The untimely death of Ojibwa author Richard Wagamese last week brought particular sadness to those of us close to the Denman Island Readers & Writers Festival. Richard was a featured author at our 2014 festival, mesmerizing large audiences with his skillful fiction as well as his candid honesty about his own sometimes painful personal journey. Those in attendance will remember his speaking of stories as gifts given to the writer to pass on to others.
He was as well a superb mentor; we talked with him at the time about the desirability of his returning to conduct the Writing Week for us and were looking forward to that arrangement in the future.
While so clearly articulating through fiction the many injustices and difficulties faced by First Nations peoples as a result of colonization, Richard also had a sparkling sense of mischievous humour. The last time I encountered him, at another literary festival, he was sporting an extravagantly split lip, the result, he said, of some frantic action along the boards during a recent hockey game. He loved his hockey, of course, and proudly told the audience that he considered himself “the best 60-year-old Indian hockey player in Canada.” Who could dispute it? As I bid him farewell at the festival’s end, I suggested he might consider retaining the split lip for its theatrical effect. His face lit up with a mile-wide grim. “Yeah,” he said, laughing, “it could help with my authenticity!”
His authenticity needed no props. He was the real thing. So is his writing. He’ll be greatly missed by all who loved the truth and humour of this gifted story teller.
March 13, 2017
Some challenges of running a literary festival
As a glass half-full kind of guy, I’d prefer to talk about the delights of helping to run the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival – the amazing authors we meet, the high of seeing the Community Hall full for a rollicking Sunday morning Main Stage Event moderated by Des Kennedy, the piles of books quickly disappearing in the Activity Centre as festival attendees snap up the authors’ offerings. And so on.
But. There are downsides as well. Cancellations being the main one. Most years this happens, and it is challenging to cope when an eagerly awaited author tells us, either months or weeks or even days before the Festival that s/he cannot come.
This year, we had hoped to bring the acclaimed novelist, Joseph Boyden to Denman. Author of three best-sellers, and most recently a novella “Wenjack” about a young and doomed escapee from a residential school, Boyden is a star in Canada’s literary scene. But as we learned only recently from his publisher, he is also an author with writing commitments. Boyden has decided to spend the summer working on his new novel “Seven Matches“. As I said to his publisher, as organizers for a writing festival, we are all in favour of authors completing their writing projects! Still, it is disappointing for all of us who had hoped to meet and interact with one of Canada’s leading fiction writers.
The 2017 line-up contains the following fascinating authors: from New York, and formerly of Denman Island, Emily St. John Mandel; from Ottawa, non-fiction award-winner Charlotte Gray; from Vancouver, emerging novelists Hiromi Goto and Hasan Namir; from Victoria, creative performer Missie Peters and non-fiction writer/film-maker Andrew Struthers; from Saltspring Island, the renowned Ronald Wright; indigenous legend Jeannette Armstrong comes to us from Kamloops; while Andrew Nikiforuk, the investigative journalist now hails from Campbell River. And let’s not forget Caroline Adderson from Vancouver who will be leading the five day intensive “Writing Week” workshop.
The 15th year of the Denman Festival is sure to intrigue, stimulate and surprise. Fortunately this province and country are blessed with an amazing number of talented purveyors of the written and spoken word, and July 13-17 will demonstrate once again that Denman’s Festival is one of the best around.
Caroline Adderson to lead The Writing Week
Well-known Vancouver author, Caroline Adderson will lead the one week intensive writing workshop known as The Writing Week at the 2017 Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival.
Caroline is the author of four novels and two collections of short stories, as well as fifteen books for young readers. She is also the editor and co-contributor of a recent non-fiction book of essays and photographs, “Vancouver Vanishes: Narratives of Demolition and Revival”.
She is also an experienced teacher and writing coach who has led workshops over the last twenty years for aspiring writers all over the country. Just prior to the Denman Festival, she will be Associate Director in the nationally renowned Writing Studio at the Banff Centre for the Arts.
Caroline came to the Denman Festival in 2014 where she read from her novel, “Ellen in Pieces”, which was later nominated for the Ethel Wilson Award for best fiction in BC. Her warm and witty personality made a big impression on Festival attendees and organizers.
The Writing Week is designed for aspiring writers who are prepared to submit a piece of work from 10 to 20 pages, to be read and discussed with the workshop leader, and with the other workshop participants. All genres are welcome: novel excerpts, short stories, narrative non-fiction and writing for children.
I took this program two years ago, and can attest to its value and inspiration. I learned a lot about technique from the instructor, as well as from my workshop colleagues, and it gave me a real incentive to keep going with the novel I had started at that time.
Registration for The Writing Week does not open until May, but for those seriously interested in writing and who would like to get some superb coaching as well as collegial support for their writing, I would strongly recommend you keep The Writing Week and Caroline Adderson in mind.
July 2016: CBC Early Edition interview today with Bruce Cockburn (begins around the 02:15 mark). Appearing in person on Denman Island this weekend. Listenhere.
We are sorry to announce the cancellation of Bev Sellars from our festival lineup this year. We are also happy to welcome Jordan Abel, a Nisga’a writer residing in Vancouver. He is currently completing his PhD at Simon Fraser University where he is focusing on digital humanities and Indigenous poetics.
Legendary singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn delivers his long-awaited memoir, RUMOURS OF GLORY– a chronicle of faith, fear, and activism, and a lively cultural, political, and musical tour through the past five decades.
MIRIAM TOEWS SPEAKS AT LENGTH IN A CBC RADIO INTERVIEW ABOUT HER NOVEL, “ALL MY PUNY SORROWS”
We are pleased to be able to welcome Miriam to Denman Island next weekend. For insight into this compelling story based on her own real life experience, LISTEN HERE.
BEV SELLARS BRINGS TWO NEW BOOKS TO DENMAN FESTIVAL
Former Chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake, Bev Sellars won the 2014 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness for her book They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School.
She will also be reading from her newest book, Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival which is just released July 2016.
In these two important books…”she has spoken out on behalf of her community on racism and residential schools and on the environmental and social threats of mineral resource exploitation in her region.”
Read more about her book here: Price Paid – Bev Sellars
JOHN VAILLANT SPEAKS ABOUT HIS NEW NOVEL, THE JAGUAR’S CHILDREN, ON CBC RADIO
Listen to the Q interview for insights and background to this incredible new book about a Mexican migrant attempting to cross the US border inside a sealed tanker truck. The story develops through the text messages he attempts to send from his telephone. Listen here.
ATTENTION AUDIO ARTISTS
JB MACKINNON APPEARING AT 2016 DENMAN FESTIVAL
July 14-17 Come and hear about the fascinating work of journalist and author JB MacKinnon with his newest book on the concept of RE-WILDING -“To reverse our damaging course, we need to remember, reconnect, and rewild: to remember nature as it was, reconnect to it as something meaningful in our lives, and begin to remake a wilder world.”
Cecily Nicholson is the author of Triage (Talon, 2011) and From the Poplars
(Talon, 2014), and the winner of the 2015 Dorothy Livesay prize for poetry.
Follow this link for more information on the work of this poet and activist from Vancouver.
Rising Canadian author, Michael Christie, is coming to The Readers & Writers Festival in July 2016. Follow this link to learn more about this creative young writer.
Check out this CBC interview with Charles Demers, writer and comedian coming to the Denman Writers festival this July. Tickets and workshop registration available now at www.denmanislandwritersfestival.com .
