Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

Fifth Issue of Our Literary Journal Foment

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Explore Other Worlds This Fall

While genre fiction might seem like a means of escape, other worlds and the people who inhabit them can often teach us more about history, society and ourselves. Through science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction and re-tellings of history these six acclaimed authors show us how other worlds can help us shape our own.

Children of Earth and Sky with Guy Gavriel Kay
October 21 @ 6:30PM

Guy Gavriel Kay's novels have captured the imaginations of readers for decades. His latest novel, Children of the Earth and Sky takes place in a fictional world inspired by the conflicts and dramas inspired by Renaissance Europe. In a world where danger lurks on every side, the story follows the lives of several characters who set sail on the same ship and find their lives and fates entwined.

Paranormal Prose with Kelley Armstrong, Kristi Charish and Nathan Adler 
October 21 @ 8:30PM

Take a jaunt through the paranormal this month as with New York Times Bestselling author Kelley Armstrong, scientist turned fantasy writer Kristi Charish and Anishnaabe writer Nathan Adler. These three authors blend the real and everyday with the more that haunted feeling you just can seem to shake. In Armstrong’s latest book,  Betrayals, Olivia finder herself investigating the murder of street kids to find the truth and clear her friend's (and lover's) name. In T he Voodoo Killings Charish introduces readers to Kincaid Strange, whose partime gig running séances for university students soon turns into the investigation of a string of murders. Drawing on Indigenous storytelling and the windigo, Adler's novel tells the story of a hereditary monstrous disease  and secrets buried deep in bones and blood that the Church wants to keep secret.

M. G  Vassanji's Nostalgia
October 22 @ 8:30PM

Award winning Canadian author M. G. Vassanji is no stranger to new lands, real or fictional. But his new novel, Nostalgia takes on the dystopian genre in Brave-New-World-esque future set in Toronto. The rich live forever by erasing their memories and implanting new ones. A doctors who is attempting to help others keep their old memories from seeping into their new life suddenly discovers he has his  memories of a past life. But what do these memories mean? And what will he learn about himself?

Margaret Atwood's Hag-Seed

October 25 @ 6:30PM

Margaret Atwood is back with a new retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest in Hag-seed In her retelling, Felix, an Artistic Director of a theatre festival, plans what should be an unforgettable performance of The Tempest but when he is ousted from his position and sent into exile he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison. Atwood once again takes us into an exploration of the prison system where the prisoners as actors, in a theatrical plan to snare Felix's enemies. It’s magic! But will he succeed?

Inside the Scoop: A Review of Carol Daniels' Bearksin Diary

Though residential schools were one of the biggest systems that disconnected Indigenous people from their communities, there are many more systems and situation that fractured young Indigenous identities and cultural ties, such as the Sixties Scoop. In her debut novel Bearskin Diary, Carol Daniels applies journalistic storytelling to explore complexities young Indigenous Canadians face growing up away from their communities and their struggle to reconnect with their heritage.


Sandy was swooped out of the arms of her mother as a newborn in the Sixties Scoop and fortunate enough to be adopted by a Ukrainian family in a small Saskatchewan town. Despite her luck of finding a loving family Sandy’s childhood and youth is tainted by the racism of her community. These memories, scattered throughout the novel, do not spare the harsh reality of racism and are painful to relive for both Sandy and the reader. From childhood insults to being chased out of a school dance, her difference is distinctly tied to her skin colour, something she begins to resent, developing a heartbreaking habit of trying to scrub the colour from her skin.


In spite of this racism Sandy’s Baba encourages her learn about and draw strength from her hertiage through books about Indigenous culture and history in Canada. Through this education, Sandy develops an academic understanding of her roots. It is not until she pursues her career as a journalist in Regina and then Saskatoon and is tasked with and driven to put a spotlight on Indigenous stories that Sandy has real contact with the community she longs for.


Sandy’s desire to know her Indigenous culture is contrasted with that of her Metis lover, Blue Greyes - raised in the city by a single white mother. Like Sandy, he grew up apart from his Indigenous culture and strived for assimilation, but he never grew out of it. Sandy meets him as he is training to become a police officer, and though he thinks that he might be able to do some good as the only indigenous man on the force, Blue’s pursuit of a career in law enforcement is another way for him to blend-in, to command respect from white and Indigenous people alike. Sandy’s desire to belong to her community and Blue’s need to blend in is a wedge in their relationship.


