Some challenges of running a literary festival

Stewart Goodings

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.

March 2017