Festival News

2019 Festival Line-Up

Registration for Denman Festival Opens May 1

Mark your calendars, Festival supporters.  May 1 will be the day to begin registering for the 2019 edition of the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival, to be held July 18 -21.

With twelve talented authors coming to our island, this year’s festival promises to be every bit as stimulating as in the past for regular festival-goers, and a new treat for first time attendees.

For serious writers, the intensive five-day Writing Week program, under the skillful leadership of novelist, short story and children’s author, and creative writing teacher, Caroline Adderson, will fill up fast.  Only eight spots are available at the request of last year’s participants so each person will have even more feedback and help with their writing.  Previous participants in Caroline’s program gave her rave reviews, so don’t delay if this opportunity beckons.

There will be another opportunity for festival-goers to hone their writing skills … the Blue Pencil Cafe, to be led by Jeanette Taylor of Quadra Island.  Jeanette has written several local history books, runs writing workshops in Campbell River, and was a writing coach on Denman a year ago for several island writers.  She will provide one-on-one coaching and editing help to people who submit up to four pages of writing in advance of the festival.  She will meet each aspiring writer during the festival in a 30-minute session to give them feedback on their manuscripts.

Our other ten authors come from as far afield as Montreal, and as close as Courtenay.  They will each have a solo session to share their latest writing, and will also take part in panel discussions (Main Stage events) on topics that will be sure to intrigue both the authors and audiences.

Is there anyone in Canada who does not know the name of Beverley McLachlin?  Seventeen years as Chief Justice of Canada’s Supreme Court, a native of Alberta, and new debut novelist.  McLachlin has written a legal thriller, Full Disclosure and we are looking forward to meeting her.  When Des Kennedy interviews her in his trademark In Conversation session to close out the festival on Sunday July 21, this will be a chance for us to learn about former Justice McLachlin’s amazing career.

Three outstanding fiction writers – David ChariandyHeather O’Neill and Kathy Page will share their fictional characters and stories.  Chariandy won the 2017 Rogers Trust Award for Fiction for his novel Brother, one of the books in competition for CBC’s Canada Reads contest this spring, while Page, who hails from Saltspring Island had her latest novel, Dear Evelyn, chosen as winner in 2018 for the Rogers Trust Fiction Prize.  O’Neill has been short-listed for the Giller Prize twice, and has written four critically acclaimed novels, the most recent of which is The Lonely Hearts Hotel.  Her prose evokes both the magical and seamy sides of the Montreal she knows and loves.

Poetry/Spoken Word has always found a place at our festival, and this year we have Billeh Nickerson, from Vancouver, author of five books of poetry, the most recent of which is Artificial Cherry.  He teaches creative writing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

The non-fiction side of the line-up features Darrel McLeod, winner of the Governor General’s Award for non-fiction in 2018 for his powerful memoir Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age which offers, as one reviewer notes, “a brutally honest view of the havoc that intergenerational trauma can wreak across multiple lives”; also a nature and environment observer, Paula Wild, from Courtenay whose book The Return of the Wolf: Conflict and Coexistence explores the fraught lives of wolves and their relationships to humans; The Tyee’s BC legislative bureau chief, Andrew MacLeod, whose latest book is All Together Healthy: A Canadian Wellness Revolution, which asks big questions about health care in Canada; Ryan Knighton, a celebrated Vancouver-based writer whose books Cockeyed and C’mon Papa have focused attention, in both a serious and humorous way, on the challenges faced by many visually impaired Canadians; and Lindsay Wong, whose book The Woo Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons and My Crazy Chinese Family about her life growing up in a dysfunctional Chinese Canadian family is now top of the best-seller lists and one of five books competing for the Canada Reads contest this year.

In addition to our invited authors, there will be two sessions featuring the works of local Denman Island writers.  This is a unique feature of our festival and shows off the talent of island writers, many of whom are regular attendees at a monthly session where they present their writing and receive feedback from others.  This Denman Writers Group is facilitated by local writer Jo-Anne McLean, author of the six-book The Gift Legacy series of fantasy novels.

