(Book) Love in the Time of Covid

The need to read.  The urge to write.

Neither of these instincts have been stifled by Covid-19.  But this lengthy pandemic has increased people’s desire for human connection.  That is the inspiration behind the 2021 Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival scheduled for mid-July 2021.

The festival will be made up of three separate streams:

The Writing Week is an intensive five-day online workshop scheduled for July 12-16.  It is geared to writers who have a manuscript or piece of writing well underway.  It will be led by Vancouver novelist and short story author, Caroline Adderson.  This is the fourth year Caroline has organized this popular program.  It has received enthusiastic reviews from participants who appreciated the small class size and constructive feedback from both Caroline and fellow participants.  This is a wonderful opportunity to hone writing skills in a supportive setting.  Class size is limited to eight participants and registration opens May 1 through the Festival website.  Participants will be required to submit their manuscripts in advance and their work will be shared with other participants. 

From July 16 to 18, five BC authors will host the Writers Workshop series.  Each of these online events will involve readings, writing exercises and conversations about a wide range of contemporary challenges and story line opportunities for emerging writers.  Workshop leaders are an eclectic and intriguing mix.  Shaena Lambert will use her most recent novel Petra to discuss Engaged Fiction and Memoir in this Climate.  Joseph Dandurand will include readings from his body of work to explore Indigenous Storytelling.  Award winning author/historian Wendy Wickwire (At the Bridge:  James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging) will offer BC History on the Page.  Kevin Chong’s prescient The Plague will be the centrepiece for his workshop on Pandemic Fiction.  Vancouver-based educator, activist, community organizer and spoken word poet Jillian Christmas will lead Spoken Word Workshop.






Additional information is on the website and registration for all workshops will be available from May 1st.

“The Denman community is so ready to begin a new post-covid chapter,” says Stewart Goodings, festival co-chair.  “And that is why the third event, Turning the Page, is exciting.”  The evenings of July 17/18 will celebrate Denman writing talent in all its forms:  written, work, spoken, and musical.  Festival organizers are working with our local writers group to consider proposals from local writers.  We plan to feature an interesting and varied line-up of uniquely Denman entertainment.  (This is a local event and subject to public health regulations.)

Gail Dugas
April 2021

New Books by Former Denman Festival Authors, Part 2

Following the article below, I’d now like to highlight the following six male authors who have successfully continued their very fine literary careers since participating in the Denman Festival:  Jordan Abel, Michael Crummey, Charles Demers, Terry Fallis, Steven Price and Chris Turner.  


Jordan Abel joined us four years ago with his unique visual and dramatic presentation style, and writing rooted in his Nishga’a heritage.  His star rose higher in 2017 when his long form poem Injun won the 2018 Griffin Prize.  The target of Injun was racism and the representation of Indigenous peoples, and he employed techniques of erasure and pastiche using texts found in western novels published between 1840 and 1950.  He now teaches creative writing and Indigenous literature at the University of Alberta.




Michael Crummey came to the Festival in 2015 and entranced audiences with his warmth, Newfoundland humour, and hi evocative readings of excerpts from his novel Sweetland.  Last year, his newest novel, short-listed for the Giller, The Innocents, also set in his home province, weaves the story of two orphans, a brother and sister, whose growing up years in a remote fishing cove are tenderly and movingly portrayed.




Charles Demers was on the island in 2016.  Famed as a stand up comedian and regular on CBC’s ‘The Debaters’, Charlie wowed us with his book The Horrors:  An A to Z of Funny Thoughts on Awful Things.  Since then, he has co-authored with another former Denman Festival author, George Bowering, a highly entertaining treatise called The Dad Dialogues:  A Correspondence on Fatherhood (& the Universe), plus more recently, City on Edge:  A Rebellious Century of Vancouver Protests, Riots and Strikes, co-written with Kate Bird. 





