The Prince Edward County Authors Festival is a literary event that celebrates the best in Canadian Literature while focusing on emerging writers. Read more.

2017 Festival – April 20 to 22
Confirmed Authors

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Steve Burrows

Steve Burrows has pursued his birdwatching hobby on five continents. He is a former editor of the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society Magazine and a contributing field editor for Asian Geographic. The first book in the Birder Murder Mystery series, A Siege of Bitterns, won the Crime Writers of Canada 2015 Award for Best First Novel.  His latest novel in the series is A Cast of Falcons. Steve lives in Oshawa, Ontario.


Jeramy Dodds

Jeramy Dodds

Jeramy Dodds’s first collection of poems, Crabwise to the Hounds, won the Trillium Book Award for Poetry and was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize. His poems have won the CBC Literary Prize and the Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award. He holds an MA in Medieval Icelandic Studies. The Poetic Edda, published in 2014, is his translation of Old Norse poems and tales from Old Icelandic text.  Jeramy will be the poet in residence at the Al Purdy A-Frame in 2017.


Wallace Edwards

Wallace Edwards is a beloved children’s author-illustrator whose vivid imagination has transformed the world of animals and strange creatures in picture books for a generation of children. A graduate of the Ontario College of Art, he is a popular guest speaker at conferences and literary events. Wallace’s awards and shortlists include the Governor General’s Award, the IRA Children’s Choice Award, and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award. Wallace lives in Toronto and Yarker, Ontario. His latest book is What is Peace?


Joy Fielding

Joy Fielding was born in Canada in 1945. She received a BA in English literature from the University of Toronto in 1966. Her first book, The Best of Friends, was published without an agent. She has written numerous novels since then including Don’t Cry Now, The Deep End, The Other Woman, Missing Pieces and Now You See Her. The Periodical Distributors of Canada named her book, Kiss Mommy Goodbye, Book of the Year for 1982. She has contributed book reviews to the Toronto Globe and Mail, CBC’s The Radio Show, and CBC-TV’s The Journal’s Friday Night. Her books, See Jane Run and Tell Me No Secrets, have been adapted into films. The author lives in Toronto, ON and Palm Beach, FL.  She’s Not There is her latest novel.

Andrew Forbes

Andrew Forbes was born in Ottawa, Ontario and attended Carleton University. He has written film and music criticism, liner notes, sports columns, and short fiction. His work has been nominated for the Journey Prize, and has appeared in publications including VICE Sports, The Classical, The New Quarterly, and This Magazine. What You Need, his debut collection of fiction, was published by Invisible Publishing in 2015. He lives in Peterborough, Ontario. The Utility Of Boredom: Baseball Essays is his latest book.


Celia Godkin

Celia Godkin is an award-winning author and illustrator who found her way from a zoology degree to children’s literature through scientific illustration. Fire!, one of her many titles relating to environmental themes, was shortlisted for the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction. She has also received numerous OLA Forest of Reading nominations. Born in England, Celia emigrated to Canada after spending some time in Brazil. She lives in Eastern Ontario. Her latest book is Skydiver: Saving the Fastest Bird in the World.


Kathy Lowinger Photo Credit: Linda Kooluris Dobbs

Kathy’s first book was Shifting Sands: Life in the Times of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Her latest book, Give Me Wings! How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World (Fall 2015) tells the story of Ella Sheppard, a girl born into slavery in the 1800s, who went on to form the Jubilee Singers. The Jubilees influenced modern American music with their spirituals, thrilling white audiences who were used to more sedate songs. Kathy lives in Toronto with her husband, Bill Harnum and a menagerie of cats and dogs. In addition to writing, Kathy is a dedicated pianist.


Kirsteen MacLeod

Kirsteen MacLeod is a Kingston, Ontario writer, poet and yoga teacher. Kirsteen has worked in Toronto (20 years) and in Kingston (10 years), as a magazine and newspaper writer and editor, and as a communicator. She has a BA in Magazine Journalism from Ryerson University. The Animal Game is her debut collection of short fiction.


