Denman Writers Fest turns 20
May 11th, 2023
By Howard Stewart
The Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival is on again this year, from Friday July 21 to Sunday July 23 (plus a writing week workshop from July 17 to 21). Launched twenty years ago by the Denman Island Community School, the festival has stayed small but keeps getting better. In the bucolic splendour of downtown Denman, audiences will once again be able to interact with some of BC’s and Canada’s most talented and thought-provoking writers. The festival will include the usual mix of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Each invited writer appears in solo sessions where they read from their work and answer questions from the audience. In addition, writers will participate in lively moderated ‘Mainstage’ dialogues with each other. Festival audiences can also take advantage of a handful of stimulating writing workshops and a steady stream of delicious refreshments.
This year’s cast of talent comprises eight outstanding BC writers and two from the world beyond, including the two most recent winners of the Scotiabank Giller Prize for fiction, Suzette Mayr (2022, The Sleeping Car Porter) and Omar El Akkad (2021, What Strange Paradise).
At our Saturday night Mainstage event, Seth Klein, pictured above right (A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency) and Britt Wray (Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Change) will come together to consider the deepening climate crisis and the ways we are responding to it, or ought to be.
Angie Abdou will once again facilitate our popular five-day intensive Writing Week (limited to eight writers) as well as moderating Friday evening’s Mainstage event where Suzette Mayr, Ruth Ozeki (The Book of Form and Emptiness), and Susan Lundy (Home on the Strange: Chronicles of Motherhood, Mayhem, and Matters of the Heart) will discuss the craft of writing and the lives of writers.
Griffin Poetry Prize winner Tolu Oloruntoba (The Junta of Happenstance; Each One a Furnace) is sure to inspire with his solo reading session and a Poetry Forest Walk in Fillongley Park. Tolu will also join in Sunday morning’s Mainstage event. Moderated by Denman’s own renowned writer, Des Kennedy, this will bring together Oloruntoba, Omar El Akkad, and Tsering Yangzom Lama (We Measure the Earth With Our Bodies) to examine the issues of displacement and migration, about which all three have emerged as powerful voices.
Our festivals always address issues of Indigenous dispossession and the reconciliation imperative. This year, Metis lawyer Bruce McIvor (Standoff: Why Reconciliation Fails Indigenous People and How to Fix It) will open our Sunday morning session with his cogent analysis of the reconciliation puzzle and ways it might be solved.
Festival audiences savour humour too, and Saltspring Island’s Susan Lundy will oblige in a solo session focused on her recent memoir, Home on the Strange.
Our four half-day workshops will include Tolu Oloruntoba’s forest walk, as well as workshops on fiction writing with Tsering Yangzom Lama, on writing for magazines with Susan Lundy, and on self-publishing with Denman’s own JP McLean. To ensure maximum benefit for attendees, each workshop is limited to ten participants.
As in the past, great meals will be served in the Back Hall. Other mouth-watering downtown meal options are on offer at the Guesthouse, Abraxas Cafe, Take out Near You, and the Falafel Stand. Extraordinary local musicians Kevin Mitchell and Randy Duncan will serenade Friday and Saturday afternoon Happy Hours. The Saturday evening Mainstage event (Seth Klein and Britt Wray) will be introduced by music with an environmental theme from the Jenny Lester Trio, featuring Jenny, and Denman’s own Ty McGillivray and Mark Kimmins.
TICKETS FOR ALL FESTIVAL EVENTS – SOLO SESSIONS, MAINSTAGE EVENTS, WORKSHOPS, and MEALS – WILL BE AVAILABLE ON THE WEBSITE 15 MAY: WWW.DENMANISLANDWRITERSFESTIVAL.COM