Inspiration at the 2016 Denman Festival
For Festival attendees who write or want to write, there will be five opportunities at this year’s Festival to get some intensive advice from published authors.
Steven Price, the acclaimed Victoria-based author, will again, for the third year in a row, lead The Writing Week (formerly known as the Writer in Residence program). This is a five day – four hours a day – workshop held July 11-15 in the Arts Centre with a maximum of ten participants. Price has written well-reviewed fiction and poetry, and his latest novel, “By Gaslight”, with an international book deal, is due to be published this summer.
He’s also been a creative writing instructor at UVIC for the last several years. I was a participant in this program last year and found Price to be a superb mentor, editor, and thoughtful advisor for my work, and for that of other participants. The ratings from participants in his program have been excellent and the additional benefit of being part of the program is that as well as Steven’s advice, you have nine other eager and positive writers willing to constructively critique your work and listen to your feedback on their stories.
The fee for this five day workshop is $350, so it is a significant investment in one’s writing, but for those seriously interested in improving their writing or wanting to get valuable feedback on work in progress, it is well worth the money.
Then there are the 3-hour workshops held during the festival July 14-16. While less intensive than The Writing Week, these workshops also offer great advice and suggestions for attendees. And this year the four workshops to be offered represent quite a diverse set of subjects from self-publishing to writing essays, to creating sound-based memoirs, to writing jokes. Here are the details:
Denman’s own Jo-Anne McLean will lead a workshop titled Prepping for Self-Publication on the basics of self-publishing. An author with four published novels in the fantasy genre to her credit, Jo-Anne is now a publisher herself and will draw on years of self-publishing experience to help participants through the intricacies of this relatively recent means of getting one’s work published.
From Vancouver, Charles Demers, radio personality, stand-up comedian and author of “The Horrors: An A to Z of Funny Thoughts about Awful Things”, will present a workshop, We’re Only Joking on writing for comedic purposes, with a particular focus on how to write jokes. Participants will be able to share their work. Laughter is inevitable.
J.B. (James) MacKinnon, journalist and author of several non-fiction books, the most recent of which is “The Once and Future World: Finding Wilderness in the Nature We’ve Made” will share his writing tips in a workshop Say Your Piece: Essay Writing for Today’s Reader, which is designed to help participants bring freshness, coherency and literary style to their work.
Finally, an innovation for Denman Festival workshops: the performance artist and poet Barbara Adler’s workshop is called Soundtrack for an Imaginary Landscape: Creative Audio Memoirs. The aim is to enable participants “to combine spoken word with found sounds to create an audio memoir inspired by the landscape and the music hidden all around us”. A laptop will be needed for this workshop.
These four workshops are $60 each, and registration is now open at the Festival website
submitted by Stewart Goodings
Festival Call to All Denman Writers
Once again Denman writers are invited to present their new work at the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival. This year, we will be prioritizing writers who have not presented previously.
The Local Writers’ sessions will be held on Saturday afternoon, July 16th, and Sunday morning, July 17th.
Registration deadline is June 30th and limited to the first twelve who apply. Don’t delay!
This is a great opportunity to share your work with an appreciative audience.
To get on the list, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Jo-Anne McLean at 250-335-1305.
We will take a waiting list for writers who have read at the festival in previous years, and in case of cancellations.
Submitted by Jo-Anne McLean
April 29, 2016
Terry Glavin has regretfully cancelled his participation in the 2016 Denman Festival. We are sorry to lose him from our roster but still have an interesting lineup of acclaimed Canadian authors coming our way in July!
Wayne Grady and Emancipation Day
Nationally acclaimed author Wayne Grady will be on Denman Island February 28 in the Back Hall to read from his intriguing novel, “Emancipation Day” which was a best seller in 2013 and won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award. He will also read excerpts from his yet to be published new novel and answer questions about both fiction and non-fiction writing.
Grady is this year’s Haig-Brown Writer in Residence at the Campbell River Museum, and his visit to Denman is one of several appearances in the Comox Valley in the coming weeks.
Living in Kingston with his wife, the writer Merilyn Simonds, Grady is also the author of many non-fiction books, some of whose titles show the range of his interests: “Bring Back the Dodo: Lessons in Natural and Unnatural History“; “Tree: A Life Story“, written in partnership with David Suzuki; “The Quiet Limit of the World: A Journey to the North Pole to Investigate Global Warming“; “Vultures: Nature’s Ghastly Gourmets“; and “The Nature of Coyotes“.
He’s also an accomplished translator of books by French-speaking Quebec and New Brunswick authors, and won the Governor-General’s Award for Translation for Antonine Maillet’s “On the Eighth Day“. His most recent memorable translation was of Louis Hamelin’s “October 1970” about the October crisis.
Wayne describes “Emancipation Day” as ‘a novel of denial and identity’. It’s a story of family secrets, racism and post-WWII society set in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Windsor, Ontario during and shortly after the Second World War. It features a protagonist who discovers as an adult that his heritage is African Canadian. This is what Grady says about his novel: “The novel is inspired by the experiences of my parents: 15 years ago, I discovered that my father was black and had passed for white when he was 18, and never told anyone, including my mother and myself. I began writing this as non-fiction, but the story gradually expanded beyond memoir into a novel.”
The Readers and Writers Festival is pleased to bring this award-winning and engaging writer to Denman as a mid-winter treat for readers of both fiction and non-fiction. He’ll be introduced by Des Kennedy who will briefly trace the historic dots connecting the legacy of Roderick and Ann Haig-Brown, Harrowsmith Magazine (which Grady previously edited) and the 32 Denman islanders arrested for civil disobedience in Strathcona Provincial Park.
As with solo sessions at the July Readers and Writers Festival, there will be a $5 entrance fee.
Wayne Grady at 1 pm, Sunday, February 28, in the Back Hall. Be there!
submitted by Stewart Goodings
Readers and Writers Festival 2016
Denman Island, get ready to host another group of extraordinary Canadian authors in 2016 during our annual summer festival. Expect top quality writing and information on hard-hitting topics of historical importance, political activism and contemporary urgency. Also expect imaginative fiction, creative expression – plus an accordion! Diverse voices, genres and perspectives will mix and mingle to entertain, inspire as well as challenge us all.
The celebrated author Miriam Toews was born into a free-thinking family within a strict Mennonite community in Steinbach, Manitoba. She has written six insightful, critical, and wickedly funny novels, many of which describe aspects of that traditional life as she experienced it. A Complicated Kindness (2004), a coming-of-age story of a rebellious Mennonite teenager, was highly acclaimed internationally and won her the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Toews’ recent book, All My Puny Sorrows (2014), comes from the tragic story of her real-life sister Marjorie’s violent suicide in 2010. This book manages the extraordinary feat of braiding humour and compassion into the retelling of a devastating family tragedy. The book has appeared on numerous “best book” lists and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize. As Miriam Toews states in an interview, there is a very contemporary and contentious issue touched on in this story, “It’s so complex the idea of assisted suicide. All I can remember is the suffering of my sister, and I think, “Couldn’t there be a way she didn’t have to die so violently and alone?'” Read more about Miriam Toews.
Comedian-author Charles Demers is often heard on CBC Radio’s The Debaters. As a stand-up comic, he has performed for national television and radio audiences and at the Just for Laughs Festival. He is also on faculty at UBC in the Creative Writing Program and has published a collection of humourous essays, Vancouver Special (2009), and a novel, The Prescription Errors (2009). In 2015, he published an alphabet book called The Horrors: An A to Z of Funny Thoughts on Awful Things in which he writes, humourously of course, on an alphabetical list of his own fears or challenges – all of which add up to a very funny and candid self-portrait. More about Charles Demers.