Terry Fallis was a popular presenter back in 2013.  That year he read from Up and Down, a rollicking romp about Canada/USA space competition, NASA intrigue and PR hijinks.  Since then, the prolific Ontario writer has written three other novels, No Relation, One Brother Shy, and the latest, 2019’s Albatross which once again features his comic touch, likeable characters, and positive spin on life’s challenges.  Hint for potential readers:  golfers, librarians and teachers will especially enjoy this novel.  Terry also recently mentioned the Denman virtual mini-fest on his Facebook account, saying “I have fond memories of this beautiful island and festival”.  



Steven Price was on Denman in 2013 reading from his first novel, Into That Darkness about the impact of an earthquake in Victoria.  Also renowned as a poet and UVic writing teacher, Steven has published two highly acclaimed novels since then, By Gaslight, set in the 1885 underworld of Victorian London and featuring the American detective William Pinkerton, and more recently, Lampedusa which was shortlisted for the 2019 Giller Prize, and is a novel about a man writing a novel, or as one reviewer put it, “an unsparing and tender portrait” of Guiseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa who wrote the famous Italian novel about class and society in Sicily, The Leopard.



Chris Turner gained a reputation as an investigative reporter about the oil and gas industries, and was here in 2014 reading from his stirring book The War on Science about the attempts of certain federal politicians to silence its science critics.  In 2017 he produced another powerful critique called The Patch:  The People, Pipeline and Politics of the Oilsands which focuses on Fort McMurray as the centre of the collision of two worldviews – industrial triumph and environmental stewardship – and poses the question, “in order to fuel the world, and to save it, what do we do about the Patch?”


Stewart Goodings
October 2020

New Books by Former Denman Festival Authors, Part 1

For many former Denman Readers and Writers Festival loyal fans, there’s a temptation to regard authors who have come to the festivals over the years as “our” authors.  We seem to have a kind of proprietorial attitude towards folks we’ve shared meals with in the Back Hall, who have stayed in our homes, or have given workshops to small groups of us.  Call them part of the extended Denman literary family, if you like.

So, I was thinking recently about some of the wonderful writers who’ve been at the Festival since I started attending the event about 12 years ago.  When they were here, of course, they read from books they’d recently published.  But since then, most of them have written new books.  Here’s an update on six marvellous women authors whose new books are definitely worth the attention of Festival website readers.


Pauline Holdstock came to Denman in 2014, reading from her historical novel Into the Heart of the Country, set in Churchill, Manitoba back in the 19th century.  Her most recent book is Here I Am!, told from the point of view of a 6 year old boy whose mother dies suddenly, after which he stows aboard a trans-Atlantic liner in the hope of finding his father.  Adventures follow.  The boy is smart, observant and perhaps a bit autistic.  I’m always impressed when writers can switch from one type of genre to another, and Holdstock creates wonderful dialogue and plot situations in this new novel.



Caroline Adderson was also at the 2014 Festival, reading from her novel Ellen in Pieces.  For the last four years Caroline has been leading the intensive five-day Writing Week, with the most recent one in July being offered virtually.  Her latest novel, A Russian Sister, was published in August and takes a creative look at the family and loves of the Russian writer Anton Chekov.  Viewers of the Denman virtual mini-fest can see Caroline describe her research before writing this novel, and can hear her read excerpts from this dazzling new work of fiction.



Aislinn Hunter was part of our line-up in 2015, when she shared with our audience her novel The World Before Us.  Her latest is called The Certainties and describes the entwined fates of two very different types of refugees – those fleeing Nazi persecution in 1940 and those forced by different circumstances 40 years later ….. with the inevitable connections between the characters from the two eras.  I’m reading it now and find it a powerful combination of historical and speculative fiction.



Marina Endicott joined us in 2018 with her whimsical novel, Close to Hugh.  Her most recent book, out a year ago, is The Difference, an historical novel from early in the 20th century, featuring a Nova Scotian merchant ship on a voyage to the South Pacific.  The two main characters, Kay and Thea are half-sisters who find themselves exploring differences related to class, age, culture and ethnicity.  It’s rather an old-fashioned (and that’s a compliment!) adventure story with fascinating characters.