Reading Bearskin Diary, I could not help but compare Sandy’s character and pursuit to understand her Indigenous culture to that of Agnes in Margot Kane’s acclaimed one-woman show Moonlodge (revived this year by the National Arts Centre’s ensemble member Paula-Jean Prudat). Agnes, like Sandy, was forcefully taken from her family and adopted. While her family situation was terser than Sandy’s both women set out to recover their heritage and find identity and belonging at the powwow.


In Moonlodge, Agnes’s road trip culminates in her attendance at a powwow where she is recognised as sister. For Sandy, the powwow is a stepping stone on her path to claiming her identity. It is at the powwow that she is welcomed into the community and realises her need to be a part of it. An outsider in many ways, she is invited to the powwow by her friend and cameraman, Kyle. Though a white man, Kyle was adopted by Amos as brother when he sought healing for his drinking and depression through Indigenous practices. Kyle’s adoption by the Indigenous community contrasts Sandy’s adoption as child and paints a fuller portrait of Indigenous culture and the quest for healing.


Sandy’s spiritual growth at the powwow supports her personal growth as a journalist. Welcomed into the community, Sandy finds the strength to help break the community’s silence around the sexual assault of young women, and breaks her career as a leading Indigenous woman journalist.


Bearskin Diary spares no details and explores the complexities of what it means to be torn from your community and the challenges of healing this wound. Though Sandy is the heroine, Daniels' journalistic storytelling style presents multiple perspectives, from the heroine to the criminal, from elder to agnostic, telling a broader story about life in Saskatchewan, and Canada as a whole.


Carol Daniels will part of our festival on April 14th, alongside Paul Lynch and Abdourahman A. Waberi and 


Keeping an Open Mind: Farzana Doctor’s All Inclusive

Often when a book sets out to explore the aftermath of historical events or acts of terror it tries to answer the “why.” Why did they do it? Why then? Why this way? But in exploring the 1984 Air India bombing in her new novel,  All Inclusive , Farzana Doctor takes a different approach.

At the heart of Doctor’s novel are the stories of Ameera and her father Azeez who are separated the day Azeez boards Air India flight 182 on his way home to India. The chapters switch back and forth between Ameera and Azeez’s perspective; two storylines which themselves are on a crash course.


Azeez’s first few chapters trace his last days with the living.Two days before the bombing he meets Nora and engages in his first and last sexual encounter, which results in Nora's conception. The next day Azeez is too nervous to call Nora before he gets on his plan and he leaves without giving her any way to reach him.

As Azeez settles into the plane and makes friends with other passengers there is fleeting moment of hope that this might not be that Air India plane, but there is no escaping history here. Instead of the flight ending Azeez’s story however, it is only the beginning. As Azeez’s body sinks into the sea, never to be found, his spirit remains tied to earth.


"It was liberating to write about the afterlife," says Doctor. "This is an arena which allows the imagination to roam because none of us have any idea what happens next. I blended Islamic ideas (we believe in angels and some of us believe that spirits of ancestors are with us long after they pass) but I found myself 'making up' the rest and enjoying the process."


The imagination of the afterlife is one of the highlights of the novel. Azeez is granted carte blanche and is able to see and hear everything as he tries to help his family overcome his death and carry on with their lives. Azeez, as a human, was still a boy. In spiritual limbo he grows wiser, more compassionate and supportive. Azeez’s living-self pales in comparison to the ghost he becomes.


Ameera contrasts her father in this perspective. Her character is so alive that she feels like a best friend. While her father takes a spiritual journey towards self-discovery, she engages in a sexual one.


Ameera has escaped from her life in Hamilton to work as a tour operator at a resort in Huatulco, Mexico. Here she finds her true sexual identity. Deciding that it is safer to sleep with resort guest who are couples, (they are more discreet) Ameera embraces the freedom that comes with being a unicorn. The only problem: she has to keep it secret or risk putting her job and a promotion in jeopardy.


Throughout the novel, two strong stories evolve: Azeez’s driven by spiritual fulfillment and Ameera’s by sexual desire. "These are two aspects of ourselves that humans find baffling," says Doctor. "With both, we might deny, undervalue, suppress, or not question our beliefs and values. The two characters are contrasting figures with these aspects; Ameera lacks spiritual development, but allows her sexuality to be expansive, while Azeez’s process requires him to grow spiritually, while remaining an (almost) virgin."


Slowly, Azeez and Ameera find each other, Azeez with the help of his spirit guides and Ameera with the help of a lesbian couple she meets at the resort. The spiritual and the sexual journeys of the two characters complement each other, and Ameera and Azeez help the other move on to the next stage of their (after) life.


