On Top of the World (at Writers at Woody Point)

View of Bonne Bay from The Lookout, high up above the Discovery Centre in Gros Morne National Park.

Just back and resettled after the fabulous whirlwind that is always the Writers at Woody Point literary festival.

Before sunset in neighbouring Trout River.

Before sunset in neighbouring Trout River.

Nestled on the shores of Bonne Bay, within Gros Morne National Park — a UNESCO World Heritage Site, no less — Woody Point is a charming village 360 days of the year. But for five days, every August, it turns into an absolute fulcrum for writers, readers, and musicians from across the country.

Photo credit: Angela Antle

Photo credit: Angela Antle

I’ve been twice-blessed with an invitation to read at WaWP, and this year I shared the bill with a roster that included Miriam Toews, Steven Galloway, Lawrence Hill, Elizabeth Hay, Bruce Cockburn, and John K. Samson — plus my own husband, the poet George Murray (!!) Most nerve-inducing for fan-girl me: I got to share the stage with Margaret Atwood. (Pictured here: the opening act.)

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Photo taken by the poet himself.

Events are hosted by Canada’s First Lady of Books, Shelagh Rogers, CBC’s Angela Antle, and this year, special guest Ron MacLean stepped up to the podium  to give an all-star intro to Toews and Murray. The Hockey Night in Canada host was so sold on poetry that he bought the merch — here he is later that night, wearing one of Murray’s DIVERSION t-shirts.

Photo credit: Tom Cochrane

Photo credit: Tom Cochrane

Taking a break from the Saturday night party with Montrealer Shane Murphy and his band, official event photographer Tom Cochrane strolled down the road from the Legion to snag this photo of the northern lights (so dazzling that you might not notice the Perseids were also putting on a show.)

Which seems like a pretty solid capper to a great week. Unless you’re me, and you get to wake up to this Tweet from Margaret Atwood the next day: IMG_0709

In that case, the northern lights just kinda can’t compete.

Home again, home again.

I got back Friday night from a whirlwind eleven days of media, bookstores, readings, and speaking engagements. Ontario, you sure know how to show a girl a good time! Highlights include this chat with Marci Ien on Canada AM; reading and conversation at Words Worth Books and The Bookshelf, two of my favourite Ontario indie booksellers; Toronto reading series Pivot at the Press Club and Rowers Pub Reading Series; a house reading in Hamilton at LitLive; a conversation with the fabulous Gill Deacon at CBC Here and Now; and my first book club visit with The Devil You Know — with Port Dover’s Red Hot Bookies!

As any parent knows, you can go away any time you like…. but you can never leave. I got home and hit the ground running here, driving my teenaged daughter to social engagements and my son to babysitting gigs. I’m lucky to have a family that is so supportive — and who kept the house so clean!

I spent my last night away speaking to a packed house at a fundraiser for Project Bookmark Canada — one of my favourite literary organizations, Bookmark is run by my friend, the writer Miranda Hill. We had a long conversation about The Devil You Know and then the audience Q&A moved to wider issues about women’s safety, fear, and sexual violence. Toward the end of the evening, I was asked how I think we can best move forward — especially after last fall’s high profile revelations about celebrity sexual violence (I’m talking about Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby here) and campus sexual assault and harassment (at University of Virginia and Dalhousie University in Halifax, among others), as well as assault and coercion in the arts community (a great conversation was sparked by Emma Healey’s essay here in The Hairpin.) I’m not including all the links on purpose, because part of the issue is burnout. How do we take this information in, and move forward?

I don’t have all the answers. I’m a policy feminist, though — I think the answer lies in good legislation and specific policy changes. We need good laws that make it easier to help victims and easier to stop assault before it happens. Three days later, it’s International Women’s Day, and Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Provincial Government has launched a fabulous new 3-year plan to curb sexual violence. The 35-page action plan is funded to the tune of 41-million dollars and places the focus on helping victims, raising awareness, and encouraging bystanders to intervene. It also comes with an advertising blitz — starting with this video, tagged #WhoWillYouHelp. Take a minute to give it a watch — because if you’re not helping her, you’re helping him.

Thanks, Kathleen Wynne! And Happy International Women’s Day, everyone.

Interested in booking me as a speaker for your group? Send me a note here.