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Readings on the River…. a writer’s festival

It is not often that the best and brightest assemble in the Thousand Islands – but this year they are coming to the River for the 2010 Thousand Islands Writers Festival. The Festival is held annually in downtown Brockville, Ontario “to celebrate the power of the written word”. Quite simply it brings readers and authors together to share great writing.

The 2010 festival takes place on Friday October 15th and Saturday October 16th with four separate events featuring readings and discussions with nine extraordinary writers. Both fiction and non-fiction authors are included, as well as a children’s author for our younger readers.

The festival kicks off Friday afternoon at 2:00 at Brockville’s First Presbyterian Church with a reading by Roy MacSkimming and Charlotte Gray. Tickets are $15 and include refreshments. This exciting event will provide a unique look at historical writing from both the fiction and non-fiction perspective.

A former editor and publisher, Roy MacSkimming has written three non-fiction works (including The Perilous Trade, a history of Canadian publishing, which was one of The Globe & Mail’s 100 Notable Books in 2003) and three works of fiction, including his most recent, the critically acclaimed Macdonald. His next novel, Laurier In Love, will be released in the fall of 2010, in time for the Festival.

Charlotte Gray, one of Canada’s best known authors, is an accomplished biographer and historian. Her works, from her first book, Sisters in the Wilderness, The Lives of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill to her most recent Reluctant Genius, the Passionate Life and Inventive Mind of Alexander Graham Bell have all been best sellers.

Gold Diggers: Striking it Rich in the Yukon to be released in September is a lively and engaging retelling of the story of the 1890’s Yukon Gold Rush. The story follows six real life stampeders and their experiences in the north. For our friends south of the river, who may be thinking they have little connection to this slice of Canadian history, it should be noted that half of the “gold diggers” were American and one of the storylines followed is that of iconic American writer, Jack London.

The Festival continues Friday evening at 7:00, again at First Presbyterian Church, with a trio of “Ladies-In-Writing”. Once again the cost is $15 including refreshments.

Tish Cohen is the author of Globe & Mail bestsellers Town House and Inside Out Girl. Both are in development as feature films, with the movie rights for Town House being purchased before Cohen had even found a publisher for the book. It was also a regional finalist for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book. In a rave review for her latest best seller The Truth about Delilah Blue, the Globe & Mail compared her to Jodi Picoult (author of the runaway bestseller My Sister’s Keeper, amongst others).

Our second author is Elizabeth Kelly, an award-winning journalist. Her first novel Apologize, Apologize! about the dysfunctional Flanagan family, has been described as, “… a rollicking story packed with characters that are a delight to get to know, and are impossible to forget and “Dostoevsky on laughing gas”. Knopf Canada chose Kelly’s novel for its 2009 New Face of Fiction program, devoted to bringing “spectacular first-time Canadian writers” to readers.


The evening is capped off with a presentation by Giller nominee Alissa York. Her first two novels, Mercy and Effigy met with critical acclaim, with Effigy nominated for the 2007 Giller Prize. Her latest offering, Fauna, was chosen by the National Post as the summer selection for their national book club and described by one reviewer as “… the sort of rare novel that can change the way you see your world … beautiful, unusual and memorable”.

The Festival changes venues on Saturday starting with a presentation at the Brockville Public Library (10:00 a.m.) by children’s author Sarah Perry. Her Clara Reid series and the stand-alone Viola’s Violin have been enthusiastically received by junior/intermediate readers. She also writes children’s picture books for younger readers including the recently released The Tale of the Very Tall Tree. Tickets are $5 per child or $10 per family.

Saturday afternoon at 2:00 Murder at the Courthouse convenes at Brockville’s historic Courthouse. The event celebrates the diversity of the mystery novel with three acclaimed Canadian mystery writers presenting their works. Their novels are set in downtown Toronto, the Quebec wilderness and Upper Canada in the days following the 1837 Mackenzie Rebellion.

The afternoon begins with novelist, storyteller, playwright and performer Janet Kellough. Her historical mystery On The Head Of A Pin is set in Eastern Ontario at the time of the Battle of the Windmill. A National Post “New and Notable Fiction” review had high praise for the novel, “Kellough does a fine job of bringing life to the times and her ministerial hero on horseback-Buy it.”

Up next is John Moss. His Quin and Morgan mystery series includes the novels Still Waters and Grave Doubts. Set in present day Toronto the series features homicide detectives Miranda Quin and David Morgan. Moss’s wonderfully witty dialogue between Quin and Morgan has drawn comparisons to Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man duo of Nick and Nora Charles. High praise indeed!


The last presenter of the Festival is R.J. Harlick, author of the Meg Harris mystery series set in the aforementioned Quebec wilderness. The latest book in the series, Arctic Blue Death, which is set in the Canadian Arctic, is shortlisted for the 2010 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime novel. Reviews called it “the first must-read for 2010” and “the kind of story Dick Francis liked to tell.”

Words and Wine II ends the Festival and offers a chance to enjoy wine and cheese and mingle with authors and audience. Tickets for the reading and Words and Wine are $20.

Tickets are available at Leeds County Books in downtown Brockville and the Brockville Public Library. If you’d like more information go to The site includes the lineup, directions to the venues, pictures and videos from last year’s festival, and much more. Go to FAQs for information on how you can obtain tickets if you live outside Brockville.

By Russ Disotell

Russ Disotell is the author of Brockville: The River City. Prior to entering the field of freelance writing he enjoyed a long career in the retail wine trade.  His book is still available in local book stores and is a must for your island bookshelf. 

Editor’s Note:  This Festival is one of the most important in Ontario and having it so close to the home makes it a “Must Event” for the end of the season.  Do take advantage of the venue and the expertise.

Posted in: Event
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Doreen Barnes
Comment by: Doreen Barnes ( )
Left at: 10:11 AM Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Excellent article and a very good line-up.