Emily St John Mandel is, in fact, one of Denman’s ‘own’, having grown up on this island.  She’s been to the Festival twice, first in 2010, and more recently in 2018 with her international best seller, Station Eleven.  In 2019, she brought out another novel with direct relevance to the real world, The Glass Hotel, a contemporary story inspired by the 2008 Bernie Madoff ponzi scandal and featuring characters and settings that will be eerily familiar to BC residents.



Esi Edugyan came to national attention with her break-out novel Half Blood Blues about the same time she came to Denman in 2013.  Then in 2018, she won the Giller for her masterful Washington Black, the saga of a young man who escaped from slavery in the Caribbean and who went on to a series of adventures around the world.  Another book I read virtually without stopping!



I am confident that former Festival attendees will be inspired by reading these six new works by authors who undoubtedly were themselves inspired by being on Denman.  Maybe it’s immodest to say, but I think we can take a small amount of credit as well as pride as we continue to follow the literary careers of these outstanding writers.

And next month, in the interest of gender balance, I will write something similar with six male authors who have written new books since coming to the Denman Festival.

Stewart Goodings
August 2020

Another Victim of the Virus

With considerable regret, the festival organizers have decided to cancel the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival, scheduled for July 16-19.  With the public health officials advising everyone to avoid unnecessary travel and large gatherings, and the uncertainty about when there may be some easing of these restrictions, we felt we had no choice but to cancel.

As regular festival attendees know, it takes a year-round effort to put together our annual festival.  As soon as one festival ends, we start planning the next one – finding authors, recruiting volunteers, arranging billets, organizing meals, raising funds, scheduling the festival program events, and all the other myriad tasks this event requires.

To come this far, with what we felt was a great line-up of authors, well, it is a bitter disappointment for us to stop.  But clearly it is the responsible thing to do.  The health and safety of our audiences as well as the authors is paramount, and with so much risk involved, we decided cancellation was the only option.

However, please keep reading!  It is possible that some elements of the festival may still be offered.  It is too early to be definitive about this, but we are looking into a couple of possibilities:  a virtual mini-festival showcasing short video presentations by this year’s authors to be added to our website, and continuing to offer Caroline Adderson’s Writing Week, but as an online five-day workshop.  Keep checking the website for up to date information about these possibilities.

We will keep working and hope to come back in style in July 2021!

Stewart Goodings
April 25, 2020


Michael Christie returns to Festival

At our 2016 Festival, Michael Christie was a young up and coming novelist who read from his second novel If I Fall, If I Die …… a moving narrative about a young boy seeking independence in a household led by an agoraphobic mother.  Michael’s eloquence and spirit in both solo and panel presentations were a highlight of that year’s event. 

In 2020, Michael is now a well-established and renowned author, with an international bestseller to his name.  Greenwood is a multi-character novel with a strong environmental focus.  It tells the story of several members of the Greenwood family, starting in the future (2038), wending backwards to 1908, and then moving forward in decades-long leaps to the future, encompassing a lumber baron, a set of twins with different values, renegade mothers and daughters, and an incident of family origin that infuses the entire story with mystery and longing.  Trees play a major part in the book, and Christie brings their personalities and quirks into every chapter. Westcoasters will have a strong affinity for this story, and Michael is a great storyteller, both in words and in person.

Christie and his wife Cedar, also a writer, and their two children split their time between Galiano Island and Victoria.  They remember their time on Denman with affection.  When he was invited last month to our 2020 Festival, he responded almost immediately saying, “I’m thrilled to come back and share this book with your fabulous community.”

Other authors, as they confirm, will be added to our line-up …. check our website regularly.  Registration opens May 1st.

