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Story time in Nanaimo

NANAIMO - Book Fest celebrates its 30th anniversary in the heart of downtown Nanaimo.
Thora Howell

For more than 30 years, Canadian authors have shared their stories in Nanaimo thanks to Book Fest.

It started small. It was initially held on the Malaspina College campus, now Vancouver Island University. It has grown and is now held in four locations in Nanaimo: Diana Krall Plaza, the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library, ­the Vancouver Island Conference Centre and the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Art Lab.

“The whole reason for Book Fest is to get kids excited about books,” said Michele Hillier, co-coordinator of Book Fest and executive director of Literacy Central Vancouver Island.

“People always look forward to coming back.”

Thora Howell, a member of the founding group of the festival, said the event keeps regenerating every year.

“It’s huge ... I’m absolutely amazed at how much work has been done,” she said.

Book Fest is being held Saturday (May 7). This year’s author lineup includes: Leah Dorion, Sheree Fitch, Julie Flett, Marie-Louise Gay, Arthur Slade, Ashley Spires, Jeremy Tankard, Chris Tougas and Ria Voros.

The day-long celebration features readings by the authors, puppet shows, music, circus performances by VestaFire Entertainment and face painting.

Besides the events held in downtown Nanaimo, Book Fest also includes more than 60 readings in schools and libraries on the Island, stretching from Duncan to Port Alberni.

“It’s pretty incredible,” said Hillier.

For the first time, Book Fest is hosting a graphic novel workshops, in partnership with the Nanaimo Art Gallery, at Art Lab. The workshop with Joan Steacy will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon. The workshop with Ken Steacy is 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Joan Steacy is a visual artist who has been awarded the Doug White Award for her work. Ken Steacy, a professional comic book author, has contributed to graphic novels featuring various characters including Astro Boy and Spider Man.

The workshop is $5, which includes materials. To register please call 250-754-1750.

Tickets are $13, for an adult and one child, or a family pass, one adult and three or more children, is $28 in advance, available by calling 250-754-8550 or online at

Tickets are $10, for an adult and child, or $25 for an adult and three or more children the day of the event. Tickets and information will be available starting at 8:30 a.m. the day of the event.For a full schedule go to