As usual at the festival, Abraxas Books will be selling books by all the invited authors as well as Denman writers.  Tasty meals will be provided in the Back Hall by Evan Penner and his crew.  And Paige Turner will likely make a return appearance.

There is also a rumour that the Opening on Friday morning, July 18, may be a surprising reminder of the power of language, courtesy of the prescient words of one George Orwell.


See you at the Festival, 2019 version.

Stewart Goodings
March 2019

2018 Festival Authors

I’m Right and You’re an Idiot by James Hoggan

Come and listen to James Hoggan, a PR expert and David Suzuki Foundation Chairperson, talk about the toxic state of our public discourse and how to change it.  This contemporary and highly relevant book represents years of research that included interviewing some of the world’s deepest thinkers on democracy, conflict and consensus-building.  Interviewed here by the Tyee.


Emily St John Mandel

We are excited to welcome back Denman raised, New York author, Emily St John Mandel to the festival this year with her hugely successful, internationally acclaimed, post-apocalyptic novel Station 11.

Listen here to a CBC interview where eight well known Canadian authors pose  questions to her.


Great Opportunity to Workshop with Sheri-D Wilson

Still a chance to join Calgary’s current Poet Laureate, Sheri-D Wilson, in a dynamic workshop on creative writing and spoken word/performance. Sheri-D will be here during our 2018 festival to perform as well as teach her craft.

Sheri-D Wilson is the award-winning author of 11 books, the creator of four short films, and has released three albums which combine music and poetry. She is known for her electric performance-style, making her a favourite with local and international audiences.

Watch here for a preview of her performance


Tofino poet, Christine Lowther brings her poetry/activism to the Denman Festival

In addition to our own Denman Island oceans diva, Plastique, Christine Lowther brings the important message about the devastating prominence of plastic in our oceans.  Watch here!


Yasuko Thanh – First writer to win the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for a DEBUT NOVEL!

Watch here to see a TV interview about her award and her book.

And/or come to the festival to see her live!

Main Stage Mania 2018

Well, ‘mania’ may be a touch melodramatic, but hey, literary license should be OK at a readers and writers festival, don’t you think?

Denman’s literary festival, July 19 – 22 has a range of sessions to enjoy:  solo performances by our invited authors, workshops for smaller groups, a book club session, the five day intensive Writing Week, readings by Denman writers, and the focus of this article:  four Main Stage Events.

These sessions, all of which save the Sunday morning one are held in the Community Hall and usually draw a full house.  Registration is highly recommended.

The first one on Friday July 20 features Sarah Dunant, the noted British writer who is making a return visit to Denman, having been here in 2009.  Sarah is renowned for writing both literary thrillers and historical novels depicting the lives of women in the Renaissance period.  Her latest book is about the infamous Borgia family.  Sarah’s Main Stage session will be an illustrated talk and will reveal how her knowledge of art and history has been a journey into fiction.  She calls her talk, “Getting Under Their Skins“, and it is expected to be an exciting journey for audience members too.


Later Friday evening, there is a two part Main Stage event:  first our Festival Opener, Wedlidi Speck, noted First Nations consultant and story-teller, will begin the proceedings with a half hour introduction to Indigenous story-telling.  He calls this “Stories That Structure Thought“.  Then Des Kennedy takes the stage to engage in conversation with well-known First Nations author and activist Bev Sellars.  Bev’s experiences in a residential school as well as her political activism and the current efforts by Indigenous peoples across the country to reclaim their voices, their land, and their sovereignty will be the focus of this lively interview.