Jennifer Mook-Sang

Jennifer Mook-Sang lives and writes (while chuckling to herself) with her husband and two sons in Burlington, Ontario. She has a master’s degree in psychology and has worked with children of all ages in health and educational settings. She has volunteered as a reading coach and co-ordinator for literacy programs in local schools. Jennifer was a finalist in the Writing for Children Competition 2014 sponsored by CANSCAIP and The Writer’s Union of Canada. Speechless is her first novel.


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Jim Nason

Jim Nason’s award-winning poems, essays, and stories have been published in literary journals and anthologies throughout the United States and Canada, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English. He is also the author of a novel, The Housekeeping Journals, and a short-story collection, The Girl on the Escalator. His latest book of poetry is Touch Anywhere to Begin.  He lives in Toronto.


Tom Rand

Tom Rand is managing partner of the privately backed MaRS Cleantech Fund, and senior advisor to the MaRS Discovery District. Tom was a successful entrepreneur in the global telecommunications sector, and now focuses his efforts on carbon mitigation as a venture capitalist, author, and speaker. His first book, Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit, was shortlisted for the White Pine non-fiction award in 2012. He lives in Toronto, Ontario. Waking The Frog: Solutions For Our Climate Change Paralysis is his latest book.


Emily Saso

Emily Saso writes fiction and screenplays. She lives in Toronto and blogs at egoburn.blogspot.ca. The Weather Inside is her debut novel.


photo of Merilyn Simonds

Merilyn Simonds

Merilyn Simonds is the author of 16 books, including The Holding, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice; The Convict Lover, finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award; and most recently The Paradise Project, flash-fiction stories hand-printed on a hand-operated, antique press. She is founding artistic director of Kingston WritersFest and a past chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada. She teaches creative writing and mentors emerging writers around the world. She lives in Kingston, Ontario. Her new book, Gutenberg’s Fingerprint: Paper, Pixels and the Lasting Impression of Books will be released in Spring 2017.


Zoe Whittall

Zoe Whittall is the author of The Best Ten Minutes of Your Life, The Emily Valentine Poems, and Precordial Thump, and the editor of Geeks, Misfits, & Outlaws. Her debut novel Bottle Rocket Hearts made the Globe and Mail Top 100 Books of the Year and CBC Canada Reads’ Top Ten Essential Novels of the Decade. Her second novel Holding Still for as Long as Possible won a Lambda Literary Award and was an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book. Born in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, she has an MFA from the University of Guelph and lives in Toronto.  Her latest novel is Best Kind of People.


Michelle Winters

Michelle Winters is a writer, painter, and translator from Saint John, N.B. She was nominated for the 2011 Journey Prize and her work has been published in THIS Magazine, Dragnet and Taddle Creek. She is the co-translator of My Planet of Kites, by Marie-Ève Comtois. She lives in Toronto. I Am a Truck is her debut novel.



Thanks to Our 2016 Sponsors!


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Festival Memories


  • “A festival with events held in one of Canada’s excellent independent bookstores, on what is one of Canada’s most charming main streets, in one of Canada’s most interesting counties. A pretty great combo.”

    —Stuart Mclean

  • “I remember a crowded room in a house where one was rushed aside to take in some home-cooking – and friendly, welcoming faces, thoughtful attention and when I finally took my turn to read, to talk, there was laughter in all the right places.”

    —Wayson Choy

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Profile: Zoe Whittall’s timely new novel shows her to be a writer who defies easy categorization

CoverFeature-JulyAug_ZoeWhittall
(Photo: Arden Wray)
Sitting in her living room on a sun-lightened red couch, looking impeccably western cool in a faded jean jacket, flared dress, and scuffed cowboy boots, Zoe Whittall explains how her latest novel is different in nearly every way possible from her previous works. She wields a copy of the book like an exclamation mark, picking it up and putting it down, flipping its pages, all small acts of emphasis. It’s just that sort of story.

