Deliberately, Jonathan clicked the link to the About Us page. He couldn’t decide whether to read it now at work, or wait until he returned home to his leather reading chair and mobile tablet. Just then he saw Rachel, her hair waving in the unusually warm autumn wind and cashmere sweater partially unbuttoned. The website would have to wait.


Wordfest™ is a not-for-profit organization that brings readers and writers together to experience the power of story through accessible and engaging programming in Calgary, Banff and the Bow Valley.

Wordfest hosts year-round literary events in Calgary, Banff and Bow Valley featuring the world’s best writers. Over 850 writers have presented at these events over the past 19 years. Festival authors have included Margaret Atwood, Douglas Coupland, John Irving, Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Ford, Alexander McCall Smith and David Suzuki.

The Festival: October 14-19, 2014

Wordfest’s main event is a literary festival that features upwards of 70 writers from the local, national and international stage. The Festival has approximately 60 separate events and attracts an audience of over 15,000. Festival events take place across Calgary and in Banff through founding production partner, The Banff Centre.

Our programming is accessible, engaging and promotes a love of reading and a curiosity about the writing life. Events include poetry and spoken word performances, current event panels, publishing industry workshops, art installations, youth and multilingual programming, in-school performances and featured events with the biggest and brightest stars of the book scene.

Book Rapport: October 14-17, 2014

First Calgary Financial Book Rapport is a popular youth and education program that brings students together with authors to stimulate literacy and encourage a love of reading and writing. As part of its commitment to youth literacy, Wordfest also created the Book Buddies program, which subsidizes literary events for high-needs and at-risk youth. Wordfest supports accessibility and engagement for readers of all ages.

Banff Distinguished Author Series

Each year, Wordfest and The Banff Centre present the Banff Distinguished Author Series to showcase international and Canadian writers of unmistakeable artistic accomplishment and public acclaim. Banff Distinguished Author Series alumni include Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, Joseph Boyden, Austin Clark, Douglas Coupland, Timothy Findley, Richard Ford, David Malouf, Annie Proulx, Paul Quarrington, David Adams Richards, Mordecai Richler, John Ralston Saul, Jane Urquhart, Guy Vanderhaeghe, and Richard Wright.

“From the beginning, Wordfest used Banff as a bright lure to hook some of the big fish of the book world. One story goes that when Mordecai Richler came to Banff, his contract stipulated that his room be stocked with a bottle of 18-year old Macallan single malt Scotch. From Richler’s visit, Wordfest and The Banff Centre created the Banff Distinguished Author Series.” —Lachlan Mackintosh, FFWD Weekly, October 7, 2010.

Year-Round Events

In addition to the annual Festival, Wordfest hosts various events throughout the year. Year-round initiatives range from public celebrations, community booths and audio-visual streaming projects to marquee presentations that bring some of the world’s best writers to Southern Alberta.

Director’s Vision

Wordfest’s annual literary festival brings thousands of people of all ages together to share a love of reading and writing. This celebration of the written word connects Calgarians to worlds beyond their imagination and events beyond their experience. There is nothing more powerful than a story well told and it is through reading that we are exposed to new ideas that help us understand the world around us. Wordfest is a non-profit, charitable organization committed to promoting a culture of reading and storytelling.

Jo-Steffens-72dpi-310-466-199x300Jo Steffens, a Calgary native, returned home from the United States to take the Director position at Wordfest in 2010. Steffens moved from New York, NY, where she was a curator at The Municipal Art Society (MAS) and director of their bookstore. Steffens founded the Independent Booksellers of New York City with Sarah McNally. She also brings a depth of experience in new technologies and their application to the literary arts. Steffens has launched a series of books based on one of her MAS exhibits. Unpacking My Library, Architects and Their Books (Yale University Press) is the first book of the photographic series that has gone on to look inside the libraries of writers and artists.