Saturday evening’s Main Stage line-up features a quartet of lively and creative fiction writers:  Marina Endicott,  Des Kennedy, Emily St John Mandel, and Yasuko Thanh.  Throw in novelist Caroline Adderson as Moderator, and the discussion is bound to be both illuminating and provocative.  Confronted with the somewhat ironic title of “The Truth of Fiction“, this gang of four is set to explore how they create characters and plots as well as some of the ups and downs of being an author.  Saturday evening’s panel is noted for a certain ‘letting the hair down’ by authors and audience, so get ready for a fun and profound experience!

The final Main Stage event takes place Sunday morning, again a ‘double-header’, starting off with Sheri-D Wilson, our effervescent and riveting spoken word performer recently named Poet Laureate for the city of Calgary!  She calls her performance “Eco Echo” and based on her You Tube posts, this will hit home with energy and style.  Closing off this Main Stage will be a panel called “What’s the World Coming To?”  Along with moderator Stewart Goodings, three talented writers, Geoff Dembicki, James Hoggan, and Christine Lowther will share their distinctive perspectives about the challenges facing the world in this final session which traditionally puts a focus on social justice issues.


Main Stage events are often full of surprises, as the authors engage with each other.  There is also usually time for audience members to ask questions and get in on the action.  Don’t miss ’em!

Stewart Goodings
June 2018

Workshop with Sheri-D Wilson

Workshop with Sheri-D Wilson, Spoken Word Artist from Calgary

Festival 2018 brings the unparalleled opportunity to see, hear and work with the self-described “Mama of Dada”, Sheri D Wilson from Calgary.  She has 3 Spoken Word CDs, and 4 award-winning VideoPoems including: Airplane Paula (2001), Spinsters Hanging in Trees (2002), and is a poet, producer, activist and educator.  Sheri D will help those with all levels of experience with the tricks of Spoken Word writing and presenting in her Thursday afternoon workshop, July 19, 2:00-5:00pm.  Come for the fun!  Visit our Registration page to sign up.

“We will explore the history of Spoken Word.  We will write with our hair on fire.  We will pen-pedal with our paper to the metal.  We will discuss The OutRider/Sider.  And we will play with aspects of bringing it all to performance.”

Sheri D Wilson – Calgary’s New Poet Laureate

Congratulations to Sheri D Wilson, Calgary’s New Poet Laureate!

See Sheri D this July during the Readers & Writers festival, July 19-22.  There will be two opportunities to see this dynamic poet and spoken word artist on stage right here on Denman Island.  In the meantime, check out these links for more info on her.

Read the full story here:


Writer’s Workshop with Caroline Adderson

Are You A Writer?

Here’s a quiz for Denman Festival attendees:  if you answer “Yes” to at least one of the questions, I have a proposal you may find impossible to resist ….

  1. Have you ever wondered if your writing is good enough to be published?
  2. Have you ever thought about putting together that family memoir?
  3. Do you have a couple of short stories in a file drawer somewhere?
  4. Has anyone ever told you, “Wow, you write really well!”?
  5. Isn’t it time to find out whether your writing deserves a bigger audience than just you?

These and similar questions have come to many of us over the years.  But either through modesty, inertia, lack of opportunity, other life pressures, etc., we’ve done nothing about it.

But here’s your chance to find out if there is an author lurking in your subconscious or your heart.  How?  Well, sign up for The Writing Week at this year’s Denman Readers and Writers Festival!

With only two weeks left to the June 15 deadline to add your name as one of the ten participants in Caroline Adderson’s highly rated five day workshop which runs July 16 – 20, there is no time to waste to register and test out that hidden writing talent.  

The Writing Week is an interactive experience for aspiring writers, to engage with a renowned novelist and short story writer, Caroline Adderson, and to get feedback from fellow writers all in the ‘same boat’.

