Ottawa Bagel Shop hosts writers festival ‘Storytime’


David and Liliana pose for a photo inside the bagel shop.
Lost Ottawa writer David McGee with Ottawa BagelShop owner Liliana Piazza. Provided photo. 

By Christina Korotkov

The Ottawa Bagelshop has a full bookcase of authors you won’t want to miss at their Writers Festival, ‘Storytime’, which began on Feb. 4 and runs until March 24. 

The free event takes place Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Authors Jim Hurcomb, Brett Popplewell, Natacha Belair and Kate Heartfield will present through the month of March. Don Butler, David McGee, Seymour Hamilton and Keir Cutler have already hosted their literary work. 

“The Ottawa Bagelshop has always been a place where people gather,” said Liliana Piazza, owner of the Wellington West business. The second generation holder has been running the shop since 2019 when she took over from her father, Vincenzo Piazza, who started the business in 1984. 

Author David McGee had the chance to promote his two books in the Lost Ottawa series. What started out as an experiment turned into a Facebook page with 56,000 followers and two books. He is hoping to produce a third volume of stories in the near future. 

“When you get out in public and talk to the people, you learn what your work means to people in a way you just can’t via email or social media,” said McGee in an email to KT. “It made me feel like people hadn’t forgotten Lost Ottawa, and it brought my attention back to the project.”

‘Storytime’ guest speaker Don Butler introduced his book A Life of Bliss through the literary festival. The former Ottawa Citizen journalist and Wellington West resident said events like this help lesser known authors gain a bigger presence. 

“Usually these events are in a book store. Getting to be at a place where you can eat something delicious and hear from a local author is pretty unique,” said Butler. “I’ve found people who have read my first novel all seem to like it quite a lot, but there is a limited audience because people aren’t aware of it. 

Don speaks into a microphone inside the bagel shop. A woman is seen in the distance.
Wellington West resident Don Butler talks about his book A Life of Bliss. Provided photo.

Butler is now finalizing his second book titled Norman’s Conquest, which Ottawa Press and Publishing plans to release in mid-May. 

The Bagelshop, which will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in April, has always been a supporter of the arts and helping out the community. Throughout the years when Vincenzo was running the store, he would host performers and other events.

It was important to Piazza to continue her father’s legacy by creating an opportunity for people to come together and enjoy artists.

“People come in, enjoy the space, feel supported, feel like they belong, and feel like they’re contributing to not only their audience but to my staff as well, to the people coming into the store and just really creating this really great environment where something’s going on and something’s being learned or something’s being enjoyed.”

Damon de Szegheo, owner of Oak Artist Management, has helped organize multiple events in the Bagelshop space. In the summer and fall, two successful music festivals were held which promoted local singers and musicians. 

The key to a successful event is timing, said de Szegheo, who noted they are catering to groups who might not want to spend a late night attending functions at a bar.

“People don’t have a chance to go out. If it’s at 9:00 p.m., they’re in bed. It’s an interesting way to let people see who’s local,” he said. “Our goal is just to have really interesting programming that’s Ottawa-based artists, that also engages the audience and people coming into the bagel shop.”

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