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