NOWW LitFest 2023

March 2023

It’s a milestone year for the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW), as it celebrates both its inception as an organization and the creation of its International Writing Contest. So this year, the organizers are celebrating in style with a 2-day festival involving 2 prominent Canadian authors.

“I’m thrilled and humbled that Order of Canada recipients Eric Walters and Anna Porter have agreed to be our guest authors for the Literary Festival,” says organization chair, Clayton Bye. “I think anyone interested in writing or publishing will be hard-pressed to find any comparable local access to the combined experience and knowledge represented by these two Canadian icons.”

Walters is the award-winning author of over 80 books for children and young adults and is an icon of the Canadian writing scene. Anna Porter is a powerhouse author, journalist and co-founder of Key Porter Books, a publishing house with notable Canadian authors like Farley Mowat, Margaret Atwood and Jean Chretien. Together, these two bring a huge amount of talent and experience to LitFest 2023, and the event promises to be ground-breaking in terms of exposure for the city.

“Last year, Cathy Marie Buchanan was our guest author,” says Bye. “And the year before, it was Terry Fallis. That year, LitFest was an online event, because of COVID restrictions. This year, we hope to be back to normal in terms of attendance and in-person participation. If you’re a writer, it’s going to be exciting.”

To capitalize on two such prominent Canadian guests, the 2-day event kicks off on Friday May 12, with readings by Walters and Porter at the Definitely Superior Art Gallery, followed by a sit-down gala dinner at the Prince Arthur Hotel with a keynote address from Walters. There, the winners of NOWW’s 25th Annual International Writing Contest will be announced, along with readings from the winning entries.

“It’s an international contest,” says contest coordinator, Shauna DeGagné, “And we’ve been receiving submissions from all over the world. There are six categories, with two new to the contest - Short Crime Fiction and Literary Critical Review. The other four are Poetry, Creative Nonfiction, the Bill MacDonald Prize for Prose and Short Fiction, which will be judged by Michelle Good, the author of Five Little Indians.”

The second day (Saturday May 13) involves a full slate of professional development for writers, with a two-hour workshop in the morning by Walters, followed by another two-hour workshop by Porter in the afternoon. There will also be a complimentary luncheon in between, with Porter as keynote speaker for those who attend either workshop.

NOWW was founded in 1997 by Deborah de Bakker, Rosalind Maki, Charles Wilkins, and Jim Foulds with a mandate to encourage and promote the development of the writers and literature of Northwestern Ontario. Today, NOWW has grown into the largest literary organization in Northwestern Ontario, boasting a strong track record of service to writers and the community.

“NOWW’S first year-end awards party was held in 1999 at the Good News Café,” says co-founder Rosalind Maki, “There, the winners of the first NOWW writing contest were announced, and the inaugural Kouhi Award was presented to Elizabeth Kouhi. The success of the Literary Awards Party eventually outgrew its intimate “café” settings, and moved to larger venues, like the Prince Arthur Hotel, the Current River Rec Centre, and the Thunder Bay Art Gallery.”

“My hope is that the public will recognize this rare and wonderful opportunity,” says Bye, “And join us at LitFest this year.”

If you’re a writer, a reader, or a supporter of the literary scene in Northwestern Ontario, you can find more info about the 2023 NOWW LitFest at

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

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