Bev Sellars was chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake, B.C. She, as well as her mother and grandmother, were forced to attend St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School (1891-1981) during childhood. Her most recent book/memoir, They Called Me Number One, draws its title from the fact that all the students were identified by number instead of name, and she was labeled Number One. This book was a finalist for the 2014 Burt Award for First Nations, Metis and Inuit Literature and was used by the recent Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission for its archive; it won the George Ryga award (2013) and was also shortlisted for the BC Non-Fiction Award in 2013. Bev Sellars uses her own personal experience along with her skills as an historian and lawyer, to bear witness to the cruelty and inhumanity of the residential school system that was imposed on indigenous children in Canada. Bev Sellars is interviewed on the Sunday Edition.
John Vaillant is returning to our Denman festival, this time with a book of fiction, The Jaguar’s Children, his first novel after a successful pair of non-fiction books that won so much attention and so many prizes: The Golden Spruce (2005) and The Tiger (2010). This new novel is about the terrible dangers of illegally crossing the USA – Mexico border, and the lives of some of the desperate Mexicans who have been forced to try it. The story could be a reflection of newspaper headlines any day of the week in the southern USA, but becomes dramatized by Vaillant’s technique of using one of the migrant’s urgent text messaging to frame his story. John Vaillant has written articles in The New Yorker, The Atlantic and National Geographic and he has received numerous prizes for his work including a Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction.
Vancouver-based author and independent journalist J.B. MacKinnon is well known for co-authoring The 100-Mile Diet with his partner, Alisa Smith. He has won six national magazine awards and the 2006 Charles Taylor Prize for best work of Literary Non-Fiction. He has been working on interactive documentaries and has written four books of non-fiction – The Once and Future World, an exploration of the concept of re-wilding, is his latest. He argues that it is still possible to restore nature if we can re-imagine what the natural world once was. “Each generation grows up believing what it started with is normal rather than one step in a long story of human impact.” MacKinnon argues that we need to remember an unaltered wilderness to understand how to reconnect with that nature and re-wild our earth. “Nature may not be what it was, no, but it isn’t simply gone,” he writes. “It’s waiting.” See review
Cecily Nicholson is the winner of the 2015 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize for her book of poetry From the Poplars published by Talonbooks. This work investigates the historical use and ownership of Poplar Island in the Fraser River in her city of New Westminster. She is a serious poet and activist interested in looking at “…histories of settlement, migration and brutal erasure resulting from colonialism.” She is also interested in the idea of re-sensitizing people who struggle in an urban environment to feel the environmental urgencies and the implicit pleasures in our natural world. Nicholson also works in Vancouver’s downtown eastside as the financial administrator of Gallery Gachet, an outsider art space that works with disenfranchised/displaced women who create art. Her work as a poet is often in collaboration with artists; she is a compelling literary voice who manages to connect the written word with the lives of people. Read more about Cecily Nicholson
Michael Christie was a professional skateboarder and a mental health worker on Vancouver’s downtown eastside before turning his considerable talents to writing. His debut novel, If I Fall, If I Die, was partly inspired by his own upbringing in a loving, artful but confined household with an agoraphobic mother who was terrified to go outside. As in his novel, it was a magical world for just the two of them. This book was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and follows Christie’s award-winning short story collection, The Beggar’s Garden (2011), which explored similar themes of marginal existences and different ways of becoming educated. See review
Barbara Adler is a Vancouver-based poet, spoken word artist, songwriter and musician (plays accordion!). She has produced and performed in many events including the Extravagant Signals series (2013) that brought together dance, visual art, spoken poetry and music in a seven day festival. She was a founding member of the Vancouver Youth Poetry Slam and these days, curates and co-produces the annual Accordion Noir Festival in the city. She recently finished her MFA in Interdisciplinary Studies at SFU and describes herself as “…obsessed with the music of the performed word – whether sung or spoken, whispered to the private ear or spontaneously bantered, lushly harmonized or brashly shoutrocked.” See more
Canadian singer, songwriter and activist Bruce Cockburn – yes THE Bruce Cockburn – is well known to most of us for his hugely successful career and passionate songs about human rights, environmental issues, politics and spirituality. In his long career in the music business, he has written more than 300 songs and sold nearly one million albums in Canada alone. In 2014, Cockburn finished writing a memoir, Rumours of Glory, in which he describes his 40 years of engaging with music and progressive causes on a national and international level. As a Christian, spiritual principles have governed his life and often found a way into his music; he has visited various trouble spots in the world out of humanitarian concern and often found inspiration there for songwriting. Cockburn became a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982 and an Officer in 2002 as well as receiving the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts. He has also received thirteen Juno Awards and been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Read more about Bruce Cockburn
Steven Price will return this year to conduct The Writing Week (formerly known as the Writer-in-Residence program) for the third time. He is back by popular demand, having sold out the workshop very early last year and likely will do so again this time. In addition to publishing award-winning books of poetry and fiction (Anatomy of Keys, Into That Darkness, Omens in the Year of the Ox), he continues to do sessional teaching at the University of Victoria in the Creative Writing Department. His much anticipated new novel set in19th century London, By Gaslight, will be coming out in 2016 and has already had its rights sold internationally. More about Steven Price
Additional information is available on the weblinks provided above and in our media. Please visit our website frequently for updates, author profiles, schedules and blogs …. and if you are on Facebook, find us there!
The Books Matter Prize announcement
At the 2015 Festival, visiting author Aislinn Hunter generously used her Festival honorarium to sponsor a poetry contest for the best poem on the subject of the planet, environment, earth or animals in peril. The prize, a $500 gift certificate to Abraxas Books, with four runners-up receiving the opportunity to have feedback from Aislinn on their submissions was open to residents of Denman and Hornby Islands as well as the Comox Valley.
Aislinn was pleased to receive over 40 entries and says “deciding on one winner was not easy”. She thanks everyone who entered the competition.
We are pleased to announce that the winner of the Books Matter Prize is Lorin Medley of Comox. The four runners-up are Cornelia Hoogland (Hornby), Janet Beggs (Courtenay), Stephanie Slater (Denman) and Jacqueline Anne Colquhoun (Royston).
Winner Lorin Medley says, “When I received an email from Aislinn Hunter saying ‘the Bebop poem is fabulous’, and that I had won the Books Matter Prize, I was one happy poet. I plan to submit it to some of my favourite literary magazines in the hopes of getting it published. This would not have been possible without the incomparable Denman Readers & Writers Festival and Aislinn’s generous support of the local writing community. Thank you!”
Because Lorin is submitting her winning poem elsewhere for publication, we are not able to publish her poem yet, however, all four runners-up have given us permission to print their poems.
Congratulations to Anakana Schofield who has been named one of the finalists for the prestigious $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her book, Martin John.
The Books Matter Prize …… win $500 in books by writing a poem about the planet / the environment / the earth or animals in peril
The Books Matter Prize is a $500 gift certificate to Abraxas Books to be awarded to the best unpublished poem on the subject of the planet / the environment / the earth or animals in peril, written by a resident of Denman or Hornby Island, or the Comox Valley.
Vancouver writer Aislinn Hunter has generously donated proceeds for taking part in the Denman Island Readers & Writers Festival in July for this prize. Aislinn says this topic was inspired by a recent series of twenty poems on climate change curated by Carol Ann Duffy in the Guardian newspaper; by a news article on “Sudan”, a white rhino who is the last male of his species; and by the beauty of Denman Island and by the wonderful local writers she saw read during the Festival.
