The Glad Day Bookshop – Toronto’s renowned indie bookseller specializing in gay, lesbian, trans, and queer titles – is launching what it hopes will become an annual LGBTQ literary festival.
The inaugural Naked Heart “festival of words” will take place from Oct. 16 to 18, with the aim of giving increased attention to LGBTQ authors and works. The event is funded by the store and various LGBTQ unions and alliances, and will be hosted in partnership with author and festival co-ordinator Jeffrey Round.
“Glad Day almost closed down a few years ago, so we had to put our money together to save it, and it wasn’t until now that we had the labour, focus, and time to dedicate to something this big,” says Michael Erickson, Glad Day’s co-owner and CEO. “I’ve noticed there really aren’t gay and lesbian authors getting the circulation and promotion heterosexual authors get. Going through book catalogues, the ratio of LGBTQ books is much lower than the ratio of LGBTQ people in the population. It’s probably only one or two per cent. I was pretty stunned at how few there are.”
The weekend-long festival will feature readings, panels, networking opportunities, and interactive workshops on a wide range of topics that vary from self-publishing, writing as resistance, and libel to indigenous writing, bridging intergenerational gaps, mental health/trauma, and religious faith in queer characters. Coach House Books, Insomniac Press, and other publishers will participate alongside published and emerging writers such as Vivek Shraya, Farzana Doctor, Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, and Amber Dawn.
“We thought about what types of things people don’t always talk about and what felt really current. We wanted to identify themes we saw coming up in LGBTQ literature and what we think is maybe missing in story right now,” Erickson says. “We also wanted the festival to be more than just readings; we wanted it to be engaging and maybe uncomfortable – transformative even. We’re going to go to places that writers go in a really public way. I think people are hungry for that, and I think this festival speaks to the stuff that’s kind of unspoken in the mainstream but we still want to talk and hear about.”
Erickson hopes the festival can achieve its aim of strengthening and celebrating the LGBTQ literary community, while offering much-needed support and exposure to the writers and under-represented identities within it.
“Publishers want to publish people who have a following and notoriety, but how do you get a profile when you don’t have a book, and how do you get a book if you don’t have a profile? A festival like this helps to create that profile for authors,” Erickson says. “We want to show publishers that, yes, people want to come out, they will buy LGBTQ books, they will support things. It can help authors get book deals and stay at the top of their game.”