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STARFest rises higher

STARFest is a little different this year but organizers have strived to make the virtual appearances of more than a dozen authors even more engaging than in previous years.


Festival runs from Oct. 6 to 28.

Tickets to all 2020 festival events are free; however, organizers remain committed to paying all artists and interviewers for their work. To support the sustainability of STARFest, donations can be made online when you register for events, and online during events. Find out more at


Before you knew it had even happened, the lightning pace of STARFest 2020 has already breezed through its first two guests this season. Local literary enthusiasts have already been treated to virtual appearances by Jesse Thistle and Terese Mailhot.

With COVID-19 in the cards, festival director Peter Midgley has tried to make things even better than before, with some innovative ideas aimed at making the audience more involved in the events. Authors will engage in broader discussions, with one even hosting a cooking show for the evening.

Now, there's nine more authors to go, all within the next two action-packed weeks.

The next one to arrive is a local fave.

Marina Endicott

Thursday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m.

Marina Endicott was one of the first authors to feel the COVID effect after her spring STARFest appearance was canceled. Time heals all wounds, and she's back on the schedule.

"I was so sad, too, because we were just moving. In some horrible twist of fate, our moving day was the first day of the lockdown. We had just moved to Saskatoon and I was really looking forward to coming back to St. Albert the next week but I didn't get to," she said, "and I still don't."

She "arrives" tomorrow evening to talk about her new book, The Difference, a tale that took seed when she Googled her childhood piano teacher. In her research, the author learned of her old teacher's mother who went to the South Seas on her honeymoon, found a little boy and bought him.

"She bought him for four pounds of tobacco," Endicott told the Gazette back in March.

She admitted that the story was intriguing but very strange and upsetting. For her, it forced her to question how social norms vary around the world and how the times have changed and more. It was simply something she had to fictionalize.

Her book takes place in 1912 when two half-sisters are sailing through the South Pacific on a Nova Scotian merchant ship. The two have already gone through some stress in their family, including their father's death and a failed pregnancy. When they arrive in Micronesia, one meets a local boy and her maternal feelings take over, bringing the child back with her.

The title of the book hints at the many levels of conflict between the two sisters, the adoptee (for lack of a better word) and his new family, and the two cultures.

Endicott will be hosted by Edmonton author and creative writing instructor Jacqueline Baker. The two are thick as thieves, it sounds like, so the dynamic between them and the calibre of the discussion on writing should prove to be another benefit to learning more about her new book.

"I've known Jackie for a long time, and we're good friends. We've taught together. As teachers of creative writing, we talk all the time about how to make our practice better, and how to teach better, and how to teach to make sure that students are getting what they need without everybody going crazy in these horrible times. We have a long continuing conversation that I'm sure we'll just be continuing some more of on the virtual stage. When you have kindred spirits who are doing the same thing you do, I think that's really a treasure. I'm really happy to be talking to her again."

The free online event starts at 7 p.m. on YouTube and Facebook but pre-registration is encouraged.

Aislinn Hunter

Friday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m.

We move from Endicott's The Differences to The Certainties, Aislinn Hunter's book about the entwined fates of two very different refugees from two distinct conflicts. The first is a war-torn Spanish border town in the 1940s and the second is a British island in the 1970s where a ship full of would-be migrants
approaches shore.

It is a novel that crosses historical fiction with speculative fiction and offers themes of survival against fascism, forced migration and the ultimate cost of war.

Hunter is an acclaimed writer whose books and poems have been adapted into music, dance, art and film. The World Before Us was published to acclaim internationally and was a Globe Top 100 book. The award-winning author holds degrees in creative writing, art history, writing and cultural politics, and English literature. In 2018, she served as a Canadian War Artist working with Canadian and NATO forces. She teaches creative writing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C.

Hunter will be hosted by Edmonton author Thomas Trofimuk with a special guest performer: St. Albert Poet Laureate Julia Sorensen will offer a reading of some of her work to kickoff the evening.

The free online event starts at 7 p.m. on YouTube and Facebook but pre-registration is encouraged.

Karma Brown

Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m.

Where does one come up with the title of a book called Recipe for a Perfect Wife? B.C. writer Karma Brown had to ask some writing friends for help on that one. When a good part of your story focuses on a housewife in New York in the 1950s, then you get a sense of the atmosphere of picket fence perfection and silent desperation at work. Relationships take equality, open communication and consensus for both parties to be happy and successful.

Cut to modern day, and a new couple moves into the same house. This husband and wife have their own issues – the main one is that the wife isn't that enthusiastic about the move, partly because she herself is transitioning out of the workforce and becoming a full-time housewife. The two women, separated by decades, become intimately linked through the power of literature: a cookbook.

"She discovers a box of old magazines and a cookbook that had belonged to the woman from the '50s. Through it, she starts to discover that the 1950s housewife maybe didn't have quite as simple or happy of a life as she thought. She starts to learn some secrets about what happened in the 1950s in the house with this woman and her husband. At the same time, she's going through a lot of challenges within her own marriage," Brown explained.

"So it really is a story about marriage, about women, about feminism ... the idea of, have we come as far as we think we have in terms of where is our place? What is our role? And how much of a voice do we have? It uses the two different generations to look at that question."

Brown will be hosted by B.C. food writer and author Jennifer Cockrall-King. If you love food, these two are sure to cook up some exciting conversation. An online cooking show is planned for the event.

The free online event starts at 7 p.m. on YouTube and Facebook but pre-registration is encouraged.

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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