The Best Kind of People hinges on a singular, haunting question: What would happen if you found out the person you were deeply in love with was capable of doing terrible things? It makes for a fascinating jumping-off point and – despite Whittall’s worries – marks an exciting shift for the 40-year-old award-winning author. “For this book, I may as well have been writing about kings and queens in the 14th century,” she quips. “This is pretty far from my reality.”

It took Whittall six tough years to write The Best Kind of People, which almost became the book that got stuffed in the proverbial desk drawer. “I have more fear about this book than any other book, in terms of how it will be read and received,” she says. Centred on one all-American family’s unspooling, the story confronts life at its deepest valleys. Whittall opens by establishing the family’s patriarch, George Woodbury, as an affable town hero, then, within a few pages, deflating him.

George is charged with sexual misconduct against several teenage girls at the high school where he teaches, and where his daughter is an ace student. He’s arrested and dutifully proclaims his innocence, but Whittall doesn’t linger there. This is a book about those caught in the ripples after the stone is thrown. What Whittall gives is a deftly realized exploration of the human heart: the ways in which it breaks and opens and seals shut after our central truths are shattered.

In this way, The Best Kind of People is hardly a departure from Whittall’s previous novels, Bottle Rocket Hearts and Holding Still for as Long as Possible, both of which are firmly rooted in queer milieus. Each demonstrates Whittall’s mastery of creating small, tender, agonizing – and very real – moments of human interaction that, piled together, reveal multitudes of meaning. While few can relate to having a husband or a father accused of pedophilia, many will likely see themselves in the way each of George’s family members – Joan (his wife), Sadie (his teenage daughter), and Andrew (his adult son) – tumble and then drift after his arrest, behaving in previously unthinkable ways, crashing through their own formerly stable lives.

“What I really like is that it is not a black-and-white book,” says House of Anansi Press publisher Sarah MacLachlan. “For me it opens those doors on how we judge others and how we judge ourselves.” MacLachlan calls The Best Kind of People an “undeniable read” and praises Whittall as “the full meal deal.” As publisher, she has high hopes for Whittall’s newest work and believes it will spark conversations about power, sex, and the potential for abuse. (In fact, Anansi is considering re-publishing the book for young adults under its Groundwood Books imprint, with the intention of initiating dialogue around consent.)

“It’s the feeling of knowing someone, loving someone, yet seeing that there’s something very wrong,” Whittall says, “and wanting to have compassion, but also not knowing where your boundaries are and what’s your bottom line – what’s acceptable. Those experiences, or moments, catapulted me into the material.”

Whittall first became fixated on these questions after hearing a segment on CBC Radio’s The Current that featured a psychologist in Ottawa who ran a support group for wives of sex offenders who wanted to stay in their relationships. Whittall was both horrified and rapt. She couldn’t stop listening. It was right around the time Col. Russell Williams’ case dominated media headlines. (The former Canadian Armed Forces officer is currently serving two life sentences for rape and murder.) Whittall decided she wanted to explore characters who made her uncomfortable: not just George, but his wife, Joan, who grapples with supporting her husband and staying in their marriage.

For MacLachlan, it’s also a happy circumstance that, though she started the book years ago, Whittall is very much “writing the age” – fraught as it is with stories of powerful, privileged men, like Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby, accused of sexual assault and rape. MacLachlan, who also published Holding Still, echoes Whittall in calling the upcoming novel “a real departure.” She believes it’s one of the qualities that makes Whittall such a thrilling author. “In our business we like to categorize things a lot,” says MacLachlan. “She’s like, ‘You think you have me pegged? No, I’m going to talk about this now.”

That’s not to say Whittall’s done a complete reversal and written a book of interchangeable, cis-gender straight dudes. With Holding Still, Whittall won a Lambda Literary Award in the transgender fiction category for her empathetic portrayal of the character Josh. In their citation, the Lambda judges wrote: “While we know he is trans, we’re following him in his life as it is, not while he struggles with identity, or patiently explains hormones to new friends. Josh is just a guy, and with these parameters we get one of the best trans man portraits fiction has yet to see.” Whittall does the same thing with the character Andrew in The Best Kind of People. Readers are aware that he’s gay, and though it certainly informs his experiences, choices, and personality, it’s not the only thing that propels him through the world.

