Kingston is arguably Canada's most literary town. Embedded in the foundation of Kingston Penitentiary lies a copy of the first novel printed and published in Canada – St. Ursula's Convent, or The Nun of Canada, written by Julia Catherine Beckwith Hart, who visited an aunt in Kingston in 1820. She stayed on to marry a bookbinder who in 1824 issued her novel. The first Canadian cookbook, The Cook Not Mad, was published here, too.
Among the authors associated with the city are Robertson Davies and Grant Allen (who completed one of Arthur Conan Doyle's novels, thus producing the first Canadian detective novel), Matt Cohen, David Helwig, Tom Wayman, Tom Marshall, Bronwen Wallace, Gérard Besette, and Stan Dragland. Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, and Kate Stearns have all set novels here. Judith Thompson made the city famous with her play The Crackwalker. Some 300 published authors live in the region, and several writers of international stature make their homes here now.
Kingston is a city that not only writes, it reads. The metropolitan area supports two major chain bookstores and half a dozen independent or specialist booksellers as well as three antiquarian retailers. There are scores of book clubs: the public library alone services 166.
Into this vibrant literary environment, Kingston WritersFest was launched in 2006 by a core group of dedicated and hardworking volunteers under the auspices of Kingston Frontenac Public Library and Kingston Literacy.
In 2009, Kingston WritersFest was expanded and revamped to bring the widest range and most exciting programming possible to this community of readers. Still lovingly organized by a corps of book-loving volunteers, the festival now takes its place alongside the best literary celebrations in Canada's greatest cities.