August 30, 2011

Everything you need to know…

We’ve created a post dedicated to outlining each of the events offered at THIN AIR 2011 (in case you want to start planning which ones you’ll attend now)!

Monday through Friday, 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.
The Atrium
McNally Robinson Booksellers, Grant Park

The Afternoon Book Chats are the perfect excuse for a coffee break! The Atrium at McNally Robinson Booksellers takes on a café ambiance for this series of relaxed conversations about writing.

BIG IDEAS (free)
Monday through Friday, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Carol Shields Auditorium
Millennium Library, 251 Donald St

Experience your brain on steroids! End your afternoon with writers who are tackling some of the big ideas of our place and time—and who are open to hearing your thoughts as well. The Carol Shields Auditorium is just off the overhead walkway at the Millennium Library.

Monday through Friday, 12:15 – 12:45 pm
Carol Shields Auditorium
Millennium Library, 251 Donald St

The Nooner is a quick literary hit to charge you up for the rest of your workday. Unplug from the office for half an hour and join us at the Millennium Library—the Carol Shields Auditorium is just off the overhead walkway. Donations welcome.

Every year, THIN AIR reaches out to readers in communities beyond the city limits.

Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – noon
Carol Shields Auditorium
Millennium Library, 251 Donald

Each year, THIN AIR includes opportunities for writers to further develop their skills. This year’s topic? Connecting with writers who’ll take you to the next level.

The campuses throw open their doors this week, welcoming writers and audiences to connect around new words and ideas. All events are free and open to the public—catch as many as you can!

This year, writers will perform at Brandon University, Canadian Mennonite University, the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg and Red River College.

Monday through Saturday, 8:00 p.m.
Manitoba Theatre for Young People
Shaw Performing Arts Centre, The Forks

Join us each evening at the Shaw Performing Arts Center at The Forks for a showcase of great new writing. McNally Robinson Booksellers has an on-stage bookstore featuring THIN AIR writers. We offer bar service, and to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary, we’ll have birthday cake every night too!

Tickets are $12 ($10 for students/seniors), available at the door. A THIN AIR Festival Pass is a bargain: you get access to all ticketed events for only $35. Knock off another $5 if you have a THIN AIR Club Card. Passes are available at McNally Robinson or at

August 29, 2011

The Manitoba Reads final four

The votes are in, the selections have been made, and the Winnipeg International Writers Festival, McNally Robinson Booksellers and CBC Manitoba Scene are proud to announce the four finalists of the first-ever Manitoba Reads.

Based on the popular Canada Reads model, voters chose between 16 books written by Manitoba authors. At the end of the voting period, four judges each selected one of the remaining eight titles as their top pick.

Now, they judges prepare to debate the books down to a single title on September 24 at the closing Mainstage show of THIN AIR 2011. The debate will then be broadcast the following morning on CBC’s Weekend Morning Show.

“This is so exciting,” said Charlene Diehl, director of THIN AIR. “The top four books truly represent the talented authors Manitoba has to offer. And, to make things even more exciting, two of the top four authors will be presenting at THIN AIR 2011!”

 Here is the breakdown of each judge and the title he or she has selected to debate:

Judge: Alison Gillmor
Title: Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas

Judge: Vincent Ho
The Life of Helen Betty Osborne by David Alexander Robertson

Judge: Paul Jordan
Bandit by Wayne Tefs

Judge: Niigon Sinclair
Where Nests the Water Hen by Gabrielle Roy

For more information about Manitoba Reads, visit

August 25, 2011

Elizabeth Hay’s ‘Alone in the Classroom’

Have you ever read a novel that moves you so much you can’t decide if you want to smile or cry?

Elizabeth Hay’s most recent novel – Alone in the Classroom – is a tender and honest tale that takes place across three generations. It highlights issues that most people can relate to, including love, hate and jealousy. More importantly, the novel teaches readers that the actions we take will always affect the next generation.

A lovely shot of Elizabeth Hay. Memorize the face, people. Memorize the face.

About the novel…
Beginning in a small prairie school in 1929, a young schoolteacher – Connie Flood – attempts to help a struggling student. Observing them and darkening their lives is the principal, Parley Burns, whose strange behaviour culminates in an attack so disturbing its repercussions continue to the present day.

Connie’s niece, Anne, tells the story. Impelled by curiosity about her dynamic, adventurous aunt and her more conventional mother, she revisits Connie’s past and her mother’s broken childhood. In the process, she unravels the enigma of Parley Burns and the mysterious (and unrelated) deaths of two young girls.

Alone in the Classroom is meant to be read slowly. It is filled with detailed and often poetic language that makes settings, seasons and characters come alive. Throughout the novel, there are also references to classic literature – such as Tess of the D’Ubervilles and Pride & Prejudice – which make it even easier to picture events and people the way Hay wanted them to be seen.