At last year’s workshop, Claire Callahan was one of the satisfied participants.  Here’s what she says, “I found the Writing Week with Caroline Adderson to be invaluable.  She was knowledgeable, organized, and presented her material with humour.  Everyone in the workshop came away with sharpened skills and inspiration.”  Other former participants observed:  “always inspiring to meet with a teacher and other writers”, “I liked the structure – lecture, exercises, work-shopping and then optional homework”, “very satisfied with the exercises, the pair work, appreciated the instructor sharing her process”.  

If any of you are thinking about finally taking that writing workshop you’ve always promised yourself, this is the time to act!  Register on the Festival website:  denmanislandwritersfestival and if you have any questions about it, give me a call at 250 941-5799

Stewart Goodings
May 29, 2018

Geoff Dembicki Book: Are We Screwed?

Are We Screwed? A Millennial Perspective to Climate Change

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee. His work also appears in Vice, Foreign Policy and the New York Times.Check out this review of his book that tells how a new generation is fighting climate change.  Meet and hear him in person this July at the Denman Island Readers & Writers Festival.

2018 Denman Festival Authors

Registration for Denman Festival opens May 1st

As well as being International Workers’ Day, May 1st is the first day to register for the Denman Readers and Writers Festival.  The Festival’s opening on July 20th is only twelve weeks away, so eager Festival fans can soon sign up for The Writing Week, the workshops, as well as buy 3-day passes and tickets for the solo sessions and main stage events.  Check out the detailed Schedule on the Festival website.

This article feature The Writing Week and the workshops since these events have limited participation so early registration is highly recommended.

Caroline Adderson, the well-known Vancouver author and writing coach is back for a second year leading The Writing Week.  This is a five day intensive learning experience for anyone writing either a novel, short stories, non-fiction or a book for children.  Caroline will review an excerpt or narrative of up to 5,000 words, which will be discussed both with her individually and with a small group of ten other apprentice writers.  I’ve taken this program myself and can attest to its value as a practical and inspiring opportunity to learn writing craft and to move a writing project forward.  This program is limited to 10 participants, and the cost is $350.  See full details here.

Yasuko Thanh, author of the award-winning Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains will present a workshop entitled “Banishing Your Inner Censor” which will focus on different techniques to generate new material, to identify “voice” as well as what hinders writers when they have writer’s block.

Sheri-D Wilson is a nationally recognized spoken word performer from Calgary.  Her workshop is “Spoken Word Map – Point Trill”, and this is how she describes it:  “We will explore the history of Spoken Word.  We will write with our hair on fire.  We will pen-pedal with our paper to the metal.  We will discuss The OutRider/Sider.  And we will play with aspects of bringing it all to performance.”


Geoff Dembicki is a young and experienced  journalist from Vancouver who writes for The Tyee, and has a book with the provocative title “Are We Screwed?  How a New Generation is Fighting to Survive Climate Change”.  His workshop is called “How to Pitch Your Work to an Editor” and is aimed at non-fiction writers who want to get published and paid for their work.


Wedlidi Speck is a First Nations story-teller and consultant, and his workshop is “Metaphors We Live By”.  This workshop will examine indigenous metaphor and how it gives shape to cultural discourse.  Wedlidi says he will “walk, metaphorically, with participants on an appreciative journey to discover the richness, importance and value of story, language, orientation of metaphor and placement of story in reconciliation”.

Workshops are limited to 10 participants and cost $60.  See full details of Workshops.

There is one other workshop: a Book Club Session with Emily St John Mandel and Caroline Adderson.  Emily, originally from Denman and now living in New York, is the author of Station Eleven, a dramatic story of the future.  Participants will be expected to have read the book in advance and will have the chance to share their views and engage directly with the author in a session facilitated by Caroline Adderson.  To encourage interaction, this session is limited to 20 participants, and costs $20 per person.


The Festival events are held in the Activity Centre, Community Hall, Arts Centre and Community School.  Downtown Denman is abuzz with literary action from July 19 to 22.  This is a chance to meet published authors from BC and beyond, to hear them read from their works, to ask them questions, and to watch them engage each other in panel discussions about current issues.

