It’s been over 13 months since the pandemic began, and even though there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – it’s been hard to stay motivated and to keep myself entertained. I miss doing things, and I miss being with other people, so the moment the 2021 ticket sales opened for the Festival of Literary Diversity, I knew I had to attend.

The Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) was founded by bestselling author Jael Richardson (Stone Thrower, Gutter Child) with its first festival launching in May 2016. Fold WAS Canada’s first festival for diverse authors and storytellers. 

Since that inaugural event, held in Brampton, Ontario, FOLD has continued to grow, and provide a space for writers to discuss their craft and push boundaries, as well as providing readers, aspiring writers, and educators with incredible, informative, and empowering workshops to learn, and grow their love of reading (and writing). FOLD’s current offerings include a kids’ festival, a reading challenge, monthly webinars, and more.

With a jam-packed schedule of events, workshops, and performances to keep my weekends booked (and bookish), FOLD 2021 is exactly what the doctor ordered**, to beat the lockdown blues.

(** no medical professionals were consulted in the writing of this article).

What’s New This Year?

The 2021 Festival of Literary Diversity will be held virtually from May 1st to May 15th (with preview events in the last week of April), on a unique and innovative platform, which will allow participants to gather, discuss, attend live events, and view recorded events during the entire month of May. Participants will be able to use this platform to compete for prizes, and chat with publishers, vendors, and other participants.

This year’s festival features 40 live events, School Group Events, three exciting new series: The Mood Series (conversations unpacking different moods, and their connections to writing), the Writer’s Workshop Series (to help writers develop their craft), the Romance Track (a full day of programming designed just for romance writers), and a special selection of Feature Events that include interviews with authors like Eden Robinson, Sonali Dev, Thomas King, and many more.

PLUS… Another Story Bookshop will be offering free shipping nationwide on any FOLD 2021 title. You can find more details here.

Events to Keep An Eye Out For:

You can see the full schedule of events here, however, I wanted to highlight a few of the events I  am most excited for:

Preview Event: Writers on Place and Belonging (Mood Series): April 28th, 2021 (8 pm – 9:!5 pm EST)

Authors Francesca Ekwuyasi, Yara El-Ghadban, and Sheun King discuss what it means to belong, how the pandemic has altered our connections to those around us, the stories behind their incredible novels, and the places they call home.

Writers on Community and Isolation – Part 1 (Mood Series): May 1st, 2021 (12 pm – 1:15 pm EST)

Authors Ben Philippe, Eternity Martis, Antonio Michael Downing, and Makda Mulatu discuss the courage and creativity involved in writing stories that challenge readers to reflect on the critical bonds, and complicated barriers in a divided world.

Big and Beautiful Bodies: May 2nd, 2021 (8 pm – 9:15 pm EST)

Join contributors to the anthology BIG: Stories about Life in Plus-Sized Bodies, Christina Myers, Rabbit Richards, Sonja Boon, and Jo Jefferson, as they discuss the experience of crafting stories, and sharing experiences that shed light on bodies that are BIG, beautiful and proud, in a society obsessed with being thin.

Navigating the Publishing Industry: May 3rd, 2021 (12 pm – 1:15 pm EST)

Publishing industry professionals Aeman Ansari, Bryan Ibeas, Ronan Sadler, and Léonicka Valcius have an honest (and urgent) conversation about publishing, sharing important truths, and offering solutions to the obstacles faced by many industry employees from marginalized communities.

The Spoken Word Showcase (A School Group Event): May 5th, 2021 (1 pm – 2:15 pm EST)

This event features performances from three incredible spoken word artists, followed by a short Q&A, revealing the power of oral story-telling traditions, and providing a resource for young people exploring their place and purpose in a complicated world.

Writers on Truth and Curiosity (Mood Series): May 5th, 2021 (8 pm – 9:15 pm EST)

Jonny Sun, Bahar Orang, and Meichi Ng, in conversation with andrea bennett, explore personal storytelling, and the vulnerability involved, discussing new ways to explore important ideas, and unpack big truths.

Horror Writing and Indigenous Storytelling with Nathan Adler (Writer’s Workshop Series): May 8th, 2021 (2 pm – 3:15 pm EST)

This workshop explores the different sources for fear and horror in storytelling, common tropes, and narrative structures, as well as Indigenous methodologies. 

One-on-One with Jasmine Guillory (The Romance Writers Track): May 15th, 2021 (4 pm – 5 pm EST)

Bestselling author Jasmine Guillory makes her FOLD debut, discussing her journey through writing, and what’s on the horizon, in conversation with Léonicka Valcius.

How to Attend?

Individual all-access passes for ALL festival events are $39, however, this year, FOLD has added an opportunity to bundle all-access passes, allowing you to purchase 5 for $175. This is perfect for educators, writing groups, and book clubs.

FOLD also has a Patron Pass Program, a donation program that provides festival passes to those who may not be able to attend the festival otherwise.

NOTE: All festival events will be closed-captioned.

With workshops and discussion featuring diverse authors, storytellers, and book industry professionals, including Marci Len, Evan Winter, Tanya Boteju, and more, you’ll want to purchase your all access pass ASAP, so you don’t miss a moment of this incredible festival. 

I hope I’ll “see” you there! 

Ameema Saeed (@ameemabackwards) is a storyteller, a Capricorn, an avid bookworm, and a curator of themed playlists, tailored book recommendations, and cool earrings. She enjoys dancing, tattoos, sweatsuits, bad puns, good food and talking about feelings. She also loves to write. She mostly writes about books, unruly bodies, and her lived experiences, and hopes to write an essay collection one day. When she’s not reading books, or buying books (her other favourite hobby), she likes to talk about books (especially diverse books, and books by diverse authors) on her bookstagram: @ReadWithMeemz