Through the relationship of the ghost and the living, Doctor emphasises the importance of looking back on our history and listening to the stories it has to tell. Instead of querying the causes of the Air India bombing, Doctors explores how we learn from the past.


The Air India bombing doesn’t feature prominently in the canon of Canadian literature, and in many ways is a ghost itself. In All Inclusive, Doctor crafts a modern ghost story that emphasises an open mind when it comes to history and a focus on its outcomes rather than its cause.


Farzana Doctor will be part of our spring festival on Friday, April 15 with Nadia Bozak and Christine Dwyer Hickey.


Indigenous Writers Coming This Spring

April 14th – 6:30 PM: Carol Daniels

Saskatchewan’s  Carol Daniels –writer, artist and musician–was Canada's first Aboriginal woman to anchor a national newscast. Raw and honest, her debut novel  Bearskin Diary  draws on her experience as a journalist and investigates what it means to find your voice and dare to speak up.  With her debut, Daniels  adds an important perspective to the Canadian literary landscape.


April 14th – 8:30 PM: Joan Crate

Born in Yellowknife, North­west Territories,  Joan Crate ’s first novel,  Breathing Water , was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Award and the Books in Canada First Novel Award. Her latest,  Black Apple , is a dramatic and lyrical coming-of-age novel about a young Blackfoot girl who grows up in the residential school system on the Canadian prairies. 

April 15th – 8:30 PM: Kateri Akiwenzie Damm

Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm  is a writer, spoken word artist, activist and the founder and Managing Editor of Kegedonce Press, one of only four Indigenous publishers in Canada. In  The Stone Collection , she takes on complex and dangerous emotions, exploring the gamut of modern Anishinaabe experience. It is “generous, funny and dark,” and "doesn’t pull its emotional punches but it leavens its grim truths with bright humour and earthy lust,” says Eden Robinson.

April 16 th  – 6:30 PM: James Bartleman

  After a vicious beating in a hotel room robbery in South Africa, however,  James Bartleman , Ontario’s first Native lieutenant governor, was forced to come to terms with a deepening depression. In the end, Bartleman found new meaning in life when he became the Queen’s representative in Ontario and mobilized the public to support his initiatives championing books and education for Native children.


Foment III is here!


The third annual issue is now live, along with our special interview series!


The issue features  a foreword  by Jonathan Kay, editor-in-chief of The Walrus, and an afterword by Kate Heartfield, of the Ottawa Citizen. We also feature  a special interview series with editors at The Globe and Mail, Maisonneuve, and Herd Magazine.

Foment is the annual literary journal of the Ottawa International Writers Festival, Canada's largest independent literary celebration. It is entirely produced by volunteers, typifying an engagement that is unique in the world of literary festivals. Foment means “to incite” or “stir up,” even “to nurture.” As a journal, Foment seeks to nurture “the quality of the mind” by vigorously engaging with the ideas and works of festival authors. Foment will be an outlet where aspiring writers can express their reflections. Foment seeks be a vessel which edifies, enlivens debate, and provides a thoughtful outpost on a diverse range of books.



Perth Writing Contest


Sponsored by the Booksellers of Perth




The contest is open to residents of Perth and area, which includes: Town of Perth and the three townships of Tay Valley, Drummond / North Elmsley and Lanark Highlands.


Category A: Student (age 13-17)

         o Short Story (maximum 1500 words)

         o Non-fiction story or essay (maximum 1500 words)

Category B: Adult (age 18 and over)

         o Short Story (maximum 1500 words)

         o Non-fiction story or essay (maximum 1500 words)


Entries must be the original, unpublished work of the entrant.

There is no entry fee. Entries are limited to two per entrant: as a maximum two short stories, or two non-fiction pieces, or one of each.

Each entry must be in English, typed, double-spaced, on 8½” x 11" paper, one side only, page-numbered consecutively on bottom right of pages.

Indicate category, entry type (short story or non-fiction) and title on top left corner of every page.


Contest is blind judged. Entrant's name must NOT appear on the submission(s).

For each submission, include a separate cover page with contest category and type, title, name, address, phone number, and email address.

Prizes for each category: First: $75.00, Second: $25.00.

The Ottawa International Writers Festival Perth Chapter reserves the right to withhold any prize should entries fail to meet expected standards.


Deadline: Friday, August 1, 2014.

