Whistler Writers Festival connects authors and audience

The theme of the 2023 Whistler Writers Festival is “Connecting Through Story.” Donna Savage,  festival board member, shares her take on what this means to her as we prepare for the festival in October.

I am not a writer and have never created a blog however, I am an avid reader. For me reading is a delightful learning opportunity, and the Whistler Writers Festival makes it possible to hear from the authors that create these opportunities. 

I wish to share a very meaningful experience from the 2022 Whistler Writers Festival. My husband and I had the opportunity as volunteers for the festival to spend some precious time with Jamal Saeed the author of My Road From Damascus. His book is the story of his life, including his imprisonment and torture over a period of 12 years in a Syrian prison, and his harrowing escape to Canada. The book is also the story of Syria’s descent from a country of hope to a country of brutality and restrictions.

I have read numerous accounts of torture inflicted on individuals, but have never been face to face with someone who has survived these unthinkable brutalities. At the festival, I had several opportunities to interact with Jamal and could not believe that this amazing positive, friendly, warm individual had experienced the horrors described in his book. I continue to marvel at his resilience and strength.

Meeting Jamal in person reinforced the warm, loving personality that is so beautifully narrated in his book. This experience for me was emotional, educational, rewarding and utterly amazing. Ultimately, meeting Jamal demonstrated to me that love can help withstand cruelty. 

Author Jamal Saeed reading at last year's festival.