The 2023 Saskatchewan Festival of Words is set to be bigger, more interactive and more inclusive than ever before.

Among the headline authors at the July 13th to 16th event in Moose Jaw will be Bob McDonald, the longtime presenter of CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks who’ll be reading from his latest book The Future is Now on the mornings of the 14th and 15th.

“We’ve been trying to get Bob for a few years now, and luckily the scheduling worked this time around,” says Amanda Farnell, the Festival’s executive director. “He’s been great to work with. We’re really excited to have him.”

McDonald is one of more than 20 authors who’ll be featured over the four days. Attendees can also look forward to hearing from and interacting with Casey Plett, Michelle Good, Suzette Mayr and Sigmund Brouwer, among others, many of whom will participate in readings, discussion and writing workshops.

“It’s probably our biggest line-up in quite some time, and we’re really excited to have this group,” explains Farnell, adding that platforming Saskatchewan writers such as youth poet laureate Lauren Klassen remains a Festival priority.

“We want to make sure a portion of the line-up is from Saskatchewan, because we want to feature Saskatchewan.”

Festival of Words passes are available in several denominations, including Full, Student, Friday, Saturday and Flex, as well as a special “Tasting Menu” ticket that includes one workshop, two readings, one feature, and a choice of the Diyet and the Love Soldiers concert or the Sunday panels. Many in-person events will also be live-streamed, ensuring remote audiences can see every author at least once.

It was through the pandemic, Farnell points out, that organizers realized the breadth of virtual attendance.

“We quickly had to figure out how to move things online, and we realized we were getting an audience that was unable to travel,” she says. “We didn’t want to lose that audience. We want them to be part of the festival, and this way they can still participate.”

At least one new component at the 2023 Festival of Words will, however, encourage onsite participation.

For the first time, organizers have planned a Street Fair in front of Moose Jaw Cultural Centre. The street front will be closed to traffic on July 13th from 4-7 p.m., and pass-holders will be able to sample food trucks, browse local business booths and enjoy mini-readings from Jeanette Lynes, Ted Barris, Ken Carriere, Ali Hassan and S.C. Lalli.

“We’ll be closing down Main Street from Fairford to High,” says Sarah Grimes, the Festival’s administrative assistant. “It’ll be nice to talk to people I haven’t seen for a year, meet new authors and just kind of take over downtown.”

Whether at the library, the park or the Cultural Centre, each of the Festival’s more than 50 events will be within walking distance of each other.

“It’ll be nice to just see people walking around, knowing that they’re part of the festival,” says Farnell.

As always, the Festival of Words will also be a carnival for kids. Miriam Körner will be doing a diorama picture book illustration during the Thursday Street Fair, and Brouwer will have storytime in the park on Saturday. Admission is free for kids, but they must still be registered for the events.

Something else previous attendees may notice at the 2023 Festival is a greater emphasis on writing for various mediums.

“We’re a literary festival, but we want to talk about all forms of writing, including film and music,” Farnell explains. “We have a concert because we want to showcase musicians and that type of writing, and we’ve added the Poetry Showcase to feature the amazing poets that we have in the province and throughout the country. It’s all about exploring different ways to write and different ways to experience things.

All those interested in experiencing the 2023 Festival of Words, June 13th to 16th in Moose Jaw, can visit the Festival website or call (306) 691-0057.