Ontario writer Ian Williams won the Giller Prize last year, and this year thanks to the pandemic, he discovered EDM.

"What fascinated me about it was that former world where people could actually be in tightly packed areas and having other people's sweat on them," he tells Narcity from Vancouver, where he now teaches. "And you know, like the hair flicking and other people's faces. And so it ostensibly was about the music, but really it was about sort of closeness that we took for granted."

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In a place where I no longer have you, I have all the other things that point me to the feel of you. I now only have body’s translations of you.

Tyler Pennock, "Fire"

Williams is one of 10 writers the Toronto International Festival of Authors commissioned to write about the ache of not being touched.

"But on YouTube, they spin in sublime locations. Can I now claim to have been to these places?" Williams writes in his essay, "Is this virtual travel much different from the shallow ways we travel this millennium, from snapping a selfie in front of the Mona Lisa? I have danced with these DJs atop a tower in Amsterdam while the sun sets, aboard a pirate ship in Ibiza, before the horseshoe stairway of Château de Fontainebleau...".

Francesca Ekwuyasi, a Halifax author born in Nigeria, contributed a story about someone who hadn't been touched in a year.*

"It's pretty painful being in the character's head," she says of writing the story over the summer Halifax lockdown.

Onanankkwaap, a member of the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation who lives just south of Bathurst and Front and writes as Tyler Pennock, wrote his piece about the role touch plays in how we remember people. 

"Relationships are fire," the piece ends, "they must be fed."

The series launched Thursday afternoon with Ekwuyasi reading her piece. The free digital festival runs until November 1.

* This article has been updated.