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Carolyn Forde named chair of the International Visitors Programme at the Toronto International Festival of Authors

Just in time for its fourteenth edition this October, the Transatlantic Agency’s senior literary agent and international rights director Carolyn Forde is stepping into the role of committee chair overseeing the International Visitors (IV) Programme at the Toronto International Festival of Authors. Forde takes over from the inaugural committee chair, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.’s senior vice president and executive editor Iris Tupholme.

The IV Programme is marketed as a mini international rights fair, bringing together publishing professionals from around the world to learn about the Canadian market and negotiate rights sales. A five-day program includes events and presentations, as well as networking and socializing opportunities structured around the annual TIFA festival.

A veteran of the IV committee, Forde attributes the success of the program to the passion and vibrancy of the people who steer it. With sixteen members – including, in addition to Forde, Biblioasis publisher Dan Wells, CBC Books producer Erin Balser, Penguin Random House Canada assistant editor Deborah Sun de la Cruz, Book*hug owners and publishers Hazel Millar and Jay MillAr, and Simon & Schuster executive editor Janie Yoon – the committee represents a cross-section of the Canadian industry (at least that part of it based in Toronto). But with so many different voices and priorities, is it ever difficult to reach consensus? “I’ve been on the committee for several years and there’s not been any problem with that,” Forde says. “I can’t think of any difficulty we’ve had finding consensus. I hope that we don’t have any.”

As committee chair, Forde has no plans to reinvent the wheel; she recognizes how successful the IV Programme has been at connecting publishers and other industry stakeholders from Canada and around the world for networking, mentorship, and sales opportunities, and is dedicated to preserving the aspects that have proven beneficial and received positive feedback from past participants. That said, there are also new things in the works behind the scenes, though nothing that Forde is willing to divulge quite yet. “We’ve got some new initiatives that we’re going to be announcing at the program this year,” she says. “There is something very exciting that we’re going to implement this year and will see come to fruition next year.”

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, last year’s program was virtual; ongoing uncertainty about travel and an incipient fourth wave in Canada have resulted in this year being entirely online also. Forde hopes that by 2022, restrictions will have eased sufficiently for an in-person program to take place. ”We’re hoping that we’re able to keep it fresh this year and that some of the participants, if not all, will be able to come in person next year,” Forde says. ”That’s still an open question but that’s the goal.”

Stepping into Tupholme’s shoes is somewhat daunting – a formidable figure in the publishing industry, Tupholme not only created the IV Programme, she is the only other person to serve as committee chair – but it’s an opportunity that Forde relishes. “This was her brainchild and she has been helping me and training me,” Forde says. ”She’s so inspiring. I’m honoured to follow her in this role.”

Additionally, TIFA announced that this year’s Canadian editorial fellow is Vancouver-based Laura Cameron, a literary agent with the Transatlantic Agency. While Forde is pleased that her colleague from the West Coast is this year’s choice, she was not involved in the selection process. “I had nothing to do with the decision,” she says. This year’s IV Keynote address will be by the Ottawa-born First Lady of Iceland, Eliza Reid.

The 2021 IV Programme takes place from October 25 to 29.

CORRECTION: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that Sarah St. Pierre is no longer on the IV Programme committee. She has been replaced by S&S executive editor Janie Yoon.

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