Author and stand-up comedian Charles Demers

Words on the Water continues to draw loyal following

'It’s not something to miss. It’s always, always wonderful'

Words on the Water Writers’ Festival marks its 16th anniversary this year, once again bringing eight of Canada’s top writers to Campbell River for readings and great conversations in front of an audience of local readers, many of whom return year after year.

Carol Anderson of Campbell River, for example, has attended almost every festival since it began in 2001.

“It’s not something to miss. It’s always, always wonderful,” she says. “Listening to writers talk to each other – it’s like being in on this beautiful conversation.”

Marlene Baker has also only missed attending the festival a few times since it began and says it’s one of the highlights of her year, mainly because it’s a chance to connect with the authors on a more personal level than through their work.

“Certain writers grab you,” she says, pointing to past festival authors Ivan Coyote and Shane Koyczan as standouts. She recognized Koyczan from first seeing him perform at the opening ceremony for the 2010 Olympics and appreciated the chance to see him perform some other work, saying, “how fortunate Campbell River is to have these writers come here.”

The line-up for this year’s festival is again filled with award-winning authors, including Wayne Johnston, whose Giller Prize-nominated novels include The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and, more recently, The Son of a Certain Woman.

He is joined by Briony Penn, naturalist, writer and activist whose biography The Real Thing won the 2016 Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize, spoken word artist Jillian Christmas, a Vancouver-based poetry slam champion who is also co-director of Versus Festival of Words and John Donlan, a former Barbara Moon Editorial Fellow at Massey College who has authored four books of poetry and is the current Haig-Brown Writer in Residence.

Then there’s Charles Demers, an author and stand-up comedian who is a regular on CBC radio’s The Debaters and whose most recent book is a collaboration with George Bowering about fatherhood and Molly Peacock, poet, biographer and essayist whose biography The Paper Garden was selected as a book of the year by The Economist magazine.

The festival is a community-supported event put on by a committee of volunteers and funded through ticket sales, grants from all levels of government and support from corporate and community sponsors.

The festival also partners with School District 72 annually to invite one of the writers to present to the local high schools as part of its commitment to fostering an appreciation of literature. This year, Charles Demers will be presenting to students at Carihi and Timberline secondary schools on Friday, March 10.

Words on the Water runs March 10 and 11. Tickets are available at Coho Books, the Campbell River Art Gallery or online at An early bird discount on weekend passes is available until the end of February.