (Oct. 24)

There wasn’t much to laugh at when Taylor was growing up in Northern Ireland during what many people call “The Troubles.” But like many people who come out of strife, he learned to laugh and deal with the fallout by writing about it.

He was 16 when he first caught attention with the Campbellian Prize for Literature, and he hasn’t stopped since. He started his serious writing career with thrillers including Only Wounded, Pray for Us Sinners and Now and In the Hour of Our Death.

“Those two books were printed in Canada and rocketed to instant obscurity,” he said in classic self-deprecation.

Later, he made it to the bestseller lists of the New York Times and the Globe and Mail with his six Irish Country medical humour novels set in the fictional Northern Ireland town of Ballybuckleboo.

“I’ve been very lucky with those.”

Because of them, his publisher will be reissuing his earlier thrillers.

Oh, and he’s a doctor too, having contributed to dozens of academic papers plus six textbooks. He is also known for his medical humour columns. His latest novel, An Irish Country Wedding, the seventh in the series, will be released next Tuesday.

Andrew Nikiforuk – a conversation about energy dependence (Oct. 26)

If you drive to Nikiforuk’s appearance at the library, then you probably have an opinion about the world’s dependence on the energy industry. In his words, we’re slaves to oil.

He’s not one to back away from contentious issues – he wrote Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig’s War Against Big Oil and The Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of the Continent after all.

He says he’s not looking to take one side or another, simply get intelligent discourse off the ground. Albertans are very hungry for new ideas and messages that take them on a different path, he said.

“I’m going to be talking about some of the moral and philosophical issues that we have to confront in a high energy spending society, and why those habits – those very bad habits – are increasingly going to be challenged by ever-rising energy prices.”

His new book, The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude should further his reputation as a straight-talking and insightful instigator of discussion and change. Nikiforuk stated that he loves Alberta and doesn’t align himself with either the industrial lobbyists or the fervent environmentalists. In his view, the intense polarization between both sides has stifled debate.

“I’ve never been a cheerleader for anyone. My book raises some pretty profound questions about the limitations of renewables and alternative forms of energy. I’m trying to start a different conversation about energy. Who knows if I’m going to succeed and who even knows if all my ideas are even right?”

Carmen Aguirre – playwright of the Chilean resistance (Oct. 27)

Aguirre has had a pretty extraordinary life, a revolutionary and radical life in fact. The author of Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter used to be in the underground of the Chilean resistance movement, running a safe house for other compatriots seeking refuge in Argentina. She also used to sneak into Chile while it was still under the control of dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Yes, she will tell tales of her struggles there but it’s her literary life that brings her to the fest. She has co-written 20 plays and has more than 60 film, TV and stage acting credits, including Endgame and V. She is also a theatre director, acting teacher and a workshop facilitator with Theatre of the Oppressed. She wrote her first play, In A Land Called I Don’t Remember, when she was 22.


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