The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival celebrates the power of words – whether written, spoken or signed – to ignite our imaginations and reveal worlds and ideas beyond our own experience.
By presenting literary works that reflect a wide range of perspectives and experiences, we hope to engender an informed and articulate community that connects with open hearts and open minds.
We endeavour to inspire, enlighten and enchant by presenting a literary festival that provides stimulating, thought-provoking and entertaining programming for all ages—children, young adults and adults. We do so by presenting works of literary merit in a variety of genres in accessible and friendly environments.
We aim to encourage a culture of reading by presenting events that are inclusive of a range of audiences and that provide a platform for authors to engage readers.
We strive to nurture the next generation of writers by supporting aspiring writers through workshops, literary and poetry writing contests, and reading sets for yet-to-be published writers.
Although our focus is the promotion of Canadian voices and perspectives, we do occasionally present international authors.
A Festival for Readers
Slow down at this pedestrian-friendly, outdoor festival for readers.
Every September since 1989, the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival has been offering readers a showcase of established and emerging Canadian writing in the village in Eden Mills. A hamlet of 350 residents with century-old stone buildings nestled along the Eramosa River, Eden Mills is 15 minutes east of Guelph and 1 hour west of Toronto. On festival Sunday, village streets are closed to traffic, and the community of festival goers lounge on the grass, on blankets, or in lawn chairs to enjoy readings from some of Canada’s very finest writers and most exciting new talents. Accessible, shaded seating is also available at every venue. The festival features food trucks and vendors, a licensed patio, and a marketplace along the main street that includes a bookseller and an authors’ signing tent. Approachable and welcoming, the village festival offers readers an idyllic outdoor setting to laze away an early autumn day in the grass among friends and in the company of authors.
Readings on the grassy riverbank
In a typical year, the main festival takes place over the course of a day, from noon to 6pm, at five accessible, outdoor venues and one indoor venue all located within the small village of Eden Mills. Sets of writers present their recent work at intimate venues including expansive grassy gardens that slope down to the water. Venues include The Common, The Meadow, The Cottage, The Mill, Rivermead (indoor), and Jenny’s Place (children’s area). The venues are at most three minutes’ walking distance from each other (maximum 500 meters) over paved streets reserved for pedestrians. Shuttle buses take festival goers from the parking area into the village, or guests can choose to walk the less-than 1 km to the festival gates.
Something for everyone
The festival presents more than 60 established and emerging Canadian writers every year including fiction writers, poets, nonfiction writers, playwrights, spoken word poets, young adult and children’s authors. It also features the winners of the festival’s writing competitions, Guelph-area writers, and students from The University of Guelph Creative Writing MFA program. Our special children’s area hosts children’s writers and entertainers.
Casual and friendly
The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival is a community-driven event. On Festival Sunday, the village is closed to traffic. Residents make their properties available as reading sites, their lovely gardens providing a perfect story-book setting for the Festival. Other volunteers generously donate their time to set up and oversee reading sites, and to staff the gates. Their welcoming spirit makes the Festival a uniquely warm and friendly experience for patrons and authors alike.
The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival has been holding a literary picnic on the idyllic banks of the Eramosa River since 1989. The Festival was founded by former Eden Mills resident and Governor General Award winning author, Leon Rooke. At the time, Leon and his wife Connie lived in the former stagecoach hotel across the street from the then Eden Mills General Store. The store owners, Don and Mark Holman, suggested that Leon launch his new novel, A Good Baby, from the front steps of their store. Leon invited other writers, including Rohinton Mistry, Michael Ondaatje, Jane Urquhart, and Linda Spalding to join him, and the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival was born.
Over the years, the festival has hosted a veritable who’s who of established and emerging Canadian writers, attracting the winners of Canada’s major literary prizes, along with rising literary stars and well-established favourites such as Margaret Atwood, Alistair MacLeod, Ann-Marie MacDonald and Lawrence Hill.