Ondaatje's KSW Fundraiser, May 13 1998


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Original press release for Ondaatje's KSW benefit reading:

Original press release for Michael Ondaatje's KSW benefit reading



Benefit Reading for Kootenay School of Writing will feature Booker Prize Winner, Michael Ondaatje

Novelist and Poet, Michael Ondaatje will be making a special appearance in Vancouver next month in a benefit reading for the Kootenay School of Writing. Prompted by news that the famous writing centre was in serious financial trouble, Ondaatje agreed to a public reading at the Varsity Theatre to help the school raise money.

The Kootenay School of Writing began operating in Vancouver in the fall of 1984. Since that time KSW has garnered national and international recognition as a site of diverse, innovative writing practices. Many well known writers throughout the world have passed through its doors, including, George Bowering (poet, novelist, teacher, twice winner of the governor-general’s award), Roy Miki (poet, teacher, past editor of West Coast Line), Michael Turner (poet, novelist, Juno award winner for his screenplay, Hard Core Logo) and Fred Wah (poet, critic, teacher, governor-general award winner).

After 12 years of helping fund the Kootenay School of Writing, the City of Vancouver has decided to withdraw all support for its 1998/99 fiscal year. Citing that the school’s programming and activities have a "limited scope and reach," the council has decided its operations are no longer relevant to any of the city’s various audiences.

Last year KSW funded 69 separate readings by national and international writers for a combined audience of over 1500 people. It’s 1997 season included governor-general award winner, Dionne Brand, as well as such acclaimed poets as Robin Blaser, Sharon Thesen, the UK’s Tom Raworth and San Francisco novelist, Robert Gluck. Only the Vancouver Writer’s Festival comes close to hosting that number of writers, yet at many times KSW’s annual budget. Collective member and publisher of Tsunami Books, Michael Barnholden explains, "the loss of the Kootenay School of Writing means that Vancouver forfeits a unique and internationally acclaimed cultural site. These writers who are advocating their support understand that any threat to the school is a threat to their own work and profession. People depend on KSW. Without it, Vancouver would have had a very different reputation in the world of letters."

Ondaatje was shocked to hear that the writing centre was in danger of shutting down and quickly offered to do what he could to help. The reading will be held Wednesday, May 13, 1998 and will feature three other local writers who have worked with the KSW in the past, plus a special 20 minute film presentation on the making of "The English Patient." Tickets will be $13. A special reception will be held at the Kootenay School of Writing after the reading.


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