Mail entries or drop off to any of Perth s booksellers:

        o The Book Nook and Other Treasures, 60 Gore Street East, K7H 1H7

        o The Bookworm, 76 Foster Street, K7H 1S1

        o Backbeat Books and Music, 6 Wilson Street West, K7H 2M5

        o The Word, 37A Foster Street, K7H 1R8

        o Blackwood Originals, 1 Gore Street West, K7H 2L5


Entries postmarked or dropped off after midnight Friday, August 1, 2014 will be disqualified.

Submissions will be neither acknowledged nor returned.

Entries not conforming to the above rules will be disqualified.

Winners will be announced and prizes awarded at The Ottawa International Writers Festival Perth Chapter Literary Event, August 22-23, 2014. Date and time of presentation will be announced.


This contest is made possible by the generous sponsorship of the booksellers of Perth  and by  The Perth Writers Guild, for providing contest judging 



Writers Festival Perth Chapter!

The Ottawa International Writers Festival is thrilled to announce the launch of the PERTH CHAPTER!


We have joined forces with the Town of Perth, Chamber of Commerce, BIA, Library and some Perth businesses to bring to the stage our brand of world-class events, featuring writers and thinkers of local, national and international renown.

Heritage Perth, Ontario, known as “The Big Town of Festivals” and one of the prettiest towns in Ontario, is the perfect host for this, the newest chapter in the Ottawa Festival’s growth and outreach.


Our first year is packed with events that showcase reading and writing in fresh, exciting ways. And most events are included in Ottawa Festival memberships. Of course we’ll also be launching a literacy program for students, bringing authors to schools and the library and building on the highly successful Ottawa programs, “Step Into Stories” and THINK INK.


Perth Chapter events will be posted here as they are confirmed. Tickets are available online here or in person at Tickets Please, 39 Foster St., Perth,




June 21: tent in Stewart Park as part of the Kilt Run festivities

August 22-23: award-winning authors, writing workshops, a book fair and more!




Q&A with George Elliott Clarke

Toronto’s sitting poet laureate, George Elliott Clarke, will release his first book of verse for children in October: Lasso the Wind: Aurélia’s Verses and Other Poems , which contains collage illustrations by Halifax artist Susan Tooke.


They will be inspiring kids in area schools this Fall as part of the Writers Festival's free Step Into Stories Children's Literacy program.



When did you first decide to become a writer, and what made you choose

writing over all your other options?


I wanted to be a rock-n-roll star. But I couldn't sing, couldn't read music, and didn't know any instruments (except  trombone, which I found boring). I decided, at age 15,  to write "songs"—rhyming poems of all types, some with  tunes in mind, but most tuneless. At 16, I started to  write poems—essentially, "free verse."


What is your earliest memory of literature (reading or writing or hearing it)?


My parents read to my brothers and I—a story before going to bed/falling asleep. We must have been age 4,3,2. I don't  remember those stories, but I do remember the little picture  books that we received of Mother Goose and Grimms' Fairy Tales,  and the Classics Illustrated comic book versions of Wells's  The Invisible Man and many, many others. In those days, reading  was second only to the pleasure of dreaming.


How does teaching fit into your idea of what it means to be a poet?


Teaching gives me access to what newer generations think is important; I hope we all teach (or learn from) each other. It  is also a pleasure to get to explore deeply a text or writer  that one likes—and to share the enthusiasm.


What are the top three tips would you want to give a young writer or poet?


a) Write all the time;

b) Read everything;

c) Challenge yourself—and trust your instincts.


How do you think you’ve changed as a writer over the course of your career?


I've become more and more willing to write what I want to write and to say what I want to say. Those who don't like it,  may very well lump it.


Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to you becoming a poet?


After I published my first book (in 1983—30 years ago!), I took a creative writing course at Banff, Alberta, and began to  write about my own life, including my feelings of trauma over  my parents's divorce. When I came back from Banff, I read one  of the poems to my mother, who sighed, "Oh, George, how could you  have written that?" When I saw that my poem, about a family  incident, had been controversial for my mom, I realized that  poetry is a powerful art, and it is ever more powerful the  closer that one can get to revealing the "truth" about humanity....


What do you think the the future of literature will look like?


Screens, keyboards; tiny screens and pinhead-tiny keyboards. But some of us will still want the smell of ink, the feel of paper,  the heft and majesty of an old-fashioned book. (Indeed, governments  can spy on what you take off the Internet; but a book—especially  used—is still potentially, secretly subversive.)


How can young readers discover more about you and you work?


