PR Profile: Judith Walker from Vancouver Writers Fest

Judith WalkerThe 2012 Vancouver Writers Fest is just weeks away now, with this year celebrating 25 years of bringing the world’s best writers to Vancouver to delight and intrigue readers of all stripes.

This year’s festival runs from October 16 to 21 and it features 100 authors. 

For me, the Vancouver Writers Fest is a calendar highlight and I was therefore delighted to catch up with Judith Walker, Media Relations Manager for the festival. Here is what she had to say...

What's your role at the Vancouver Writers Fest? During the first few weeks in August and September, I try hard to get the media’s attention for the six-day Festival in October. During the last weeks before the Festival happens, it’s all I can do to keep up with media demands to interview authors coming to Vancouver.

What do you love most about the Festival? The unexpected. I get to take world-famous authors to media interviews on radio or television and have the most engaging conversations with them while they are captive passengers in the front seat of my car. The unexpected also happens on stage when thoughtful writers interact with other thoughtful writers in conversations neither anticipated. These are really smart, articulate people who are thinking all the time and playing with words – my kind of folks!

How many years have you supported the Festival? I started as a volunteer 10 years ago and the next year was offered the contract for pay. The Vancouver Writers Fest has been my client ever since.

Who excites you most in this year’s line-up? Not a fair question! There’s 100 authors from all over the world coming to Vancouver. Just one? Really looking forward to seeing Alistair MacLeod again—such a lovely guy. And meeting up with the Newfoundlanders Donna Morrissey and Gordon Pinsent. Oh, and the Scots—John Burnside and Alison Kennedy. But I really want to spend time with Junot Diaz. Hoping there’s time and chance to talk with Chris Cleave. Gail Jones is delightful, and really really really smart. Love spending time with Ivan Coyote….

Who is your favourite author of all-time? Aw, c’mon! But my favourite this week is Sebastian Barry, an Irish writer whose sentences are so rich I have to put his novels down every couple of minutes to let the poetry of his words wash over me. Not to be rushed.

What's your career background? Training in journalism at Carleton University, Masters in English Lit from UBC, reporter for the Vancouver Sun, followed by 30 years of PR practice with educational organizations, not-for-profit health associations and PR agency Peak Communicators. Past president of CPRS Vancouver too.

Who is your PR role model? My first boss at the University of BC, Arnie Myers, who let me try my hand at anything from shooting video to editing and laying out a weekly newspaper. If you learn from trial and error, he encouraged me to make lots of errors. Arnie, I’m sure, is now mentoring newly-arrived angels in heaven.

What's your best career advice? If your work has redeeming social value, it will reward you through all those rainy November days and frustrating February reports. Do what you love, and then it doesn’t matter as much if success follows. But it will.

What's the best place to ‘do coffee’ in Vancouver? I work from home so stick pretty close to the North Shore where it’s a toss-up between Savary Island Pie Company in Ambleside or across the street at Bean Around the World. I like the coffee at one and the pumpkin spice muffins at the other. Always busy, chairs don’t match, floors are worn, great places to read books.

Who is your favourite journalist to pitch to? Tracy Sherlock, books editor at the Vancouver Sun. She loves this stuff as much as I do.

What's your favourite website? if I’ve got time to let my mind absorb something new; several times a day because it’s well organized.

What's your favourite social media site? I’m still learning in this arena—it’s all new and fast and fascinating.

List a fun fact about you: I can read upside down as well as rightside up. It was a useful skill when reading to my children at bedtime and during job interviews, but has little merit otherwise.

To learn more about the Vancouver Writers Fest please visit: