July 2019 Festival

Lindsay Wong

Lindsay Wong’s memoir, The Woo-Woo documents a stranger-than-fiction childhood surrounded by dysfunctional, profanity-loving adults.  The Wong family story intensifies with each turn of the page and was rejected by many publishers for not being “relatable” enough. Read the full CBC review here:


Kathy Page

Hurrah!  Finally, the well-known Salt Spring Island author, Kathy Page, is coming to the Denman festival.  This exceptionally talented UK/Canadian writer has been awarded the $50,000 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for Dear Evelyn, a novel also recognized as a Kirkus Best Book of 2018.


“Inspired by original  love letters from the 1940’s,  Dear Evelyn follows a seventy-year-long wartime marriage between two seemingly incompatible partners in sometimes tender, sometimes excruciating detail. Studded with allusions to poems and novels, it is set in locations that include London during the 1920s and 1940s, Tunisia during World War Two, the Cotswolds, a new post-war suburb, and a Mediterranean cruise ship.”

Read the Guardian review here.

It’s that time of the year again …. Denman Festival time.  For the 17th year in a row, our island will host the Readers and Writers Festival July 18 – 21.

As usual, there’s a dazzling array of talent to enjoy:  from Beverley McLachlin, Canada’s former Chief Justice with her debut novel Full Disclosure, to Lindsay Wong, also a first time published author with her tell-all best-selling memoir The Woo Woo; from SFU teacher and novelist David Chariandy, whose Brother was a finalist in the CBC Canada Reads contest this year, to Darrel McLeod, whose searing memoir Mamaskatch relates the hardships and epiphanies of growing up Cree in Alberta.  This festival promises true literary excitement for everybody.

Recently, I attended a workshop of literary festival organizers from across Canada, and I was reminded of the Stuart McLean adage from his CBC Vinyl Cafe show:  “We may not be big, but we’re small.”  Denman is possibly the smallest community in Canada to host a literary festival, but we possess certain advantages over the big festivals.  At the “biggies”, the authors normally fly in, give a talk to several hundred people, and fly out again, with maybe an invitation-only meal with wealthy donors.  At Denman, our authors stay in local homes, have coffee and meals with festival attendees, and are part of our community for three days.  Oh yes, they also give a one hour solo reading, and take part in main stage panels with other authors.  Not to knock the giant festivals, but small, sustainable and friendly – these are the adjectives we’d prefer to be known by.

In addition to Beverley McLachlin, Lindsay Wong, David Chariandy, and Darrel McLeod, there are six other outstanding writing talents who will be at this year’s festival:  the accomplished novelist Heather O’Neill comes to us from Montreal, the venue for most of her fictional plots and memorable characters such as in The Lonely Hearts Hotel; Paula Wild hails from Courtenay and her work is focused on nature and the environment, with her latest book The Return of the Wolf; Billeh Nickerson is a Vancouver poet, also a writing teacher at Kwantlen Polytechnic, and his most recent book is Artificial Cherry; Andrew MacLeod is a journalist with the Tyee and writes about contemporary issues such as inequality and health care (his latest is All Together Healthy: A Canadian Wellness Revolution); Kathy Page is from Salt Spring Island and won the most recent Rogers Trust Fiction Prize for her novel Dear Evelyn; and rounding out the list is the prolific columnist with the Victoria Times-Colonist, Jack Knox, renowned for his unique brand of humour and whimsy, with titles such as Hard Knox: Musings from the Edge of Canada.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of planning our festival is the “mixing and matching” of authors for the main stage panels.  I’m lucky enough to moderate the Friday afternoon grouping of Jack Knox, Billeh Nickerson, and Lindsay Wong.  Three different genres:  humorous newspaper essays, playful and ‘non-traditional’ poetry, and a memoir of madness in a Chinese Canadian family.  Yet all three employ both humour and sadness in their work, and that’s what we hope to explore in the panel discussion.

