Two Calgary authors, who are also father and son, will kick off Wordfest event

Wordfest's 25th anniversary celebrations include a number of high-profile, intriguing author pairings over the next several months.

Calgary author Wil Ferguson and his son Genki will share a stage virtually on Tuesday

A Giller Prize winning Calgary author, Will Ferguson, (left) will be sharing the virtual stage tonight with his son, Genki (right) as part of the kick off to Wordfest. (Genki Ferguson/Anna Anaka)

It can be common for children to follow in their parent's footsteps, especially when it comes to careers.

But two Calgary authors, who also happen to be father and son, now get a chance not just a profession, but a virtual stage for Wordfest's 25th anniversary celebrations. 

Will Ferguson, a Giller Prize winning Calgary author, says being paired up with his son Genki seemed "natural."

"My son, Genki, has a novel coming out next spring so I thought it was a perfect fit and it's always nice sharing an event with my son," he told The Homestretch.

"His writing is so rich and so different than what I do, and beyond the father and son connection, you have two very different authors discussing the craft [on stage]."

Genki's debut novel Satelllite Love is about about a young girl who falls in love with a satellite that flies over her home in southern Japan. The story touches on loneliness, alienation, and what it means to be human.

Genki says he wrote the story in his first years of university and has learned from his father about the importance of squeezing in as much writing as you can per day.

"I've seen him sit down every day and just go through the story and kind of tackle problems from different angles ... understanding writing is an art of discipline in more ways then just strictly inspirational and flights of fancy," said Genki.

Despite having a fellow author just a phone call away, Genki says he didn't tell his dad about his novel until he was done.

"It was a very personal project for me and something I wanted to set and completed all on my own in one go," he said.

Will Ferguson's book (left) is available now, while Genki's (right) will be released this spring. (Left: The Finder, Right: Satellite Love)

His father, Will also also has a new book out called The Finder. He describes it as a story about a character's journey to track down lost objects — like Buddy Holly's iconic glasses, Muhammad Ali's Olympic gold medal and even the last reel of Alfred Hitchcock's first film.

"I've always been interested in lost objects but the strange thing was I illustrated a children book for my niece many, many years ago about the king of forgotten things, so I think the ideas been percolating in my head for a long time," he said.

When asked if writing is in the genes, Will added that he comes from "a big storytelling family" and that Genki's grandfather has also written a book — making his son a third-generation author.

"I've always said in most families, there's talking and listening but in my family it's talking and waiting to talk," he laughed.

Anniversary event an 'extravaganza'

Initially planned as a live festival over five days, Wordfest's 25th year has been re-imagined as what CEO Shelley Youngblut said will be an "extravaganza" called 25 at 25.

The event will feature 25 emerging and veteran authors who Youngblut feels represent the "very best" in Canadian fiction.

They will present in a weekly series every Tuesday from Sept. 8 to Dec. 8.

"Seriously, it is such a killer list," Youngblut said. "We asked for everyone, and everyone is saying yes."

Part of the reason everyone can say yes is the pandemic. With no travel plans to coordinate, and schedules a bit freer than usual, festival organizers discovered they could actually bring 25 high-profile authors together for the same event — which would have been just about impossible under normal circumstances.

"There's something unbelievable about everybody being in the same space, so we miss that," Youngblut said.

"On the other hand, we've been able to get anyone, pretty much, that we wanted from all over the world."

Another element that has been enhanced by going online is accessibility.

Those with mobility issues, or who might not be comfortable in crowds, can enjoy the festivities wherever they are.

"The other thing that's really important to me is that, these are events that are now accessible to people who otherwise could not leave their homes," Youngblut said.

"And so, we've been able to go into their homes and into their living rooms and bring them into the family. And that's been cool, too."

With files from Hannah Kost and The Homestretch


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