Whittall stresses that while she’s a queer woman and that characters on the LGBTQ spectrum will always be interesting and important to her, none of her books is autobiographical. It’s more like she plucked them from the landscape of her own life, the environments she inhabits. Whittall grew up on a sheep farm in small-town Quebec. She describes herself as a consummate reader who, before she could write, dictated stories to her mom. At 13, her family moved to the suburbs of Montreal. As a young adult, she went to Concordia University, but moved to Toronto in 1997, chasing love. At first, she focused on poetry and had, as she self-deprecatingly jokes, “a terrible music career.” Eventually, she shifted to fiction.

Her first novel, Bottle Rocket Hearts, started as a short story about a bisexual woman, set in the 1990s. Soon, Whittall felt more comfortable in long-form prose. In her late twenties, she took that interest and embarked on her master of fine art in creative writing at the University of Guelph. Around the same time, Whittall worked as a publicist and marketing co-ordinator at a small press, a job she eventually left because she says it forced her to see behind the curtain. While there, everything she wrote, even her first drafts, began with the question “Who’s going to read this?” It was “absolutely bananas,” she says, and hindered her writing process. Now, when she writes, she tries not to think about who’s going to read her work. This attitude has led her to embrace writing from a space of total creativity.

It’s Whittall’s willingness to try new things that prompted her to take a stand-up comedy class. She thought her writing would benefit from learning how to tell a joke, but soon learned she loved the stage. She now calls herself an introvert who loves to perform. It’s also led to new opportunities. After catching the stand-up bug, Whittall took another class to learn how to turn her comedy material into a TV script. She’s since sold that script as a pilot to CTV, which is now in production. She’s also written for shows like Degrassi: The Next Generation, and adds that TV writing, in turn, has helped her develop more action-oriented plotlines for her novels. (Also, she says, “I love TV unapologetically.”) As for her initial decision to learn stand-up, she says, “It’s opened up a lot of doors for me. I did it as a lark, but it’s ended up really enhancing my fiction and my life in general.”

Whittall’s refusal to be neatly slotted is what makes her so refreshing. From television writing to stand-up comedy, Whittall can’t be pinned down, nor can her books. Her next novel is a multi-generational tale that starts in 1920s Turkey. It ends with a female cello player who’s a modern-day Casanova. How perfectly different

By Lauren McKeon
Issue Date: July 2016
Tagged with: cover feature, profile, The Best Kind of People, Zoe Whittall
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Michelle Winters is a writer, painter, and translator from Saint John, N.B. She was nominated for the 2011 Journey Prize and her work has been published in THIS Magazine, Dragnet and Taddle Creek. She is the co-translator of My Planet of Kites, by Marie-Ève Comtois. She lives in Toronto. I Am a Truck is her debut novel. ...

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Zoe Whittall is the author of The Best Ten Minutes of Your Life, The Emily Valentine Poems, and Precordial Thump, and the editor of Geeks, Misfits, & Outlaws. Her debut novel Bottle Rocket Hearts made the Globe and Mail Top 100 Books of the Year and CBC Canada Reads’ Top Ten Essential Novels of the Decade. Her second novel Holding Still for as Long as Possible won a Lambda Literary Award and was an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book. Born in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, she has an MFA from the University of Guelph and lives in Toronto. Her latest novel is Best Kind of People. ...

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Merilyn Simonds is the author of 16 books, including The Holding, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice; The Convict Lover, finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award; and most recently The Paradise Project, flash-fiction stories hand-printed on a hand-operated, antique press. She is founding artistic director of Kingston WritersFest and a past chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada. She teaches creative writing and mentors emerging writers around the world. She lives in Kingston, Ontario. Her new book, Gutenberg’s Fingerprint: A Booklover’s Bridge to the Digital Divide will be released in Spring 2017. ...

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Emily Saso writes fiction and screenplays. She lives in Toronto and blogs at egoburn.blogspot.ca. The Weather Inside is her debut novel. ...

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