Poets are invited to send a maximum of two poems on the themes noted above to Aislinn at email@example.com. Submissions should be attached to their email as a Word document, written in 12pt font and single-spaced. The Word document should not have the poet’s name or address, just the poem’s title which should correspond to the subject line of the email. Applicants must be residents of Denman Island, Hornby Island, or the Comox Valley.
The submission deadline is September 15th by midnight. The winning submission will be announced on October 1st. Four runners-up will receive the opportunity to have feedback (substantive and line edits) on their submission.
We are excited to have an islander from Atlantic Canada join us for next week’s festival. Newfoundlander Michael Crummey is a nationally respected poet and novelist who writes on themes of hard work, harsh climate, and ironic humour to describe the disappearing rural life in his province. His latest book, Sweetland, is both comic and sad and “is a deeply suspenseful story about one man’s struggles against the forces of nature and the ruins of memory.”
More of this review in the Globe & Mail.
Or here for one in the NY Times.
Main Stage Event: “Women of Words” – Saturday, July 18 at 7:30 pm
“No sensible man engages unprepared in a fencing match of words with a woman”, proclaims 20th century writer, Wilkie Collins. Collins demonstrated a thorough understanding of the power of women and their words and so should we.
Join Jo-Ann Roberts, the well-known former host of CBC radio’s All Points West, as she delves into the world of words with distinguished poet and novelist Aislinn Hunter, rising literary star Eliza Robertson, and sparkling young slam poet Siling Zhang to consider the creative forces that inspire each of their stories.
Aislinn Hunter is the winner of the 2015 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for her highly praised novel, The World Before Us. Hunter has written two books of poetry, three books of fiction and a book of lyric essays, all of which have resulted in numerous nominations, prizes and awards. The Globe and Mail describes The World Before Us as a thought-provoking novel, haunting and haunted, rooted in the power of history …. The sort of novel which forces you to look at the world – the people around you, the objects they hold dear – in a different light.
Eliza Robertson studied at UVic (with Steven Price) then did her MA at the University of East Anglia where she received the Man Booker Prize Scholarship and the Curtis Brown Award for best writer. In 2013 she won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and was a finalist for the Journey Prize and the CBC Short Story Prize. Her debut book of short stories, Wallflowers, has been praised by reviewers such as Natalie Serber of the New York Times, who compares the book to a solo swim across a chilly lake. You become mesmerized by details …. without ever forgetting the mysteries and potential dangers that lurk beneath.
Siling Zhang was born in China, raised in Red Deer, Alberta and now studies at Emily Carr University of Art in Vancouver. Her energy and talent have created a stir at the Vancouver Youth Poetry Slam (she placed first!) and led her to be featured on the TEDx Renfrew Collingwood (TED curated the neighbourhood event to showcase diverse ideas and expressions of exceptional people). If you google Siling Zhang and listen to her Spoken Word Poetry performance given at this event you will agree that she is clearly a young talent to watch out for.
Given the diversity of backgrounds from which these women draw their stories we are sure to be drawn in and captured by the power of the words of these three dynamic women.
Eliza Robertson’s Wallflowers
“a particular, slanted reality.” Her intriguing stories deal with themes of moving on from loss, finding love, and achieving intimacy. Great review from NY Times.
Read more about this rising young Canadian writer, her prizes, acclaims and academic honours here.
Donald Gutstein is a SFU adjunct professor in the School of Communication and co-director of NewsWatch Canada, a media-monitoring project. He taught in the areas of news media, propaganda analysis and documentary research. His concerns are to understand how and why the Right is winning the war of ideas and to encourage the Left to get on the battlefield. His current book title says it all:
Harperism: How Stephen Harper and His Think Tank Colleagues Have Transformed Canada See more here.
Jo-Ann Roberts comes to Denman Island to moderate Friday panel – “Women of Words”
Moderator Jo-Ann Roberts of CBC Radio fame is joined by distinguished poet and novelist Aislinn Hunter, rising literary star Eliza Robertson and sparkling young slam poet Siling Zhang to consider the creative forces that inspire their stories.
Jo-Ann Roberts is a veteran journalist, best known as the previous host of the arts and current affairs program All Points West on CBC Radio One in Victoria. She is the recipient of numerous journalism awards and has developed and taught a curriculum on public broadcasting for the University of Victoria. Read more about Jo-Ann.
Roberts resigned from the CBC in December after a decade hosting for the broadcaster. She is now running as a federal Green Party candidate in the riding of Victoria and says she wants to see funding cuts to the CBC restored, as well as having a parliamentary committee to examine the public broadcaster’s mandate – she hopes to take her fight for the embattled public broadcaster all the way to Parliament Hill.
Vancouver poet Renee Saklikar is a lawyer who did advocacy work for families of the Air India tragedy, then later turned to writing to express the stories of those involved in the event. Her book, children of air india: un/authorized exhibits and interjections, is also a personal story for Renee who lost her aunt and uncle in the bombing. She has done extensive research into the tragedy and written stories and poems of the lives, both actual and imagined, of its victims. This year, it has been 30 years since this terrible episode in our history and we are pleased to host Renee and to mark this anniversary .
New author added to festival lineup: Lee Maracle
Canadian first nations poet and author, Lee Maracle, from Toronto will be joining the list of renowned authors at this year’s festival. She is a prolific writer having published over 10 books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction as well as being an expert on First Nations culture and history. She will be the first solo presenter on Friday morning as well as a participant in both the Sunday morning panel moderated by Des Kennedy on the topic of “Place” (see article following) and the Friday afternoon panel – “Authors as Activists” – moderated by Stewart Goodings with Donald Gutstein and Bob Bossin. Come and hear this distinguished and powerful voice in Canadian culture and literature. Listen to the full length CBC radio interview with host, Shelagh Rogers.
Sunday, July 19, Des Kennedy moderates a panel discussion on “Place” with Michael Crummey, Fred Stenson, Lee Maracle and Renee Saklikar
On Sunday morning, July 19, the concluding event of the 2015 Readers and Writers Festival brings together an all-star cast of authors to probe the power of place. Place: elements of rootedness, of dispossession and reclamation. Illusions of ownership.
In his new novel, Newfoundland writer Michael Crummey pictures his protagonist: “He looked up at the hills surrounding the cove, sunlight making them ring with meltwater. He’d always loved that sound, waited for it each spring. Hearing it made him certain of the place he came from. He’d always felt it was more than enough to wake up here, to look out on these hills. As if he’d long ago been measured and made to the island’s exact specifications.”
Sto:Lo Nation author, poet, educator and storyteller Lee Maracle says: “Embodied in my truth is the brilliance of hundreds of Native women who faced the worst that CanAmerica had to offer and dealt with it. Embodied in my brilliance is the great sea of knowledge that it took to overcome the paralysis of the colonized mind. I did not come to this clearing alone. Hundreds walked alongside me – Black, Asian and Native women whose tide of knowledge was bestowed upon me are the key to every CanAmerican’s emancipation.”
Reflecting on the Air India bombing of thirty years ago, poet Renee Sarojini Saklikar writes: “There are images. There is the country, Ireland. There is the country, India. There is the country, Canada. There is the province: Columbia, that is British that is no country but layers in early evening. June 23, 1985. About a plane that disappears somewhere over the Atlantic.”
In his latest novel Fred Stenson, describing the devastating effects of the oil and gas industry on a fictional family in southern Alberta, has one of his characters say: “When the place you grow up in is destroyed, something in you gets destroyed too.”
