The Festival of Literary Diversity’s goal is right there in the title. Its mandate is to celebrate and provide a platform for diverse voices in literature. But FOLD’s diversity goes a step beyond the people creating the literature, explained Karen Richardson, a member of the festival board and planning committee. It also showcases the diversity of literature itself. FOLD covers prose in various forms, including spoken word, non-fiction, finance, self-help books, and script readings. This year, they have introduced comics to the fold.
Of the many events occurring in and around the festival, which took place from May 3 to 7, 2018 in Brampton, Ontario, several sessions and workshops focused on the art of sequential storytelling:
The Art of Storytelling: What happens when words and pictures collide? Four author-illustrators discuss how images combine with the power of the written word to tell powerful stories. With published work covering children’s literature, graphic novels, creative nonfiction, and comic books, Johnnie Christmas, Kyo Maclear, Maria Qamar, and Jillian Tamaki discuss the importance of visual storytelling with local author Ricky Lima.
Workshops vary from year to year, Richardson explained. This year, one of the workshops was simply titled, “Writing Comics.” Hosted by Johnnie Christmas, co-creator of Sheltered, Angel Catbird, and Firebug, the all-ages session focused on the basics of storytelling, starting with the logline.
With several handouts, Christmas encouraged the audience to create a brief story outline and invited the burgeoning writers to share their outlines and receive feedback. Some struggled with limiting themselves to just a few lines to deliver a strong pitch, but audience input and Christmas’ own guidance helped narrow down some of the more meandering loglines.
From there, the workshop moved on to plotting the first three pages of a comic, with Christmas explaining that the goal of each page should be to ensure that the reader wants to turn the page to find out what happens next. Many of the stories shared a science fiction leaning, with super powers, meteorites, and social justice at their core.
Though only an hour long, the workshop was a success, with several audience members walking away with useful tactics and practical skills to bring their writing projects to fruition.
FOLD is not the first literary festival to shine the spotlight on comics, but it is most certainly one of the few that does so under a mandate of diversity. The festival also strives to be a safe space for all its participants. Some of the topics covered within the events can be quite sensitive, so the festival staff encourages people to step away if needed and to provide feedback to help the festival learn and grow.
With its third event wrapped up, the FOLD planning committee is already reviewing their notes and making plans for the next year. With a three-year commitment from corporate sponsor Audible, who also recorded panels to be made available at a later date, the festival has firm footing and lots of room to grow.