Stewart Goodings
February 2020

A Sneak Preview of Festival 2020

Only six more months until Denman hosts the 18th Readers and Writers Festival!

Our organizing committee has been hard at work lining up authors, and we are now halfway to having a complete list of invited literary guests.  Here’s where we stand in mid-January.


For regular listeners of CBC Radio’s White Coat, Black Art, Dr. Brian Goldman is a source of wise medical information and advice, and this July, festival-goers will be able to meet him in person.  An emergency room physician in Toronto, and author of The Power of Kindness, Goldman brings a wealth of knowledge about health policy as well as practical experiences on the front lines of medicine.


Libby Davies Canadian Author


Another intriguing non-fiction writer is Libby Davies, former long-time NDP Member of Parliament from Vancouver and a social activist since the 70s.  She’s retired now from politics but has written a memoir Outside In about her life as a politician.  Her leadership in the political arena as well as her commitment to social justice are qualities we feel sure will resonate with her audience.




A third non-fiction author will be Kate Harris.  Her book Land of Lost Borders recounts a harrowing and incident-filled 10,000 kms bicycle trip across the rooftops of Asia, following the ancient Silk Road.  Harris is a former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, now living off the grid in northern BC near the Yukon border.




Peggy Herring Canadian AuthorOur fiction category is represented so far by Peggy Herring, from Victoria.  Former radio and TV journalist, and international development worker in Asia, Herring has written two novels, the latest is Anna, With Thunder, an historical novel about a young Russian woman, shipwrecked in the early 1800s, along with a crew of fellow Russians off the coast of Oregon.  Living with Indigenous people on the Olympic Peninsula, Anna encounters both friendship and danger.  Several of us on the committee have read the book and were impressed by the language, setting, and depictions of interactions between Anna and her hosts.


Tetsuro Shigematsu Canadian Author


Denman’s festival audiences always enjoy authors who are also ‘performance artists’, and we are lucky this coming July that Tetsuro Shigematsu has accepted our invitation.  He is a playwright, broadcaster, comedian, and film-maker from Vancouver.  His publications are Empire of the Sun and 1 Hour Photo, which was short-listed this year for the Governor General’s Award for English Drama.


Stay tuned for the rest of our 2020 line-up, as well as more news about our annual summer literary weekend.

Stewart Goodings
January 2019


New Books

Here is a literary question for Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival-goers ….. what do all the following writers have in common? ……..   Terry Fallis, Angie Abdou, Michael Crummey, Pauline Holdstock, Steven Price, Anakana Schofield, Michael Christie, Marina Endicott, and Esi Edugyan …… the easy answer is that they are all award-winning Canadian authors.  All of them have also had new books published within the last year or so.  And finally, regular festival-goers may also recognize that they have ALL been to our island in recent years!

Is it fanciful to think their brief stays on our island and their interaction with our congenial hosts has stimulated them to further literary output?  Yes, it probably is patting ourselves on the back a bit too much.  Nevertheless, we can take pride in the fact that authors we have chosen and welcomed to Denman have continued their brilliant writing.  Here are brief notes on each of their new books, in alphabetical order:


Angie Abdou from BC’s interior, has a new memoir called Home Ice which is funny, candid and written in her trademark honest and reader-friendly style.  She describes the challenges of being the parent of a hockey-mad son, and the impact this has on her as a mother, individual, and partner.  



Michael Christie is a young writer from Galiano Island who charmed Denman audiences a few years ago with his novel If I Fall, If I Die.  Now he has published a blockbuster family saga called Greenwood which portrays various members of a diverse family in BC over a 130-year period, from 1908 to 2038.  Trees play a major role in the narrative.  A compelling read.



Michael Crummey was a favourite of our festival with his novel Sweetland.  Now he’s back on literary award lists (the Giller and Rogers Writers Trust) with The Innocents, a story of a brother and sister orphaned in an isolated cove on Newfoundland’s northern coast; challenges and hardships abound as they grow up.



