Ruth McMonagle has her hands full with some good reading from the authors participating in this year’s Words on the Water writing festival which opens tonight at the Maritime Heritage Centre.

Stately wit sets the stage for Campbell River writers festival

Words on the Water promises to deliver yet another fantastic selection of authors, including Canada’s poet laureate

“The doors shut, the tickets are sold and the audience sits in anticipation. The lights dim and emcee John Elson stands at the podium. His calm, sweet demeanor ensures that you know you’re in good hands and his stately wit sets the stage for a wonderful weekend.”

That would be this weekend, and the event? Campbell River’s annual Words on the Water festival, as described by one of the founders, Ruth McMonagle.

Now in its 13th year, Words on the Water promises to deliver yet another fantastic selection of authors, including Canada’s poet laureate – for just the second time in the festival’s history.

Poet laureate Fred Wah, along with seven other authors, will read from one of his poems and afterwards the audience will have the chance to discuss with the author and ask questions.

“Every year we try to bring a cultural mosaic that’s representative of the West Coast and these people are all quite well-known.”

This year’s selection of writers includes the poet laureate of Victoria – Janet Marie Rogers. Rogers, a powerful woman of First Nations descent, has been credited with increasing literacy and bringing words to the masses. Charlotte Gill, Campbell River’s writer in residence at Haig Brown House, will also do a reading at the festival.

Rounding out the roster of writers is: Rawi Hage, Matthew Hooton, JJ Lee, Anakana Schofield, and Madeleine Thien.

McMonagle said the group of authors is just a sample of the great writers that have emerged on our coast.

“We’re actually really fortunate to have a fantastic explosion of writing on the coast,” McMonagle said. “We’re enjoying the benefit of the huge surge of writing and the writing world reflects the real world around it.”

Which is exactly what Words on the Water celebrates and why McMonagle, along with husband Trevor, and a group of volunteers first established the festival.

“The goal is to present festivals of excellence and written arts,” McMonagle said. “The spin off effect in the community is to raise the community to a higher lever of literacy, which it has done in the 13 years we’ve been doing this. A new publishing company and writing groups have developed and many people in Campbell River have published books. It’s not just due to Words on the Water but it’s a spin off and we’re delighted to see that.”

McMonagle is also pleased with the dedication of the volunteers and members of the festival committee, many of whom stay involved with the festival long after they’ve left town. One of those people is Colin Gableman, former NDP MLA and attorney-general, who five years ago was on the festival committee for two years. He and his wife will be in attendance this weekend.

The festival, which takes place Friday night and all day Saturday, includes free coffee, snacks from Comfort Zone, and a lunch on Saturday which will be catered by the Dolphin’s Resort. Each writers session on Saturday will feature two author readings from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. A cabaret will wrap up the festival on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

Though the Friday night “Writers in Conversation” event is already sold out, tickets are still available for Saturday and are available at the door for $20 for each session. The festival takes place at the Maritime Heritage Centre. For more information, visit