In conversation with Des Kennedy, these four accomplished writers are certain to provide a provocative and stimulating examination of place in its many dimensions.
Siling Zhang – Slam Poetry performance and “Poetic Tangents” workshop
Preview her performance by following this link.
There will also be a chance to attend her workshop titled “Poetic Tangents” which you can read about here
Have a look at the blog written by Fred Stenson for some background to his latest book, Who By Fire, a passionate story that parallels some of his own life story with the rise of the oil industry in Alberta. The title is a biblical reference and was made famous by a song from Leonard Cohen. Fred Stenson will be participating in our 2015 festival on Denman Island.
Bob Bossin’s Davy the Punk
The father renowned Canadian folk singer Bob Bossin knew while growing up in Toronto in the 1950s was a quiet, conservative booking agent. The father he subsequently discovered was Davy the Punk, a pivotal figure in Canada’s gambling business of the 30s and 40s, whose trials and tribulations with the law created precedents that affect us to this day.
“The Songs and Stories of Davy the Punk” tell of cops and gamblers, grifters and grafters, mensches and gonifs, fathers and sons. By turns, Bossin’s songs and stories of his father are intriguing, funny and poignant. “Fascinating …. amazing and sometimes hilarious”, says CBC’s Michael Enright. “A memoir of a childhood that is the stuff of dreams and movies”, says Si Kahn. “Bossin is funny, informative and inspiring at the same time”, said Pete Seeger.
Bob Bossin is the founder of the much-loved folk group Stringband, and the author of some of Canada’s favourite folk songs. Says Stuart McLean, “Only a handful of song writers have created a body of work that constitute a portrait of our country. Stan Rogers did that. So did Gordon Lightfoot. And so does Bob Bossin.”
Bob Bossin Brings his One Man Show “Davy The Punk” to Denman Festival
Don’t miss this special event with Bob Bossin bringing his songs and stories about the life of his father in the 1930’s Toronto gambling underworld, Mark your calendar for Saturday July 18, 7:30-9:30 in the Denman Community Hall. Check out the web page and video preview.
BC Book Prize Winner coming to Denman
Aislinn Hunter, one of the authors coming to the Readers and Writers Festival in July, has been named the winner of the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for 2015. This is the top award for BC fiction writers.
Her novel, “The World Before Us” has received critical acclaim. She will be reading from this book at a solo session on Saturday morning, July 18 at 10:45 to 11:45. Aislinn will also take part in a Main Stage panel discussion on Saturday evening called “Women of Words” moderated by CBC Radio’s Jo-Ann Roberts.
Hunter’s 3 hour workshop, entitled Meaningful Things: Writing the Material World” will take place on Thursday, July 16 from 2:30 to 5:30.
This was a very strong year for fiction in BC, and the Denman Festival is proud that two of its previous authors, Brian Payton (The Wind is Not a River) and Caroline Adderson (Ellen in Pieces) were finalists in the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.
The author as activist
From Charles Dickens to George Orwell to James Baldwin to Naomi Klein, writers have been including social and political messages in their prose. Whether in novels or non-fiction books, the urge to change the world, or a part of it, has always been an element of the creative process.
And at this year’s Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival, we will have three ardent advocates of social and political change: Donald Gutstein, Bob Bossin and Lee Maracle.
Gutstein is a professor at Simon Fraser and has been an activist since early on in his career. Over thirty years ago, he wrote a book about abusive corporate urban development in Vancouver, called “Vancouver Ltd.” and last year, several books later, he published a masterful critique of Stephen Harper and his government, “Harperism”.
Bossin, self-described as “the old folksinger”, now living on GabriolaIsland, butoriginally from Toronto was the long-time co-leader of “Stringband”, one of Canada’s leading indie folk units. He’s always been a believer in what he calls “the role art can play in political struggle”, and one of his most notable songs, “Sulphur Passages” was a major contribution to the Clayoquot forest protests.
Maracle is a leading First Nations author of a dozen books, including her latest, “Celia’s Song”, a harrowing story of pain, hardship and redemption in an indigenous community. Her literary and political themes relate to racism, post-colonialism and the creative empowerment of indigenous communities and individuals.
Lucky me, I get to facilitate a conversation with these three dynamic writers and activists at this year’s Festival. One of the main stage events, we are calling it “Agents Provocateurs” and it will take place on Friday, July 17.
For Denman and Comox Valley activists — of which there are many! — this is a must-attend event.
FESTIVAL 2015: July 16 – 19
Once again, we have an amazing group of Canadian authors who will be coming to Denman Island to share work that ranges from imaginative fiction and political activism to topics that have historical importance and even a bit of intrigue and skulduggery! Contemporary new voices will mix with established writers to bring the wide diversity of ideas and styles we’ve come to expect during our annual festival.
Denman Island will be hosting Michael Crummey, a fellow islander from Newfoundland/Labrador, who has received numerous accolades and awards nationally for his poetry and prose. He has published seven books including four bestselling novels: River Thieves (2001), an historical-fiction work detailing the extinction of the Beothuk (the last remaining indigenous group on the island of Newfoundland); The Wreckage (2005), the story of a Newfoundland soldier during and after World War II; Galore (2009), a magical realist foray into Newfoundland’s history; and most recently, Sweetland (2014), a tale of a contemporary Newfoundlander resisting the forces of change that threaten his small island and traditional way of life. As you can tell, Crummey’s work is focused on the impact of history and place on events in Newfoundland’s history and authentically portray the unique culture and challenges that exist there. He writes with language that is poetic and rich in imagery – often involving memory and dream – to produce these highly regarded works of Canadian literature. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Crummey
Another Canadian poet/novelist is Aislinn Hunter, who teaches Creative Writing at Kwantlen College in the lower mainland. She has studied Fine Arts, Writing and Cultural Politics in Canada and the UK, and is currently finishing her PhD in English Literature in Edinburgh. In the past twenty years, she has authored two books of poetry, three books of fiction and a book of lyric essays which have all resulted in nominations, prizes and awards. The World Before Us is her current novel which traces a woman’s traumatic history after she loses a five year old girl she was babysitting during a walk they took in the forest. Now, as an adult, the woman works in a London museum and searches for information related to another missing person – a woman who disappeared 125 years ago from an asylum. As can be expected from a poet, Aislinn Hunter has created gorgeous prose and unforgettable images in this book. The story works back and forth in time with a well-developed plot that links both missing people and explores the unforeseen consequences of small acts. Hunter’s interests include Victorian era museums and the lasting power of objects which comes through in her many beautiful descriptions of artful and imagined things. www.aislinnhunter.com
Rising Canadian literary star, Eliza Robertson studied at UVIC (with Steven Price) then did her MA at the University of East Anglia where she received the Man Booker Prize Scholarship and the Curtis Brown Award for best writer. In 2013, she won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and was a finalist for the Journey prize and the CBC Short Story Prize. Her debut book of short stories, Wallflowers, has been praised by reviewers and readers and marks Robertson as a significant emerging talent. Her book shows her to be a close and unflinching observer of ordinary moments – whether comforting or disturbing; her stories are “….bold and diverse, with a youthful verve but with the sort of polish one expects from more seasoned writers.” (Vancouver Sun) There are lots more reviews online including: www.nytimes.com/2014/11/02/books/review/eliza-robertson
