Heather O’Neill’s debut novel, Lullabies foir Little Criminals, won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for fiction and was shorlisted for nine major awards, including the 2007 edition of Canada Reads. She’ll be one of eight featured authors at this year’s Words on the Water festival at the Maritime Heritage Centre.

Campbell River’s Words on the Water Writers’ Festival bringing eight award-winning writers who will move you

Annual Festival runs March 16-17 at the Maritime Heritage Centre

Early on in Kelowna author Alix Hawley’s novel All True Not A Lie In It, you realise you’re going to be travelling fast.

The novel’s subject, the American historical figure Daniel Boone, is restless and on the move, and Hawley’s writing runs with him. In a note at the beginning of the book, Hawley explains that the story is about Boone’s attempt to find paradise, and “what happened when he brought about its ruin.”

Alix Hawley will be one of the eight writers attending this year’s Words on the Water Writers’ Festival, March 16-17 at the Maritime Heritage Centre.

Seven other authors will be joining Hawley, including award-winning fiction and non-fiction writers, and a westcoast poet who explores the fallout from the Air India bombing, which affected her family directly.

If there’s one thing that unites these writers, it’s an ability to see injustice. The American poet Nikki Giovanni once noted that “Writers don’t write from experience … Writers write from empathy.” This is true of the festival writers, whether it’s Heather O’Neill’s wholehearted view into the lives of a pair of orphaned children from Montreal in her latest novel The Lonely Hearts Hotel, or Renee Saklikar giving voice to those lost in the Air India tragedy.

Equally, it’s Mark Leiren-Young writing about how the first captured orca, Moby Doll, completely turned human beliefs about “killer” whales upside down, and Bev Sellars dedicating herself to writing what has been left out of Canadian history, and showing how untrue assumptions about Aboriginal peoples continue to cause harm into the present.

Terry Glavin, meanwhile, has written widely on ecological and global issues, including a recent book on the struggle for peace in Afghanistan.

Joel Thomas Hynes and David Chariandy, two novelists from vastly different places in Canada (Newfoundland and Scarborough, Ontario), are both deliberate in depicting with care the people and places they come from. Hynes’ most recent novel, We’ll All Be Burnt In Our Beds Some Night, recently won the Governor General’s award for English fiction, while Chariandy’s novel Brother won the 2017 Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize.

Alix Hawley’s take on Daniel Boone, meanwhile, though it moves quickly, shows the ripples of suffering her subject’s restlessness creates.

The festival will also bring two of the authors into local schools in partnership with School District 72. On Friday, March 16, O’Neill and Hynes – who is also an actor (seen in Orphan Black and Republic of Doyle) – will present to Carihi and Timberline secondary school students.

Words on the Water will take place from March 16-17, 2018 at the Maritime Heritage Centre. The festival is put on by a volunteer committee with significant community support from sponsors including Grieg Seafood and Scotiabank, as well as the City of Campbell River. Tickets are available at Coho Books or online at www.wordsonthewater.ca. An early bird discount on weekend passes is available until March 1.

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Kelowna author Alix Hawley will be one of eight featured at this year’s Words on the Water festival, scheduled March 16-17 at the Maritime Heritage Centre.

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