There are websites—and blogs—and reviews—all on-line. But I prefer that they—I beg them to—look up a volume, buy it (!),  and read.


MaddAddam Lunch - Margaret Atwood in Ottawa!

We launched our 2013 Fall Season Tuesday September 24 with Margaret Atwood and MaddAddam in Ottawa! 


The world-acclaimed author, winner of the Governor General’s Award, Man Booker Prize and Giller prize, Margaret Atwood  joined Artistic Director Sean Wilson for a funny and insightful conversation for a fully-booked Restaurant E18teen in the Byward Market.


Everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch menu inspired by the MaddAddam Trilogy and received their own copy of Atwood's latest book. Proceeds went to the Ottawa International Writers Festival School Literacy Programs. More photos & audience reactions to our day with Margaret Atwood can be found through @writersfest on Twitter 


Thank you to all who were able to attend this sold-out event and support our literacy programs.


Special thanks to Ottawa Writers Festival Board Member Hattie Klotz for her part in making this event with Margaret Atwood such a success!


Three photos below courtesy of Caroline Phillips The Ottawa Citizen Style "Around Town"  


Ottawa Writers Festival Board Member Hattie Klotz  gets bunny ears from Margaret Atwood,  and Artistic Director Sean Wilson isn't safe either.


Margaret Atwood and Sean Wilson sharing talk of MaddAddam & a few futuristic dystopian laughs with 100 guests before lunch is served.





Also there to show their support for children's literacy  in Ottawa  are 

  Elizabeth Gibbons & Diane Sullivan from TELUS




Overseeing the book signing table after dessert was Neil Wilson,

Director of Development and  Founding Director of the Ottawa International Writers Festival 






A Nation Plays Chopsticks (Part 2)
by Mark Anthony Jarman

A Nation Plays Chopsticks Part 2

(Serial cStories eBook Single on ... continued )  


And I play because I am a snoop. I learn things I would never otherwise know about New Brunswick, receiving a kind of translation, a geography lesson mile by mile, a roadmap, gossip, secrets, an unofficial oral history of this place’s lore and natives. My team translates and I am along for the ride, a spy in Night-town.

We ride the highway down from Nackawic where we always lose to the Axemen or the Bald Eagles, millworkers on both teams up there. I’m deep in the back seat of Al’s 4 by 4, but I spy a deer waiting by the shoulder like a mailbox. I point it out to Al at the wheel. The deer is hunched, nose out, poised to run across the busy lanes, its dark eyes inches from my face as our metal box blows past its snout and ears and private insects.

“I seem to hit one of those every two years,” Al says. “Wrecked more damn vehicles.” Al, as did his father, works fitting people with artificial limbs. The passengers in our 4 by 4 all hold bags of gas station chips and open beer—what we call travellers. I take up their habits.

Powder the goalie says, “I hit a deer last year and it was stuck across the windshield, this stupid face staring in at me in the damn side window. Damn deer’s fault, up in grass above, everything hunky-dory, and doesn’t it decide to cross right when I’m there. I must have drove 200 feet before the deer finally dropped off.”

“You keep it?”

“Didn’t want to get busted. Three a.m. and I was drinking.”

“That’s when you keep them. Toss it in your freezer.”

“Ain’t got no freezer. Had to stop later at the gas station, headlights all pointed every which way.”

People are killed every year hitting moose on the road to Saint John. Off the highway there’s a moose burial ground where they drag the carcasses and scavengers have their way with the organs and bones. First they offer the dead moose to the Cherry Bank Zoo for its lions or tigers, I forget which. The moose the lions don’t eat end up in the pile off the highway.

Dave the RCMP says, “Man, when I was in Saskatchewan I was driving to Yorkton and came across this guy who had hit one cow square on, killed it, and he clipped another and it flew down in the ditch. It was still alive and I had to dispatch it. I come back up and this guy is crying about his van, some red Coca-Cola van, vintage I guess, front all pushed in, big V pushed in, crushed the grill, and this guy is just fucking crying about it and I said, Mister, I’m here to tell you you’re lucky to be alive. But my van! Just fucking crying about his little red Coca-Cola van.”

Powder the goalie is in possession of beer stolen from the truckload of Spanish Moosehead ale. I’d like to have one can as an illicit souvenir.

“I’ll bring you some,” he says to me one game.

(Serial cStories eBook Single continued on ...) 


cStories eBook Single by Mark Anthony Jarman
from the original short story collection My White Planet
published by Thomas Allen Publishers