Well-known Alberta writer Fred Stenson has published books since 1974 on historical fiction and nonfiction stories set in the Canadian West. Along with many other awards and nominations, Stenson received a Diamond Jubilee Medal (celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s 60th anniversary) in 2012. His most recent book, Who By Fire, is a generational story that begins with parallels to his own family history when a leaking sour gas plant directly upwind from his family farm toxified the air and poisoned livestock. The struggle in the story moves into the present day with the Alberta oil sands and the environmental and health issues that arise from the pace and size of its development. As Fred Stenson states, “I’m very interested in the collision between industry and community, what happens when individuals are in the path of what society decides is progress.” www.fredstenson.ca
Also interested in the integrity of land and farms, Luanne Armstrong is a novelist, teacher, freelance writer, editor and publisher who is interested in writing about place and nature. She lives and works on her organic family farm in Boswell, B.C. as well as being an adjunct professor of Creative Writing at UBC and doing her own writing and publishing. She has produced over fifty stories and essays in magazines and is the author of fourteen books, including poetry, novels, and children’s books. The Light Through the Trees, Reflections on Land and Farming is a collection of her essays that explores our relationship to the natural world. In her own words, “The realization of the aliveness of the non-human is the crack in the paradigm, a shift from understanding nature as passive, unfeeling, and mechanical, to seeing the non-human all around us as aware, a huge something in which we, as humans, participate but can never control….” To learn more about Luanne’s work, visit her website
Siling Zhang performs spoken-word poetry as well as producing works of visual art. She was born in China, raised in Red Deer, Alberta and now studies at Emily Carr University of Art in Vancouver. Her energy and talent have created a stir at the Vancouver Youth Poetry Slam (she placed first!) and led her to be featured on the TEDx Renfrew Collingwood (TED curated neighbourhood event to showcase diverse ideas and expressions of exceptional people). Zhang’s online blog contains selections from her visual art and slam poetry: http://seeziart.workpress.com/ Also her TEDx talk is available online: tedxtalks.ted.com/video/The-varied-world-of-slam-poetry
Gabriola Island’s Bob Bossin, a professional folksinger and skilled songwriter, is devoted to the kind of music where we are ….”singing in our own way about our own subjects”. In 1971, he founded the group Stringband with Marie-Lynn Hammond. They toured together for fifteen years, writing songs about anything that people celebrate, mourn, protest or talk about – what Bossin refers to as natural music-making. In 1994 he worked with filmmaker Nettie Wild on Sulphur Passage, a music video about the Clayoquot Sound protests. His current project is the publication of a book about his father, an infamous gambler in Toronto’s underworld during the 1930s and 40s. Bossin pieced together the exploits of his father (known as Davy the Punk) as well as discovering the characters, scams and schemes that existed in the urban underbelly of Toronto in that period. The book and his one-man musical performance, Songs and Stories of Davy the Punk, are coming to Denman as a special performance during our July festival. For a sneak preview, go to www.davythepunk.com
Donald Gutstein specializes in news analysis and criticism and has written four books on the links between large corporations, politics, and the media. He writes for The Tyee, Georgia Straight, and rabble.ca and is an adjunct professor in the School of Communication at SFU and co-director or NewsWatch Canada (a media-monitoring project). His new book, Harperism, examines how Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed political life in the US and Britain. “He’s gradually moving the country from one that’s based on democracy to one that’s based on the market….” www.donaldgutstein.com
It is our great fortune to have Steven Price return this year to conduct our Writer-in-Residence program for the second time. Last year’s group highly praised his teaching skills and considered guidance, and he was equally pleased with his experience here on Denman. In addition to publishing the award-winning books of poetry and fiction (Anatomy of Keys, Into That Darkness, Omens in the Year of the Ox), he continues to teach at the University of Victoria in the Creative Writing Department. He lives with his partner, Esi Edugyan, and they are expecting both a new family member as well as a new novel in 2015!
There is so much more to say about this talented group – additional information is available on the weblinks provided above and in our media. Our website www.denmanislandwritersfestival.com will provide updates, author profiles, schedules and blogs …. and if you are on Facebook, find us there!
Posted January 2015
TRIBUTE TO ZACCHEUS JACKSON
**The Denman Island Readers & Writers Festival wishes to express sincere condolences concerning the tragic news of the death of Zaccheus Jackson. Many people in our community were moved and inspired by his appearance here last month. Since he had such an impact with young people, it has been decided that the bursary system to enable high school students to attend our annual festival will be renamed as the Zaccheus Jackson Student Bursaries.
By Stephanie Slater
Those of us who had the opportunity to hear Zaccheus Jackson perform at this year’s Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival will be devastated at the news of the sudden death of the Vancouver-based slam poet.
Jackson was in Toronto for the Toronto International Poetry Slam when he was killed after being hit by a freight train August 27. He had just Tweeted a “selfie” photo on Instagram with the words: “Traintracksixpackriffraff @CN Rail Toronto”.
Details about Jackson’s death are scant but there is no shortage of evidence of his talent, his energy and his commitment to working with young people.
At the Readers and Writers Festival, the 36-year-old Jackson spoke frankly about being addicted to crack cocaine when he was in his twenties and living on the streets for five years and being jailed as a result of bad choices made while he was an addict.
“The hardest part about being an active crack head is that you stop remembering your dreams, ” he said.
His animated, rapid-fire presentation included poems that described that gritty experience and helped audience members connect and sympathize with people who’ve fallen into a desperate way of life. Describing his work as “real life, with a little bit of rhythm,” Jackson said: “Stories are a great way to educate, connect and entertain each other.”
His poetry could be hard-hitting and poignant. It was also funny and hopeful.
“Every once in a while it’s OK to get angry,” he said, “a righteous anger but not a self-righteous anger. We’ve got enough Stephen Harper already.”
On his Facebook page, Jackson credits East Vancouver’s Spoken Word scene for giving him “something worthwhile to dream about”. At the Denman Island Festival he described how his adoptive grandfather, Tom Nyce Senior, inspired his love and respect for the power of storytelling. Jackson, a member of the Piikani Blackfoot Nation, was adopted by the Nyce family and raised on the Haisla Reserve in Kitima’at, B.C.
“My grandfather would tell stories as he carved canoes in the yard; keeping the oral tradition of our people alive,” said Jackson in a 2009 interview for the Victoria Slam Poetry event. “I can’t claim to remember many of the stories he told us in any great detail, but I know as a fact that sitting there listening to my grandfather tell stories to my father and I – and my father collecting each and every one like some endangered species – taught me the importance and social benefit of story-telling.”
Jackson’s venture into storytelling through the forum of spoken word poetry was a big success. He was a member of the Van Slam poetry team six times, a two-time Vancouver Indie Champion, and two-time Vancouver Grand Slam Champion. For the past nine years he worked with WordPlay, a Vancouver organization dedicated to putting spoken word artists in high school classrooms.
His Facebook posts reflect his enthusiasm for this work and other opportunities to put poetry in front of people who might not otherwise encounter it. On May 6, he wrote: “Off to the Burnaby Youth Corrections Centre to run some spoken work w/ them cats!!” He ended the post with his characteristic closer: “BOOM!!!”
Jackson taught summer school English at Simon Fraser University this year, saying: “It’s been a strange road that has led me to this point in my life – from the streets, to the mic, to the institution!!”
Other posts express his delight at participating in events such as the IGNITE! Youth mentorship performance, the Surrey Teachers Association conference, and various spoken word festivals across the country “either as a registered performer or Guerilla Poet on a soap-box.”
The Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival was one f the events in Jackson’s schedule. At one point, he told the audience, “All I know is that the more I write, the more I stay clean and sober.”
