Each October, the city of Frankfurt in Germany plays host to the second largest literary trade fair in the world, with 7,153 exhibitors representing 106 countries present in 2016.
The Frankfurt Book Fair (known as the Frankfurter Buchmesse (FBM), in German,) is a tradition spanning more than 500 years, with the first book fair being held by local booksellers in 1454. With 278,023 visitors to the five day event in 2016, it holds the distinction of being the most important international venue for literary trade deals, with the primary language of business being English.
Since 1976, a guest of honour or focus of interest has been set annually for the fair. A special exhibition hall is set up for the country of honour and the major publishing houses from that country are usually present. Canada has been named as the guest of honour for the fair in 2020, setting literary communities across our diverse country in a position to showcase their talent.
Seeing the opportunity for the Yukon to be recognized as a strong contributor of Canadian Literature on an international scale, members of the Yukon Writers Collective INK, Elisabeth Weigand and Jessica Simon have created the Yukon FBM2020 Committee. “[We would] like to offer the national organizers a ‘Made in Yukon Program,’ and to do that we need to gather the creative energy of local writers,” says Weigand.
The first public meeting of the committee will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 6 at Yukon College in Room 2603.
The goal of this inaugural meeting is to develop a vision and mandate for the committee, says Jessica Simon.
“If we attend, what do we want to accomplish there and what do we want the literary scene to look like after the Book Fair? Besides a personal presence at the FBM we are looking at opportunities for virtual events, too. At this point we’re at the blank page stage.”
Simon and Weigand want to stress that they are merely the organizers of the meeting, and that they are looking for a mandate to be set by the literary community.
Simon invites writers of all calibre and genres to, “bring with you an idea of what you’d like to accomplish at the Book Fair. For example, maybe you have self-published three books doing well in North America, but you’d like to crack the European market. Or maybe you’d like your books to be published in a foreign language and/or a foreign country. Or maybe you’d just like the world to know we’re more than Jack London and Robert Service. At this early stage the sky’s the limit and we’re looking to gather as many ideas as possible.”
This meeting is open to all Yukon writers and literary organizations.
“We expect that there will be a fairly large contingent of people who want to, and can, attend the FBM in 2020, but we are also aware that there is likely an even larger contingent of people who cannot or would rather not attend for various reasons who still have valid things to contribute – we want to get a mandate from them as well,” says Simon.
Writers living in the communities who are unable to attend the meeting are encouraged to contact the organizers at FBM2020@mail.com to make arrangements to attend via Skype or other means.
“Of all places in the world, Canada, and the Yukon in particular, enjoy a special status in the minds of Germans,” says Weigand. “We would love to answer to that by bringing our literary environment abroad.”
While 2020 may seem far off, the organizers urge that beginning the planning stages now will allow time to build a strong Yukon presence. With early contributors from the literary community including Elke Reinauer, who was among the 8,000 accredited journalists to attend the fair in 2016, and Erin McMullan, who has agreed to help the committee refine any funding applications that may be required, Weigand and Simon are optimistic about what can be accomplished.
“The Frankfurt Book Fair promises to have an enormous impact on the Yukon and Canadian literary scene – on the scale of us hosting Expo or the Olympics. This is the chance to take Canadian literature to a whole new level,” says Simon.