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St. Albert Readers Festival announces lineup

STARFest announced its fall lineup on Thursday, with other announcements as well. The festival of authors will take place online this year, though all events will be free to make up for it.
2706 starfest sh Jesse Thistle copy credit to Lucie Thistle
Author Jesse Thistle brings his acclaimed Canada Reads-nominated memoir From the Ashes to local audiences as the first event for this fall's STARFest. The festival is being planned as online only this year, though events will be free to make up for the change. LUCIE THISTLE/Photo

The show must – and will – go on even at an electronic distance. The lineup for the 10th edition of the St. Albert Readers Festival was announced on Thursday and it offers a sterling variety of authors for local audiences to virtually revel in.

Though the autumn 22-day fest is being planned as an adapted online experience at the moment, festival director Peter Midgley hasn’t ruled out other options as they become feasible. The reopening of the main branch of the St. Albert Public Library likely looms large in the fest’s prospects.

You can almost hearing the knocking on wood in the background.

“All STARFest authors will present online this year, though we will continue to investigate the possibility of incorporating in-library experiences, depending on the situation in the coming months,” he explained.

“Either way, STARFest 2020 is going to be a truly exciting festival – the range of voices and stories we’re hosting will take audiences from the intimate to the global, often in the same conversation.”

STARFest starts with a coup on Oct. 6 as Jesse Thistle brings his Canada Reads-nominated memoir, From the Ashes, to the virtual stage. The author looks at his life with its astonishing and traumatic past (including foster care, abuse, addiction, crime and homelessness) that all led up to his remarkable redemption as he refinds his Indigenous identity. The book is a critically acclaimed and life-affirming story that also stands as a firm testament to the author’s literary talents.

The festival takes a pause to build up momentum for Oct. 15 when it returns to continue with a pace to rival even the Hunger Games trilogy. That’s when Marina Endicott brings her novel The Difference for discussion, followed swiftly by Aislinn Hunter with The Certainties, wherein the plot then takes an immediate turn for adventure. Karma Brown will offer a unique online literary/cooking experience with host Jennifer Cockrall-King as they create dishes from Brown’s bestselling novel Recipe for a Perfect Wife.

Continuing on with the cast of exemplary characters, Senator Paula Simons will host Emily St. John Mandel and her latest novel The Glass Hotel on Oct. 23. The excitement crescendos with award-winning journalist and radio host Desmond Cole and his chronicle of Canada in 2017 called The Skin We’re In, with Téa Mutonji and her award-winning first book, the short story collection called Shut Up You’re Pretty, arriving immediately afterward.

Then comes Nazanine Hozar whose début, Aria, has been shortlisted for the Amazon First Novel Award. The festival reaches its climax and denouement simultaneously on Oct. 28 with Annabel Lyon and her smart,mystery novel Consent.

“We’re proud to present world-class authors locally through STARFest. We love the conversations the Festival generates on ideas, issues and writing,” said Peter Bailey, CEO of the St. Albert Public Library. “Libraries like ours are about people and STARFest does a great job of bringing communities together – even online.”

Apart from the online proceedings, the other big change to this year’s STARFest is that all online events will be free, giving attendees the option to make donations instead.

The full festival schedule is now online at, where registration is also now open.

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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