Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mini-Frankfurt at Toronto’s International Festival of Authors

Every time I attend the Frankfurt Book Fair I start to get the Frankfurt Book Fair blues at one point on Saturday night. Frankfurt is all about the people behind the books. It’s about seeing your international friends again, about making new friends and about scheming with them. This year, when I was starting to feel gloomy, and while checking e-mails in between parties, I received an email with the International Visitors Programme (I.V.) of this year’s International Festival of Authors (IFOA) at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. All of a sudden, there was a silver-lining on the horizon.

The I.V. program I got invited to, thanks to the generosity of the Goethe-Institut Toronto, was launched just this year as part of the 29th annual International Festival of Authors on the initiative of a committee spearheaded by Iris Tupholme of HarperCollins Canada. 19 visitors from around the world including U.K. agents Ed Victor and Clare Alexander, Maggie Doyle of Robert Laffont, France, Christiane Lange, Literaturwerkstatt, Germany, and several New Yorkers such as Jonathan Burnham, HarperCollins or the literary scout Bettina Schrewe were invited to participate in a four day program of inter-industry dialogue.

The I.V. was set against the backdrop of Canada’s most prestigious literary festival with the aim of expanding opportunities for Canadian literature abroad by opening the door for interaction between professionals at all levels of the book industry. And as it turned out, in its very first year, the I.V. felt like it was already part of the establishment, mainly because of its flawless organization and also because the visitors were warmly embraced by Canadian agents, publishers, rights managers, editors, media people, international organizations etc. To me, it was sort of a mini-Frankfurt. I was very impressed by the very active, very open publishing community of Toronto, and of Canada. Everyone knew each other or tried to get to know each other.

The I.V. program offered meetings with industry professionals in a speed-dating style, visits to Toronto’s publishing houses, panels that were just aimed for the industry and not open to the public, dinners, receptions and a trip to the Niagara Falls. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the entire length of the I.V. program but I very much hope that I will have the chance to come back for more. Hopefully, next year, when Frankfurt comes to an end, some of you will have this new international industry event in Canada to look forward to.

1 comment:

Andrew Wilkins said...

It's good to see that Canada has a program to encourage publishers to come to Canada in search of Canadian authors. Australia has a similar program - the VIP program (http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/the_arts/projects/visiting_international_publishers_2008). Its impact on the sale of literary rights has been significant - who wouldn't want a free trip to Australia, after all? If anyone knows of other such programs for other countries, perhaps they might to post them up too.