Perhaps the writing wasn’t enough to protect him as he took a six-pack of beer to the CN Rail yard on the last day of his too-short life. I don’t know. All I know is that I wasn’t the only person in the audience last month who was rooting for him; who felt proud of him; who felt grateful that he’d found a way to channel his remarkable talent and appreciative that he was sharing it with young people – perhaps some of them at risk the way Zaccheus Jackson was at risk in those dark days of his crack addiction.
I know I’m not the only one who feels a deep sadness that a bright light has gone out in this world.
NEW BOOKS BY DENMAN ISLAND WRITERS FESTIVAL AUTHORS
Over the past twelve years, many writers have come to the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival, and we continue to take an interest in their careers. We think of them as “our” authors, people we’ve met and got to know, albeit briefly during the Festival weekends.
Here are some whose new books have been published in the last year.
Ivan Coyote, “Gender Failure” co-authored with Rae Spoon
Terry Fallis, “No Relation”
Steven Galloway, “The Confabulist”
Jack Hodgins “Cadillac Cathedral”
Des Kennedy, “Heart and Soil”
J.B.McKinnon, “The Once and Future World”
Ruth Ozeki, “A Tale for the Time Being”
Brian Payton, “The Wind is Not a River”
Emily St.John Mandel, “Station Eleven”
Audrey Thomas, “Local Customs”
It’s always a pleasure to see authors who have come to Denman continue their writing careers. Check out these new books along with the works of the authors coming to Denman’s Festival this year, July 17-20.
Maude Barlow and Chris Turner
Debbie Frketich looks forward to Sunday July 19th
On the last day of the 2014 festival I will be among the first in my seat to hear Des Kennedy’s conversation with Maude Barlow and Chris Turner. This discussion will highlight the critical issues that have led Barlow and Turner to write and speak passionately about corporate control of water and the recent muzzling of Canadian scientists.
Have you stopped to think about water lately? Or, like me, do you take for granted the fresh clean water that we drink, cook with and bathe in. Canada has been truly blessed with an abundance of water and one would think it was being protected and managed for our generation as well as our children and their children. Unfortunately this is not the case and “Maude Barlow issues an urgent warning that we are treating this priceless liquid in ways that are unjust, unhealthy, unsustainable and suicidal.” – David Suzuki
Barlow’s latest book, Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever is the third volume of a trilogy, the first two being Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World’s Water and Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water.
- Water is a Human Right
- Water is a Common Heritage
- Water Has Rights Too
- Water Can Teach Us How to Live Together
“For decades Barlow has been on the front lines of this critical battle and her insights on how water can serve as our guide to a more just, sustainable world are a gift to us all.” – Naomi Klein
On another note, did you see the picture of the garbage truck full of books recently? this picture was taken after the closing and dismantling of several world-class scientific libraries in Canada. From the abolition of the long form census to the firing of any scientist who speaks out against the Harper government to the burning of irreplaceable scientific records …. the war against science that is being waged by a government driven by ideology rather than scientific knowledge is shocking in the extreme.
In his book, The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada, ChrisTurner has documented and chronicled the muzzling of Canadian scientists so we can better understand what is happening in our own country. This short book is a straightforward and passionate denunciation of the radical changes being imposed upon the Canadian scientific community.
The Harper majority years (2011 – present) are what Turner calls “The age of wilful blindness”, during which there has been a wholesale dismantling of the apparatus of scientific investigation wherever it has threatened to hinder industry, particularly the fossil-fuels industry.
Turner concludes his book with a hope that this disastrous course will be reversed when enough Canadians recognize that “it reveals a picture that doesn’t look like Canada at all.”
Andrew Nikiforuk calls Turner’s book, “essential reading for all Canadians.”
Much of what these two dedicated Canadians have uncovered is distressing, but what is hopeful and what will ensure that I am in my seat and don’t miss a minute of this discussion is what we may learn from Turner and Barlow about how we can organize and fight back.
Posted May 2014
Writer in Residence – July 2014
Stewart Goodings recalls his experience as a past participant in a Writer in Residence workshop, and introduces this year’s Writer in Residence – Steven Price.
I remember how nervous I was at the first session of the Writer in Residence program two years ago. Here I was, in a group of strangers, with a renowned Canadian writer, Steven Galloway at the head of the table.
I’d done a lot of writing in my career in the civil service, but none of it could be considered creative fiction …. well, some people might have thought some of my briefings to Minister were pretty fictional, but you know what I mean …. now in this room at the Arts Centre on Denman Island, I’d have to expose my humble efforts at story-telling to criticism, not only from other writers, probably all more skillful than me, but also from a guy who had published three novels, one of which, “The Cellist of Sarajevo”, had received international recognition.
But I have to say it turned out to be a wonderful experience. First of all, Galloway was a thoughtful listener, generous in his comments to all of us, and gave me some very practical advice about how I could improve the short story I had submitted for review. Secondly, the other WIR participants were congenial company, and willing to give positive feedback to each other. We learned a lot of “technique”, but more important, we were inspired to continue writing and to believe that we had some ability to turn our draft efforts into interesting prose.
This to me is one of the great features of the Writer in Residence program – it gives aspiring writers a chance to learn from others and especially from a successful and respected author.
And this year, the Festival is lucky to have another accomplished writer and teacher to lead the WIR – Steven Price, from the University of Victoria creative writing department. With two books of poetry and a novel published in recent years, plus several years of mentoring students at UVIC, he’s a great addition to the Denman Festival.
What an opportunity to get hands-on wisdom from an experienced writer, and to benefit from the collegial support of like-minded writing hopefuls.
Over five mornings, with time in the afternoons to read others’ work, and to fine-tune your own writing, the WIR is an intense but rewarding experience. Then, as the WIR winds up on the Friday, everyone can relax and enjoy listening and meeting ten other renowned authors in solo sessions and panels for the rest of the Festival weekend.
Why, I’ve almost convinced myself to sign up again ….. Stewart Goodings.
Posted April 2014
Festival 2014 – July 17-20
by Annette Reinhart
Another outstanding group of Canadian writers will be coming to Denman Island for our 2014 Readers & Writers Festival. Don’t be surprised to find a political journalist, a street-wise performer, a renowned activist, a socially aware poet, a historical researcher, several outstanding BC novelists, an adventurer and a national publisher in the mix for 2014.
