Giller Prize winner Elizabeth Hay is among five authors taking part in this year’s Yukon Writers’ Festival which starts April 30.

The five writers will be reading their work at public events in Whitehorse and Haines Junction and will also spend two days with school children at the Young Authors’ Conference on May 1 and 2. Taking place at FH Collins High School in Whitehorse, the conference is open to Grade 8 to 12 students from all over the Yukon.

Students will be treated to readings by Hay as well as by CBC’s Dr. Poetry, Robert Priest; author of Neil Young Nation, Kevin Chong, plus well-known Yukon writers Jerome Stueart and Ivan Coyote. Students will spend the rest of the time in a group working with one of the five writers.

Hay, whose prize-winning novel, Late Nights on Air, was set in Yellowknife, says this will be her first visit to the Yukon.

“I look forward to being with people who love the North and know about it. To hearing all the details of their lives. To seeing northern communities I’ve never seen before. To learning as much as I possibly can,” she said by email.

She also has a particular interest in Whitehorse: “When I drove up to Yellowknife from BC in 1974, I rather expected to be bowled over by the landscape. But Yellowknife is no Whitehorse. It took some months for me to appreciate its beauty. I’ve always wanted to see what I think of as Yellowknife’s beautiful sister, namely Whitehorse.”

Hay lived in Yellowknife from 1974 to 1978 and visited again a decade later. “That was the last time I was in the North,” she said. “I’m there a lot in my mind, of course, as you will appreciate. My years in Yellowknife made such an impression on me that I have written about it more than once, though never so fully as inLate Nights on Air.”

It sounds as if Hay will be able to relate well to the students who are lucky enough to be involved in the Young Authors’ Conference. “I was 15 when a teacher tricked me into writing poetry and it changed my life,” she explained.

“No matter how lonely I’ve been, I’ve had my writing for company. Young people feel their loneliness acutely. It’s a marvellous thing when they see that there’s more to reading and writing than exams and essays. Writing can give you a way to live your life.”

The opening reception of the Yukon Writers’ Festival is at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 30, at the Beringia Centre in Whitehorse. On Saturday, May 3, at 7 p.m. the five writers will be joined by a local writer and musician at the St Elias Convention Centre in Haines Junction.

Adults can also attend the authors’ readings during the Young Authors’ Conference at FH Collins High School on May 1 and 2.

For more information about both the Writers’ Festival and the Young Authors’ Conference, go to www.yesnet.yk.ca and click on the Yukon Young Authors’ Conference link.

PHOTO: McCLELLAND & STEWART PUBLISHING