Esi Edugyan from Victoria is well known to local book lovers, and last year won the Giller for her novel  Washington Black, a superb rendition of the life and times of a boy born into slavery but determined to escape the restrictions placed on him in 19th century North America.



Marina Endicott came to Denman last year with her novel Dear Hugh but gave us a glimpse of the novel she was then finishing, which has now emerged as The Difference.  Set in 1912, it tells of the voyage of a young woman to the South Seas, and the impact of a decision by her family to ‘buy’ a young native boy en route.




Terry Fallis, from Toronto, regaled Denman a few years ago with his humorous style of writing and presenting, and has written 3 novels since he came to our island.  His latest is Albatross, which describes the difficulty of being very successful early in a field (golf) his protagonist really doesn’t like, and how the transition is made to something he really wants to do (writing).  A fun read.




Pauline Holdstock came from Victoria to intrigue us with a novel about the interaction between Indigenous peoples and early settlers.  Her latest novel Here I Am! is completely different – a tale of a 6-year old boy, told in his inimitable voice, of how he discovers his mother dead in her armchair, and his decision to stowaway on a ship in order to find his father.  I loved the humour and how the young lad shows up many adults in his encounters with them.



Steven Price is both a poet and novelist from Victoria, and his latest book, Lampedusa, demonstrates his poetic writing style and deep research.  The novel is based on the life of the Italian writer Giuseppe Tomasi (The Leopard), and has been short-listed for the 2019 Giller Prize.  



Anakana Schofield came to Denman with her debut novel Malarky.  Her latest is Binathe story of a straightforward Irish woman who has come under suspicion for a crime so serious she cannot even talk about it.  Anakana has a unique and compelling voice, and this new book will add to her ever-growing reputation.


This is only a partial list of new books by authors who have graced the stages of the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival.  Stay tuned for news soon of some of the writers we expect to welcome to Denman in 2020.

Stewart Goodings
November 2019


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.

Return of the Wolf — sub page

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


Workshops at the Readers & Writers Festival

This year the Readers & Writers Festival offers four dynamite workshops for those who want a little extra excitement in their lives!  Workshops have a maximum of 10 participants and last 3 hours, so they enable personal contact with an author not possible in a Solo Reading or Main Stage session.

Whether it’s hot fiction tips from Heather O’Neill, insight into research and non-fiction writing from Andrew MacLeod, hands-on work writing a play with Dante Ambriel, or immersion in the world of poetry with Billeh Nickerson, our workshops are sure to give participants truly memorable experiences.

Heather O’Neill writes some of Canada’s most delicious prose, replete with imaginative metaphors, intriguing plots, and unusual settings.  The characters in her books stay with the readers.  Here is how Heather describes her workshop, entitled Moments of Grace:  “Together we will explore how to create and stage the transcendent moments that make literary fiction magical.”

Andrew MacLeod writes crisp, behind the scenes stories about real life issues – grinding poverty, inequality in the midst of plenty, health care woes and successes – and his work has confronted politicians and bureaucrats.  This is what he expects to focus on in his Just the Facts workshop:  “Take your non-fiction toolbox to the next level.  Topics may include interview techniques, research skills, and using freedom of information laws to find out what you need to know.  Once you have the facts, it’s up to you what to do with them.”

Denman’s own Dante Ambriel has written and directed plays and is a full member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada.  Those who have seen her work at the Stardust Festival and at the Community Hall will definitely want to attend her workshop, called Creative Playwriting.  This is how she sees the three hours:  “We will explore the five elements of a great play, and consider pacing and timing.  At the end of three hours, each participant will have completed what is called a ‘Treatment’ for their play.”

Billeh Nickerson’s poetry combines acute observation of the world around him with a wry sense of humour.  As a writer and educator at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, he calls his workshop The Poetry of Place and throws out this challenge to his workshop participants:  “How writers can develop the good, the bad, the ugly and the snuggly of place in their work.  This class will feature writing exercises, group discussion and other explorations.  Participants need not be poets.”


