Dr. Brian Goldman (Photo, Christopher Wahl)

Campbell River literary festival again features top authors, newcomers

Dr. Brian Goldman will be among the writers at Words on the Water this March

A well-known doctor and CBC personality, a philosopher musing on romantic love and the current Haig-Brown House writer-in-residence – those are just a few of the writers sharing their work at this year’s Words on the Water Festival.

The annual literary festival takes place again at Campbell River’s Maritime Heritage Centre on March 15 and 16.

“We’re very excited about this year’s lineup,” says Paul Murphy, president of organizing committee. “What we try to do is have a mix of established authors and then people who are up-and-comers.”

One of the notables is Dr. Brian Goldman, perhaps best known for his radio show, White Coat, Black Art.

“We felt that Brian Goldman is a name a lot of our audience will know because of his show on CBC,” says Murphy.

Goldman has written several books, most recently The Power of Kindness, in which he, as a physician, goes looking for his own lost compassion.

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Also featured is UBC philosophy professor Carrie Jenkins, who’s written about her theory that reconciles the humanistic and scientific components of romantic love in her book, What Is Love.

Also on the bill is current Haig-Brown writer-in-residence Terry Jordan, who’s written award-winning fiction and drama.

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Others include Giller finalist Alix Ohlin, author of Inside, and Monique Gray-Smith, an award-winning, best-selling author and sought-after consultant. Her first novel, Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience, won the 2014 Burt Award for First Nation, Métis and Inuit Literature. Newspaper columnist and author Jack Knox is also coming for the festival.

“He’s got some Campbell River connections and written about living on the Island,” says Murphy.

The festival likes to mix established authors with new voices, which this year includes Ahmed Danny Ramadan and Lindsay Wong.

On the Friday, the writers pair off to interview each other on the stage for the event featuring everyone.

“It’s probably the most popular part of the festival,” Murphy says. “It’s always sold out.”

He says it’s great introduction for first-timers at festival, who use it as a way to pick and choose what to see the following day.

On the Saturday, there are four sessions through the day, each with two authors, and that night each writer gets about 10 to 15 minutes to do something fun, unique or interesting. It might be something new they’re working on or about something that has inspired them.

“It’s meant to be a little bit of a celebration,” Murphy says.

Also this year, local John Elson is back as MC after a few years away. Murphy says Elson can be as much of a draw as some of the writers.

“He’s super well-prepared, he’s funny,” he says.

If you’re new to Words on the Water, Murphy emphasizes the event is not intended exclusively for writers but rather for all those who love reading.

The event will have appetizers for the evening events, lunch during the day on Saturday and other refreshments throughout the weekend, so Murphy encourages people to get the weekend pass.

There will also be live music at the evening events.

“You get a lot of bang for your buck out of the pass,” he said.

Over the years, the festival has featured such top writers as Richard Wagamese, Ivan Coyote, John Vaillant, Gabor Mate, Susan Musgrave, Rawi Hage, Bev Sellars, Ruth Ozeki and Wayne Johnston, who told Murphy that “pound for pound” it is one of the top three literary festivals in the country. Murphy is pleased with the response they get from the writers.

“This is their job. We want to make them feel valued, and I think a big part of that is our audience,” he says. “We have a terrific audience that sells the place out…. Our festival gets a ton of community support too.”

Coho Books is the official bookseller and sells tickets for the festival.

Advance tickets can also be purchased at the festival website.


Some authors have said “pound for pound” Words on the Water is one of the top literary festivals in the country.