We are happy to confirm the participation of Maude Barlow, one of Canada’s outstanding activists and writers, in our 2014 festival. She is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and author of sixteen books which focus on the global water crisis. She has served as Senior Advisor on Water at the UN General Assembly and is a leader in the campaign to have water recognized as a human right; she has one of the most thorough and comprehensive understandings of her subject of anyone alive. Her latest book, Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, completes a trilogy that presents the issues and then outlines solutions for this complex problem. http://www.canadians.org/maude
Another writer working on the theme of water is Rita Wong, Associate Professor in Critical and Cultural Studies at Emily Carr in Vancouver. Downstream: A Poetics of Water is a work in progress that will lead toward a book and media that poetically explore how the local relates to the global through water. “Cultural perspectives shape how people view and interact with water, be it as a commodity, a resource, or a reminder of how all life on the planet is interrelated.” blogs.eciad.ca/ritawong
Chris Turner, a Canadian journalist and author who was the federal Green Party candidate for Calgary Centre in 2012, is also someone who has been looking at how life on this planet is interrelated – he is one of Canada’s leading voices on sustainability, livable cities, and building a green economy. As stated in the Georgia Straight, “Turner, an award-winning environmental writer, lays bare how science has been politicized, controlled, and methodically stifled.” The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada is a book about the Conservative government’s cuts to basic science and environmental monitoring that clears the way for resource extraction. www.thegeographyofhope.com/
The business of books and publishing is what Douglas Gibson, one of Canada’s most renowned editors and publishers, knows very well. He has published a memoir of a more than 40 year career as publisher and later, president of McClelland and Stewart. Stories about Storytellers has 21 short chapters, each one focusing on the personal and professional relationship with a writer Gibson edited. The list includes Mavis Gallant, Alastair McLeod, Stephen Leacock, Morley Callaghan, Alice Munro (whom Gibson mentored) as well as many Canadian prime ministers and other well-known figures. http://douglasgibsonbooks.com/
Caroline Adderson is part of the Vancouver literary community Caroline-Adderson is an author of essays, children’s books, short stories and novels. She has been a nominee for a Governor General’s Award and received the Marian Engel Award which is given annually to an outstanding Canadian female writer in mid-career. Her third and latest novel is The Sky is Falling, a story told as a series of reminiscences 20 years after the narrator, Jane, was involved in an idealistic/activist community in her 1980’s student days. www.carolineadderson.com
Another BC writer, Angie Abdou made her extraordinary literary debut in 2006 with her short story collection, Anything Boys Can Do. This was followed by her first novel The Bone Cage in 2007 which was considered as a finalist for CBC’s Canada Reads. Her second novel, The Canterbury Trail (2011) has received several awards and is a story about mountain culture and a ski community. There are loose parallels with Chaucer’s pilgrims traveling to a sacred shrine and Abdou’s characters embarking on a blissed-out skiing expedition, but that is just the starting point….. www.abdou.ca
Known for blissing out his audiences, Vancouver’s Zaccheus Jackson is a modern storyteller with a hip hop twist. He is a member of the Blackfoot people and tours performing his unique blend of storytelling and urban guerrilla poetry. His spoken word accounts have impressed audiences with his rapid-fire delivery, intricate rhyme patterns and social criticism. You will have to hear him to believe it! www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vYwTh25XpI
One of Canada’s foremost native authors and storytellers, author of six novels, a book of poetry, two memoirs and an anthology of his newspaper columns, is Richard Wagamese. He has written much about the horrific impact of the residential schools on former students and the pain and suffering victims often pass on to their own children. His recent book, Indian Horse, is inspiring and delivered straight from the heart; but beyond that, it teaches us a horrific part of our history that continues to resonate in our society. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Wagamese
A tragic and lesser-known chapter in Canadian history forms the background for the latest novel, Into the Heart of the Country, by Pauline Holdstock. As described in this Globe and Mail book review: “…[she] explores the relationship between the English fur traders in Churchill, Manitoba and the native women on whom they relied for their survival. It is a vivid literary interpretation of the historical research begun by Sylvia Van Kirk into the complex role played by women in Canada’s fur-trade culture.” She has written many more novels, short fictions and essays; her novel, Beyond Measure, was a finalist for the 2004 Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and won the BC Book Prizes for Fiction in 2005. www.paulineholdstock.com
Another award-winning author, Derek Lundy from Salt Spring Island, has written non-fiction books about a number of topics that include sailing, sail racing and the history of Northern Ireland. His most recent book, Borderlands: Riding the Edge of America, is a fascinating adventure story of his motorcycle ride along both the Mexican and the Canadian border areas with the US. The book combines his many personal adventures and hardships with an interesting look at history and its contemporary consequences for North America. www.dereklundy.com
There is much more information available on the links provided above for each author, and festival news will be updated frequently in our media. Check back on this website and follow us on Facebook!
Posted February 2014
This year our Festival bookworm, Miss-Spelled – Jori Phillips – created a unique dress from the pages of a thesaurus. As a writer might use a thesaurus to create his or her work, so Jori’s intention was to use one to create her art. She roamed the Festival venues charming attendees who marveled at her meticulous creation.
After the Festival, Jori put photos of her outfit on a social media site, Reddit, and was surprised to wake up the next morning to 80,000 view, “trending” on the front page. There followed a whirlwind of media attention as other websites got in on the act and Jori became a viral and global sensation.
She had interviews with Good Morning America, Glamour magazine, the London Daily Mail, CBC Radio and Television and CTV, among many other newspapers around the province, the country and the world. Jori still has one wish – to be on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Posted August 2013
Memories of Readers and Writers Festival 2013
by Stewart Goodings with photos by Annette Reinhart
Denman’s annual treat for book lovers and aspiring writers, held July 18-21 provided a score of literary memories for those lucky enough to take in the solo sessions, workshops, Main Stage conversations, as well as a new element this year – music in front of the General Store and on stages at the Kaffee Klatsch and Earth Club Factory.
I’ve been coming to the Festival for six years, and cannot think of another one which has offered as many lively and memorable experiences …. in no particular order, here are some which Festival goers have told us about:
An eloquent trio of writers – Ted Chamberlin, Lorna Goodison and Des Kennedy – riffing on the delights and challenges of living on islands, a theme close to the hearts of Denmanites …..
An absorbing and moving conversation with Alexandra Morton, during which moderator Des Kennedy elicited Morton’s life history and mission in 90 fascinating minutes to the largest crowd of the Festival, over 200 avid listeners and fans …..
A virtuoso one man performance by the humorist, Terry Fallis, as he read from and described the background to his book “Up and Down”, especially the contacts he’s had with former astronaut Marc Garneau …..
Who will forget our Bookworm, the charming Jori Phillips (Miss-Spelled), as she wandered around the Festival venues, dressed in her hand-made dress created from pages of a thesaurus? Who would have imagined that the dress would subsequently go viral on the internet then get picked up by CBC Radio and TV and other national and international media outlets? Congratulations to Jori for her craft and creativity!
Music was also a theme for the Saturday evening Main Stage, with guest Moderator Kathryn Gretsinger engaging Esi Edugyan, Kevin Chong and Katherine Monk in a discussion of their work in relation to the turbulent times of their books’ settings.
The ten participants in Jack Hodgin’s Writer in Residence program were once again treated to powerful teaching and valuable advice from this well loved and regular presenter at Denman Festivals.
Both the opening and closing sessions were marked by the wise and evocative words of First Nations story-teller, Wedlidi Speck, urging us to be inspired by the ancestors and the community of spirit that is the Denman Festival.
For many Festival goers, attending the solo sessions by our invited authors gave everyone a chance to get up close and personal with some of Canada’s finest writers, as they read from their books and answered audience questions …. whether it was Anakana Schofield taking on the Irish brogue of her protagonist in “Malarky”, or Lorna Goodison sharing her mother’s life story in her Jamaican lilt, or Katherine Monk delving into the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche on Joni Mitchell’s music, every solo session had gems of listening pleasure.
This was the first year that the Festival had been able to benefit from the renovations to the Seniors Hall, and both the open French doors to the lounge and the new patio received many compliments as Festival attendees were able to relax between sessions.
One of the unique features of the Denman Festival was the opportunity for local writers to share their work, and both Friday and Saturday sessions featured humorous, thoughtful and creative selections of both prose and poetry.
Attendance was up 10% over last year, indicating the so-called death of the book is not yet happening! However, the organizers are not sitting on their laurels. Two meetings have already been held since the Festival ended, and planning for 2014 is already underway! Suggestions of new authors are always welcome.
Another Readers and Writers Festival is over, once more showing what a remarkable and creative island Denman is.
Posted August 2013