The Ambriel, MacLeod and Nickerson workshops will all be held on Thursday, July 18th, and the O’Neill one (only 3 slots left) will be on Saturday, July 20th. The fee for each workshop is $70.  Don’t delay in signing up for one or more of these sessions.  Click here for full details of these four workshops.     Half-day Workshops

Stewart Goodings
May 2019

Jack Knox

Jack Knox is an award-losing columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. Since joining the Times Colonist in 1988, Jack has worked as a copy editor, city editor, editorial writer and editorial page editor. Prior to that he was an editor and reporter at newspapers in Campbell River, Regina and Kamloops. As a journalist he has debated policy with the prime minister, sat down with a succession of premiers and interviewed a murderer in his cell. He liked the murderer. Career highlights include being blasted with blowhole spray by Luna the whale (it tasted like fish), interviewing a porn movie star in the nude (her, not him) and getting a phone call from Barack Obama four days before he (Obama, not Jack) was elected president.

His latest book is a collection of  “most memorable, heart-warming, inspiring, and off-beat human-interest stories.  Stories of  ordinary and extraordinary people who you’ve probably never heard of – they’re the ones I stumbled upon in a career spent poking my nose around Vancouver Island.”

Writers — the Denman Readers & Writers Festival Wants You!!!

Words matter.  So do titles ….

We are the “Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival”.  I’ve looked at the names of similar book-related events across the country, and no other festival has this combination of “readers and writers” in the title.  There’s only one – the Medway Readers Festival in Nova Scotia which has the word ‘readers’ in its title.

I think our name is significant – – Denman brings readers and writers together, and when we use the term ‘writers’, we mean the invited authors, local authors, AND festival attendees who enjoy writing themselves, who do write, or who would like to write.  As for readers, if we didn’t have readers, we wouldn’t have writers, so they are critical to our festival.

Readers and Writers Festival 2019 has two specific offerings aimed at aspiring writers.

First there is The Writing Week, led by Vancouver novelist and short story author, Caroline Adderson.  This will be Caroline’s third year in a row with us, and last year she earned rave reviews from her class of apprentice writers.  This program is intensive:  five days (July 15-19) of sharing manuscripts, reviewing others’ work, and receiving tips and feedback from Caroline.  It’s for people who have a manuscript, or a piece of writing well underway, and are committed to the exhilarating and challenging tasks of rewriting, and honing their craft.  Submissions are sent to Caroline in advance for her to review and then will be shared with the other workshop participants.  Taking the advice of last year’s Writing Week participants, this year the program will be open to only 8 people (5 spots are already taken).  This is an exciting opportunity to get high quality and constructive feedback on your writing.

The second writing program is the Blue Pencil Café, in which writers submit up to 4 pages of a revised and polished piece of writing for written commentary, followed by a 45 minute personal consultation on either the Friday or Saturday during the Festival.  Less intensive than The Writing Week, this is still a great chance to get valuable feedback from an accomplished writing coach, Jeanette Taylor from Quadra Island.  She has four books in print with Harbour Publishing and teaches fiction and nonfiction classes designed to help writers build on their strengths and develop new skills.  Only 8 slots will be available for the Blue Pencil Café. (3 of 4 slots on Saturday are already taken)

Full registration details of these two programs are on the festival website.

Stewart Goodings
May 7, 2019


Looking forward to having Darrel McLeod on Denman Island during the July Writers Festival.                 

Darrel J. McLeod is a Cree writer from treaty eight territory in Northern Alberta. His first book Mamaskatch is a memoir of his childhood, raised by his mother Bertha who is a residential school survivor.Mamaskatch won the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award for nonfiction.

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;  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, and Jack Knox, a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper.  As a journalist he has debated policy with prime ministers, sat down with a succession of premiers and interviewed a murderer in his cell.  He says “I liked the murderer”.

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