National Forum on the Literary Arts

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the National Forum on the Literary Arts hosted by the Canada Council in Montreal. The forum brought together ~250 participants from the literary arts from across Canada to discuss a future vision for Canadian literature. Participants came from an array of professions; authors, editors, librarians, literary agents, government organizations, educators, media, storytellers, publishers, booksellers, and association staff were all present. The purpose was to get a variety of different views on how digital change is affecting the ‘literary milieu.’ The discussions were to be framed around four areas: 


Goal: to open a dialogue on the place of creation and the role of literary creators today and in the future. This discussion will allow participants to identify key issues and articulate priorities to ensure the vitality and sustainability of Canadian literature.


Goal: to open a dialogue on the future of the role of publishers/producers in Canada – cultural mediators who are at the heart of literary life. 


Goal: to better understand how dissemination is evolving and to reflect on who will be the promoters, quality controllers, and influencers of tomorrow.


Goal: to open a dialogue on the possibilities for advancing Canadian literature and capitalizing on change. 


To discuss these areas, attendees were assigned to groups composed of a cross-section from the different professional groups. The idea was to come up with issues and priorities for each area. The issues and priorities from each group were then collated and presented back to the full group for comment. It was interesting, overwhelming, and exhausting.

The best part of the whole exercise was getting together with such a diverse group of people interested in the future (and business) of literature. Diverse backgrounds bring diverse ideas and also lead to what might be the negative aspect of the exercise: It seemed very hard to narrow things down to anything operational. Perhaps that will change when the ideas are distilled down further. The Canada Council says that a report will be released and will be made available on the Forum’s web site

I’m still recovering.

Kudos must be passed onto The Canada Council and the Forum’s steering committee for putting on the Forum and for trying to get the conversation going.

P.S. Mark Medley has a detailed summary of the Forum on the National Post blog