The 10 best events at literary festival Naked Heart 2018

NAKED HEART: AN LGBTQ FESTIVAL OF WORDS at Glad Day Bookshop (499 Church) and other venues. Friday to Sunday (November 9 to 11). $5-$15, festival pass $39.

The world’s most diverse literary festival is back thanks to the hardworking folks at Glad Day Bookshop. Naked Heart: An LGBTQ Festival Of Words gives established and up-and-coming writers who identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, trans and/or any other letter of the non-hetero, non-cis alphabet soup an opportunity to share and learn.

This year’s event welcomes Canadian rising stars Sanchari Sur, Arielle Twist, Lindsay Nixon and Hana Shafi, as well as community icons Elisha Lim, Tara Atluri, Mandy Goodhandy and Kamal Al-Solaylee. Notably absent are queer-lit heavy hitters Amber Dawn, Vivek Shraya and Joshua Whitehead, all of whom released widely acclaimed titles this year.

The festival format is similar to previous years, with panels, readings and workshops taking place at Glad Day Bookshop, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and 562 Church Street. There’s also an opening night party, Transdangerous, with DJ Nik Red at Glad Day on Friday (November 9).

A festival pass is available, but most sessions also have individual pricing, and book launches are free. I had a hard time picking from this year’s excellent offerings, but here are 10 events I suggest you attend if you want to network your way into the queer lit world, learn how to take care of yourself as a writer or have a fling.

Special event

Legendary Conversations: Jewelle Gomez interviewed by Kim Katrin Milan (with ASL)

Long-time activist and author Jewelle Gomez has identified herself as a “foremother of Afrofuturism” and is best known for her novel The Gilda Chronicles. Her writing draws on her upbringing in the 50s and 60s as an African-American, Native American, lesbian and feminist. If there’s only one event you attend, make it this one.

Saturday (November 10), Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander), 3:45-5 pm. $5.


We Will Not Be Erased

The festival opens with this evening of readings by trans, non-binary and genderqueer authors, including Mandy Goodhandy, Sanchari Sur and Arielle Twist.

Friday (November 9), Glad Day Bookshop, 9-10:30 pm, $5.

Arabesque: The Q In The Arabia

This reading gives voice to some essential queer and trans Middle Eastern writers who have been active for much longer than the West chooses to acknowledge. Participants include Kamal Al-Solaylee, Nari, Mona Faith Mousa and others. 

Saturday (November 10), Glad Day Bookshop, 7:30-8:45 pm. $5.

Grit Lit (with ASL)

This popular reading series features writing about pain, pleasure and desire without the shame that society casts over LGBTQ bodies.

Saturday (November 10), Glad Day Bookshop, 9-10:45 pm. $5.


It’s In The Stars

Debra Anderson leads a creative writing workshop rooted in the zodiac. Knowledge about astrology isn’t required, but trust in it probably is. Is this the queerest thing ever?

Saturday (November 10), 562 Church, 11 am-12:15 pm. $10.

A Journey In Rainbow Moccasins (with ASL)

Two-spirit storyteller Teddy Syrette will facilitate discussions on intersectional beauty and barriers experienced by two-spirit, queer and trans Indigenous people.

Sunday (November 11), 562 Church, noon-1:15 pm. $5.


Spectrums Of Sanity: Mental Health And The Writer (with ASL)

One of the most noteworthy panels from the first Naked Heart festival returns, because this conversation needs to continue. Hana Shafi, Sly Sarkisova and others discuss the relationship between mental health, creativity and writing, as well as coping mechanisms.

Saturday (November 10), Buddies in Bad Times, 5:15-6:30 pm. $5.

Uncommitted Crimes: The Defiance Of The Artistic Imagi/Nation (with ASL)

Tara Atluri’s latest book, Uncommitted Crimes, discusses the work of artists who challenge the status quo on contemporary and historical Turtle Island. Some of these artists join Atluri on this panel, bringing this conversation to life.

Sunday (November 11), Buddies in Bad Times, 3:30-4:45 pm. $5.

Book launches

nîtisânak by Lindsay Nixon with special guests (with ASL)

I’m halfway through Nixon’s memoir – their story about grief, familial bonds and community is moving and meaningful at a time that requires us to wrestle with more than 150 years of genocide on Indigenous people. But it’s their way with words that most excites me for this launch. 

Saturday (November 10), Buddies in Bad Times, 2:15-3:30 pm. Free.

The Tiger Flu

Farzana Doctor, Shani Mootoo and Shyam Selvadurai join author Larissa Lai and read from their work at the launch of her first book in 16 years. A Q&A and book signing will follow.

Saturday (November 10), Glad Day Bookshop, 5:15-6:30 pm. Free.

Check out Naked Heart’s full 2018 program here.


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