If Alone in the Classroom is your first experience with a novel by Hay, you won’t be disappointed. The plot is both realistic and elaborate, a format that keeps the reader interested until the final pages.

About the author…
Elizabeth Hay is a Canadian novelist and short story writer. She has been a nominee for the Governor General's Award twice – for Small Change in 1997 and for Garbo Laughs in 2003 – and won the Giller Prize for her 2007 novel Late Nights on Air. In 2002, she received the Marian Engel Award, presented by the Writers' Trust of Canada to an established female writer for her body of work — including novels, short fiction, and creative non-fiction.
Come to her presentation at THIN AIR 2011 and learn more about this famous author…

August 21, 2011

Marty Chan mixes fact and fable

I haven’t read a play in its entirety since high school, so I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up The Forbidden Phoenix by Marty Chan.

As I began reading, memories of the plays I had read in the past began to dance through my brain. Twelfth Night, A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Romeo & Juliet had been my favourites, and suddenly I remembered...

Reading a play is actually quite fun.

The Forbidden Phoenix tells the tale of Sun Wukong, a man desperate to feed both his son and the drought-ravaged city of Jung Guo. Instead of being granted assistance by the Dowager Empress – the ruler of the land – Wukong is banished to the west where he faced opposition, hardship and heartless creatures.

The play is an allegory that combines a Chinese children’s fable with the real-life tragedy of early Chinese immigrants who came to Canada to help build the railroad. Throughout The Forbidden Phoenix, readers will encounter numerous references to the struggles the builders faced, including the danger of blasting through the Rocky Mountains.

Marty Chan is no stranger to writing, and in addition to The Forbidden Phoenix he had published a number of plays and children’s novels. He has also been producer, writer, director and talent for both television and radio. (For a full list of Chan’s credentials – which are much too extensive to list – click here).

Overall, The Forbidden Phoenix is an entertaining and comical read with a powerful message the reader won’t soon forget. Chan has combined fact and fable together in a way that is both effective and powerful. The Forbidden Phoenix is definitely worth reading and I highly recommend it, whether you’re skeptical about reading plays or not.

If you would like to check out Chan’s person website, click here. You can also check him out on Facebook here

August 17, 2011

Haven't you heard of Guy?

It is impossible to make a list of important and influential Canadian writers without including the name Guy Vanderhaeghe. He has over 75,000 hits on Google, and has written many fantastic novels.

One of his novels – The Englishman’s Boy – was made into a five-part miniseries and aired on CBC. With a list of credentials like that, we’re very lucky to have him at THIN AIR 2011.

Vanderhaeghe’s newest novel – A Good Man – is yet another display of his immense talent. Here is what it’s about:

Wesley Case, a former soldier and son of a lumber baron, seems unable to find his destiny or escape history. Unresolved anger lingers following the American Civil War; conflict with aboriginal peoples creates tension between the US and Canada; and even Case’s newfound love for the beautiful widow, Ada Tarr, inflames the jealousy of a quiet, but deeply disturbed, Michael Dunne—part paid thug, part psychopath.

Case’s confession of love also forces a confession of another kind; the revelation of an incident in his military career that resulted in his split with his family, his finance, and the end of his life in the East. At the same time, simmering resentments, political and personal, explode in a spectacular confrontation between native peoples and the American government as well as a violent resolution of Dunne’s plan for revenge against Case as he ever more feverishly imagines himself a contender for Ada Tarr’s affections.

The novel concludes with a scene of pastoral harmony—a metaphor for a new order and the final passing of the lawless individualism of the old West.

A Good Man is a large novel, but don’t let its size dissuade you. It is an interesting and gripping page-turner that you won’t want to put down, and each new chapter introduces new characters, historic scenes and emotional turmoil that will keep you hooked until the very last pages. It’s worth spending time reading, and so are Vanderhaeghe’s other titles. 

August 14, 2011

Could the Internet take over the world?

Everyone knows that the Internet is a vast network of information. It connects people to each other, and is designed to make everything in our world easier and more accessible.

But, if the Internet were to be controlled by one person, place or thing, what would happen to the world as we know it?

In Robert J. Sawyer’s most recent novel – Wonder – an all-seeing, all-knowing program named Webmind has the ability to monitor, influence and interact with every aspect of the Internet simultaneously. Through Webmind’s Twitter account, email address, website and instant messaging systems – all of which he set up himself – he can literally control every single thing that is on the Internet.

A pretty scary concept when you really think about it…

Wonder is the final novel in a three-part series about Webmind. The creator of the program is a 16-year-old formerly blind girl named Caitlin. She desperately wants Webmind to continue to exist, even when the US Government makes it clear they will do anything possible to destroy her invention.