You will also be able to hear local talent … Denman writers will be reading their own compositions at two sessions organized by Jo-Anne McLean who facilitates the monthly Denman Writers Group.

Abraxas Books will display and sell books by the authors, and the usual selection of amazing door prizes will be available at the Main Stage events.  And watch for a surprise new character at this year’s Festival … someone in red shoes who may or may not talk to you …..

Last word:  Sign up for those workshops soon.  They tend to fill up fast!



Stewart GoodingsApril 2018

Something  New at the 2018 Readers and Writers Festival

A new feature at the 2018 Festival will be a Book Club” session.  For the first time, we will ask one of our authors –  Emily St John Mandel – to be present while her novel Station Eleven is discussed as if it is a selection in a book club.  Since there are at least seven book clubs on Denman Island alone, the idea of getting into a lively discussion about a book is familiar to quite a few Denmanites.  Many of our off-island Festival attendees are members of book clubs too.

That’s what will happen at this year’s Festival in this new approach to engaging author and audience.  The hope is that participants will be able to engage in the kind of give and take that normally goes on in a book club.  For example, some people love a book, some not so much, some are drawn to the characters, some are left cold by the protagonists.  Some members have questions, such as why did the author include a particular scene?  Why was the conclusion so ambiguous?  Did the story really need that many pages to be told?  And so on.

With the author in the room, there will be an extra frisson of excitement and challenge.  Feedback is always important to a writer, and many authors have told us they love going to book clubs.  We hope Emily will feel the same way!

Station Eleven won both popular and critical acclaim when it was published two years ago.  It’s a vivid tale of the future in which a mysterious plague has decimated the population, and a band of actors and musicians are bringing Shakespeare plays and songs to remaining pockets of people scattered across rural America.  Hopeful, prophetic and gripping, the novel tends to provoke discussion, and this is what is expected at the book club at the Denman Festival.


Luckily this concept has been tried at the Whistler festival, and we have an experienced facilitator in Caroline Adderson, a renowned novelist herself and Denman’s leader of The Writing Week.  Caroline led the book club session at Whistler and reports it was very popular, both with the audience and the author (in that case, Frances Itani).  Caroline has agreed to work with Emily to make this session a rewarding and stimulating experience for the attendees.  Given the nature of what is hoped to be an interactive session, we will be limiting the attendance to 20 registrants, who will be expected to have read the book before the Book Club session.

Registration for this workshop, as well as other sessions at the Festival, will open May 1.

Stewart Goodings
March 2018

Sarah Dunant Returns to Denman Festival

Devotees of the Readers and Writers Festival will remember Sarah Dunant from the 2009 festival.  The noted British author of thrillers and historical fiction is returning to Denman this July.  She is the latest addition to an already talented line-up of writers.

Normally, we bring writers from BC and other parts of Canada to the annual festival.  However, Sarah discovered she would be in BC in July and asked if we’d like her to bring our festival audiences up to date with her writing and life over the last 9 years.  It was easy to say yes!

Sarah Dunant has written scores of books, starting with a series of contemporary thrillers, mostly featuring women protagonists – I’ve read one of these, “Mapping the Edge“, and it was a page-turner.  After an inspiring visit to Florence about 20 years ago, her writing moved to a new series of historical novels focused on the lives of women in the Renaissance period, such as “The Birth of Venus“.  These have been hugely popular, as well as critical successes.

Her most recent book is “In the Name of the Family“, the story of the Borgias, one of history’s most infamous families.

She has also developed a keen interest in art and architecture from that exciting period of European history, and her presentation at the Denman Festival will not only focus on her latest books, but also on her knowledge of buildings and paintings from the Renaissance.

When she first came to Denman, she enthralled our audiences with what the UK newspaper, the Observer calls her “flawless historical scholarship and beguiling story-telling”.  She’ll likely do the same again in July.

Stewart Goodings
March 2018