• Shalini Devi

Don't Forget Your Wonder

Toronto International Festival of Authors Programming team,

I was intrigued about The Toronto International Festival of Authors (October 18-28, 2018) from the moment I read this quote from your homepage: “Explore the world of books and get acquainted with the world’s leading authors…the Festival offers a curated selection of events for every taste.” -

However, I am writing to you as a very disappointed “curious reader” that was so looking forward to this festival, but upon reading the programming of events, will sadly not be attending.

I was so looking forward to attending this festival for the first time, being a curious reader since the age I could physically hold a book, to now being an author of my own blog - The Healing Room, and working on my very first book. However, when I looked at the programme my heart fell after reading every author event. It seems the “selection of events for every taste” offers topics of only the darkest material, much like watching any of the mainstream news channels today.

Excerpts from the descriptions of just the first three interviews with authors on the Festival Events page include starting off with a discussion: “Based on real events…where more than 100 girls and women were drugged unconscious and raped in the night.” Next up is a conversation about the second world war, followed by an event that “tackles themes of love and betrayal, privilege, race, separation and regret.”

And it doesn’t get any better. As I continued to scroll down I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry because every single item, so blatantly and without omission, is centred around themes of heart wrenching suffering and human desperation. I scrolled the entire programme list hoping that there would be at least one author event I could attend, where I would not be drowning in human suffering – and there was not even one.

I do not undermine the importance of discussing these issues in our world – they are a part of our human story and should be represented. However, as this festival claims to have a mandate to: “Promote and inspire enthusiasm for literature by providing opportunities for curious readers to meet, hear, and learn from the finest contemporary writers of our time,” -, I ask you:

Where is the wonder? Where is the magic? Where are the words of inspiration and courage and light in these difficult times? Where are the works of Paulo Coelho, or Eckhart Tolle, or Erin Morgenstern, or Elizabeth Gilbert, or J.K. Rowling, or Thich Nhat Hanh, or Michael Singer? Where is the selection of writers who write about humanity with upliftment, hope, and a possibility for a higher way of living? The ones that inspire us to be all we can be? I want to hear from them – or from those with messages like them. How can their words be missing from the biggest festival for authors and readers in Canada that claims to be a “celebration of words and ideas for curious readers of every kind?”-

Just like in the news, there is a role for the stories of killings, rape, murder, colonial conquest, war, etc. - I am one who is greatly aware of these sufferings of humanity and understand we need a forum to discuss these issues and how they affect us. However, there is a role for the stories of love, light, magic and wonder as they heal us, uplift us and help us remember who we truly are, and what a greater possibility humanity is also capable of. All I ask is for you to include at least one author event, if not many, for the curious reader like me, who is tired of being bombarded by darkness and despair in every turn she makes in this society. I ask that we create space for a different conversation that may have the ability to heal us, and transform this suffering into something greater with the power of our words, our ideas and our inspiration - rather than simply brewing and drowning in the dark, again, and again, and again - to the point where not one author event of this festival seems to offer any other possibility. Please Toronto International Festival of Authors, for the curious readers and writers like myself – Don’t forget your wonder. Sincerely, Shalini Singh (SDS) A Curious Reader and Writer To learn more about me, and read my stories of the power of love, courage and light that emerged from my experience of chronic illness, written with the intention to inspire and heal - please visit

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