Street Smarts Ashton Osmak

This Sunday, fans of the printed word flocked to Queen’s Park for The Word on the Street. The sun shone down on the white display tents filled with publishers’ clearance sales and literacy advocacy groups.

If you live near campus you couldn’t have missed the hubbub. Queens Park was transformed into what felt like a mini village. Pedestrians, cyclists and pets strolled freely over the wide avenues closed to car traffic for the day. The green space, normally just a pain to cross when you’re running late for class, was re-born as a literal literary playground. Stages for book readings and kids’ events were scattered across the lawns. Now in it’s 22nd year, the fest’s attractions would appeal to any type of student.

I bumped into aspiring fiction writers U of T PhD candidate Lindsay Bell and her pal Jen Smith, at the PRISM International booth where they were looking into writing contests. “There are so many strong, small literary journals and magazines here in Canada,” Lindsay said. “You just don’t usually hear that much about them.”

Do good-ers, looking to find a cause would be delighted by the selection of local, literacy-focused groups. Now Hear This!’s Students, Writers and Teachers (S.W.A.T.) Program puts on writing workshops with Canadian writers and high school kids. Like most Word on the Street participants, Rachel Hopwood of Now Hear This! loves chatting with the public. She lured me over by showing off the poetry board at her booth. Think giant version of fridge poetry magnets.

If you love books but don’t love paying full price you could have hit up the book sales. Major publishers like Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster Canada had discounts of 20 to 50% off. Back issues of Canadian magazines were also a steal. Spacing, Maisonneuve and The Walrus all made appearances at this year’s fest.

If you’re an author stalker or just a huge fan you would have spent time at the event tents. The Scotiabank Giller Prize Bestseller Stage had readings with Canlit giants like Frances Itani, Guy Vanderhaeghe and Kenneth Oppel.

For those who nostalgically yearn for the great books of their youth, there was a good selection of classic kids’ books for sale. I limited my purchases to that genre, picking up Where the Wild Things Are and The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the little rascals that I know would love them too.

Word on the Street really did have something for everyone. As their tag line suggests, I’d encourage you to Spread the Word, and check it out next fall.

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