Look for this book and buy it. TRUST me, it's worth it!

At the heart of the novel is one, important question: Could the Internet take over the world if it becomes too powerful? It is a question that seems terrifying to consider, but one that becomes very real after reading Wonder.

Science fiction writer and futurist Robert J. Sawyer has been interviewed over 250 times on radio, over 250 times on television, and countless times in print. He lives in Mississauga, Ontario.

Yep, this guy is going to be awesome...

Sawyer is one of only seven writers in history — and the only Canadian — to win all three of the world's top Science Fiction awards for best novel of the year: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Follow Sawyer’s blog by clicking here, and don’t forget to follow him on both Twitter and Facebook. We’re proud to have him at THIN AIR 2011, and can’t wait to hear what we know will be an entertaining presentation!

August 10, 2011

Twitter Giveaway Contest

Are you one of those people who constantly enters contests, yet never wins?
Or, if you DO win, you're stuck jumping through countless hoops just to claim the prize?
Well, not anymore!
THIN AIR 2011 is excited to announce the Twitter Giveaway Contest. It runs from Friday, August 12 to Friday, September 9, and it's an easy and fun way to get your hands on some great prizes!
Here's how it works...
We have set aside THIN AIR Mainstage tickets and books by presenting authors for our winning tweeters. We'll post a contest message at a different time each Friday. If you're the first person to retweet the link, you win!
So if you're not following us on Twitter, now is the time to get going! (Click here to create a new profile or log into an existing one).
Happy retweeting, and good luck!

THIN AIR 2011 Twitter Giveaway Contest Guidelines
1) All prizes must be picked up by September 15, 2011, at the THIN AIR office, 625 ArtSpace (100 Arthur Street). No prizes will be mailed or delivered.
2) In order to claim prizes, all winners must provide THIN AIR with first and last name, as well as phone number and email address.
3) Prizes must be accepted as awarded - no substitutions. Mainstage tickets may be forwarded to another user, but may not be sold, traded or redeemed for cash.
4) Contest is open to everyone, excluding WIWF staff, board members and members of their households.
Special thanks to our prize donors for supporting THIN AIR 2011.

THIN AIR streeter: Pam Stewart

When you first move to the neighbourhood, the grounds of the Winnipeg Legislature are as good as any place to spend a Sunday afternoon.

For her first time visiting the area, Pam Stewart brought a notebook, pen, camera, lunch and Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins from the library.

What is the book about?

"I just started reading it, and right now it is about a stock market crash."

What made you choose this book?

"The author was recommended to me by a few people."

Would you recommend it?

"Even though I am not far into it yet, I would simply because of the absurd language."

What is your favourite genre to read?

Searching for the right word to describe it, Pam said her favourite genre of literature would be the equivalent to drama. She thoroughly enjoys books written by women, especially when female authors write about human relationships.

A shot of Pam enjoying her book.

"I usually stick to female writers because I want to read something I can relate to,” she explained. “I wouldn't normally read a book written by a dude, but this book has a female lead."

Why do you love to read?

"It gives me ideas as a writer," said Pam, who writes short fiction and has studied creative writing.

A new THIN AIR streeter takes place right on the streets of Winnipeg every week. Next time, we could be walking up to YOU and asking questions about your book selections. Be ready!

- Laura Kunzelman

August 07, 2011

‘Irma Voth’ by Miriam Toews

For anyone who is a fan of Miriam Toews’ writing – and even for those who haven’t read her before – Irma Voth is a novel that is worth purchasing, reading and keeping on the bookshelf.

Set in Mexico in a small Mennonite community, 18-year-old Irma Voth has just married a Mexican boy despite protests from her family. Their union might have resulted in a happy ending, except a year later he leaves her alone and without an income.

Just when things seem impossible, a film crew arrives in Irma’s community. Suddenly finding herself immersed in a modern world that is both foreign and forbidden, Irma’s life completely changes.

Irma Voth is Miriam Toews sixth book, and it is filled with both emotion and humour that keeps the reader engaged and invested in the main characters. Toews was born and raised as a Mennonite in Steinbach, and her knowledge and experiences make Irma’s character very realistic.

Toews 2004 novel – A Complicated Kindness – was her breakthrough title. It spent over a year on the Canadian bestsellers list, and won the Governor General's Award for English Fiction.

The novel, about a teenage girl who longs to escape her small Russian Mennonite town and hang out with Lou Reed in the slums of New York City, was also nominated for the Giller Prize and was the winning title in the 2006 edition of Canada Reads.

THIN AIR 2011 is very proud to have Miriam Toews at the festival this year.

If you would like to follow her on Twitter, click here