Another main stage, on Friday evening, moderated by Des Kennedy will look at the way novelists create characters that intrigue the reader.  While Des has created some memorable characters in his own novels, his task that evening will be to encourage three fiction writers – David Chariandy, Heather O’Neill, and Kathy Page – to share their secrets of imagining and fleshing out the characters that populate their novels.

On Saturday evening, another set of three authors – Darrel McLeod, Paula Wild, and Andrew MacLeod – will be challenged by Denman’s Stephanie Slater to discuss the passion behind their literary works.  These authors write about very different subjects from each other, so what are the ‘burning questions’ Darrel, Paula, and Andrew are trying to answer in their books?  Watch for the panel’s special video introduction to the authors crafted by Denman’s Sussan Thomson.


The festival always ends with a main stage featuring Des Kennedy as the gentle and probing questioner of one of our invited authors, and this year’s In Conversation with …. will feature an interview with Beverley McLachlin, who for seventeen years was Chief Justice of Canada’s Supreme Court, a lawyer, jurist, and distinguished Canadian who has become a novelist in her retirement from the Bench.  What a life she has led, and who better than Des to explore the drama and challenges of her storied career?

We are pleased to report that The Writing Week with Caroline Adderson is full up, as is the Blue Pencil Cafe manuscript assessment with Jeanette Taylor; and the workshop on fiction writing offered by Heather O’Neill is full.  However, workshops offered by Dante Ambriel on playwriting, Andrew MacLeod on non-fiction work, and Billeh Nickerson on poetry, still have spaces open.

Paige Turner

Traditionally we have opened the Festival in various ways, and this year, returning from last year’s engagement as a cub reporter, Paige Turner will give an official welcome on behalf of her new employer, the Ministry of Truth.

Full details about the program and registration can be found here on the website.

Stewart Goodings
July 2019


Paula Wild

Paula Wild writes about people, places and the natural world.  Her latest book, Return of the Wolf, explores our evolving relationship with wolves and how human attitudes affect the behaviour and conservation of the predator today. Don’t miss her talk and audio/visual presentation on Sunday morning, July 21 in the Community Hall.

Billeh Nickerson

Billeh Nickerson is the author of the poetry collections The Asthmatic Glassblower, McPoems, Impact: The Titanic Poems, and his most recent, Artificial Cherry, as well as the humour collection Let Me Kiss It Better. He is also co-editor of Seminal: The Anthology of Canada’s Gay Male Poets.  He is also a silver medalist at the Canadian Gay Curling Championships, and Chair of the Creative Writing department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver.   Read more here


Andrew MacLeod

He is the author of All Together Healthy: A Canadian Wellness Revolution (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018) about improving public health. His first book A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, 2015) is based on a series he wrote for The Tyee about economic inequality and won the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature.

“For better health solve inequality”, Andrew MacLeod says

Heather O’Neill

Heather O’Neill is one of Canada’s top fiction writers — winning awards, accolades, and readers for her vivid novels. But it was an unpredictable path to success: she comes from humble Montreal roots. She was raised by her single father — a janitor who wryly listed his real occupation as professor of philosophy. He offered his book-obsessed daughter a set of rules for life. In conversation, and in her Henry Kreisel Lecture at the Canadian Literature Centre in Edmonton, Heather O’Neill describes her dad’s colourful advice to her, as well as the surprising people who made her into a passionate writer and reader, and helped her bridge the class divide that restricted her father’s own life. Listen to her interview with CBC’s Paul Kennedy:

Heather O’Neill finds wisdom in an eccentric father’s advice


Beverley McLachlin: From Supreme Court chief justice to thriller writer

Beverley McLachlin will appear at the Denman festival this year with her opening Solo Reading (Friday, July 19 10:00-11:00am) and in a Main Stage Event Sunday morning In Conversation with Des Kennedy.

In ‘Full Disclosure,’ McLachlin’s first novel, the female main character is caught in moral and personal dilemmas, some mined from the former judge’s career.

Watch a video interview here :  Beverley McLachlin interview

Please fill out the form below to receive news from us.