The Ampersand Review Launches First Ever &nd Festival!

By Tali Voron

On November 3rd and 4th,The Ampersand Review of Writing & Publishing and the Creative Writing & Publishing program hosted the inaugural &nd Festival at Sheridan College’s Hazel McCallion campus. The aim of the festival was to bring together the writing and publishing communities in Canada through a series of insightful panels on craft and the industry, an inspiring keynote, the Indie Literary Market in collaboration with the Meet the Presses Collective, and a celebratory gala to announce the winner of The Ampersand Review’s first Essay Contest.

Daniel Innes, Christina Wong, and Professor Leslie Wu. Photo Credit: Jason Tenn

On Friday, November 3rd the festival offered four student-exclusive workshops run by industry professionals: a workshop on Production and Design (facilitated by Ricky Lima), Starting Your Own Press (facilitated by Jim Johnstone), Literary Agents 101 (facilitated by Leonicka Valcius), and Freelance Editing 101 (facilitated by Shannon Whibbs). That evening, doors were opened to the public for the festival’s opening event, A Walk Through Denison Avenue: In Conversation with Christina Wong and Daniel Innes moderated by Leslie Wu. Wong and Innes treated attendees to a moving reading followed by an in-depth discussion on community, gentrification, diaspora, grief, and collaborative art forms in relation to their work on Denison Avenue

Saturday, November 4th was bustling with activity, featuring four panels that delved into various topics, leading to thought-provoking conversations on craft. The day began with Poetry as Resistance: The Poetics of Justice moderated by Drew McEwan, with panelists Hoa Nguyen, Renee Sarojini Saklikar, and Jake Byrne. Kate Cayley, Sheridan’s Writer-in-Residence, then moderated a discussion on Short Stories are the Cutting Edge of Fiction with panelists Anuja Varghese, Kathy Friedman, and Daniel Scott Tysdal. The third panel was The Question of Truth in Creative Nonfiction moderated by Lisa Whittington-Hill with panelists Gary Barwin, Emma Healey, and Shawn Hitchins. The final panel, moderated by Moez Surani, was Reimagining the Novel in the 21st Century, with panelists Tamara Faith Berger, Martha Baillie, and Aaron Tucker.

Photo Credit: Ashley Haynes

The Meet the Presses Indie Literary Market was in full-swing all day long, which brought some of the most innovative independent publishers and small presses to Sheridan College. The market also featured the announcement of the winner of the 2023 bpNichol Chapbook Award, which was awarded to Jason Christie for his chapbook glass / language / untitled / exaltation, published by Above/Ground Press.

Daniel Scott Tysdal, Anuja Varghese, Kathy Friedman. Photo Credit: Jason Tenn

The day was capped off with an inspiring keynote by Gary Barwin, titled “The Song of Ourselves in the Shadow of Now, a Speech About The Importance of Writing in Dark Times.”

Photo Credit: Jason Tenn

The final event of the festival allowed for some more relaxed celebration at the closing gala hosted at the Creative Campus Gallery. At the gala, the winners of the inaugural Ampersand Review Essay Contest were also announced, with “ggirl in five acts” by Vange Schramek winning first place, “Bodymagic: An Anatomy of My Integumentary System” by Mieke de Vries winning second place, and “Driver’s Test” by Kelsey Gilchrist winning third place. Unwinding after two days spent dedicated to all things writing and publishing, guests filled the gallery with laughter and conversation in between moments snapping photos at an elaborate vintage photobooth.

From becoming a nationally distributed bi-annual publication, to kicking off the Ampersand Review Reading Series, and launching the inaugural &nd Festival, it has been an exciting year for The Ampersand Review. The second &nd Festival is slated for Fall 2024. Until then, The Ampersand Review has a number of events on the horizon, including the second installment of The Ampersand Review Reading Series on Thursday, February 15th at 7pm ET in the Creative Campus Gallery (B234) at HMC. Sydney Hegele will be headlining the evening, joined by Moez Surani and Drew Hayden Taylor as guest readers. The second half of the event will feature an open mic.