A writer in the wild- Miriam Toews

If Can content is your thing, then you must head to this Newfoundland festival

WOODY POINT, NFLD-Writersat Woody Point is to summer festivals what Gros Morne is to natural splendours.

Both are understated, full of surprises and oddly Canadian.

They’re a 2-1/2-hour flight from Toronto to Deer Lake, then a 45-minute drive to Woody Point, the historic village on the western shore of Bonne Bay.

An August week’s holiday there will give you the very best of culture and adventure.

The festival, held every August since 2004, is hosted by the CBC’s Shelagh Rogers and brings the top names in Canadian fiction for talks and readings along with sets by top musicians.

This year’s festival runs Aug. 16 to 21 and the lineup includes authors Megan Coles, Donna Morrissey, Heather O’Neill, Ed Riche, Madeleine Thien and Patrick Warner. Lawrence Hill will interview Guy Vanderhaeghe on stage (and they will both do readings), and Rick Mercer will talk with Ed Riche about the nature of comedy. Musically, Ron Sexsmith will lead the opening concert, with other performances by Stephen Fearing, Fergus O’Byrne, Jim Payne and Diana Panton.

The venues include an old Orange Hall, parish church, Parks Canada auditorium, gorgeous mountain meadow and that staple of small-town Canada, the Legion Hall.

But first, Grose Morne, the national park running 70 kilometres up the west coast of Newfoundland.

Depending on where you are in the park, it’s like the green-coated cliffs of the Irish coast; the deep fjords of Norway; the bare highlands of Scotland; and the outport fishing villages of . . . well, of Newfoundland.

If you haven’t walked more than 15 consecutive minutes in the last while, the 45-minute, boardwalked hike from the highway to the banks of the landlocked fjord that’s Western Brook Pond, will get you asking what I did: Canada has fjords? That you can walk to? So close to Toronto?

But if you’re the kind of hiker who likes to use a compass to get through the mountain pass (no GPS here), the four-day Mountain Traverse is perfect for “self-reliance, character building and physical challenge,” as one outfitter claims.

In between these two extremes are all kinds of gorgeous hiking trails, plus sea kayaking, fishing (and places to eat fish) including the Seaside Restaurant in the picture-perfect village of Trout River Writers at Woody Point is long on informality and author contact and short on sponsor parties, webcasts and podcasts.

It’s full of amazing juxtapositions, like bringing in iconic hockey-show host Ron MacLean in 2015 to interview Miriam Toews, author of the “suicide novel,” All My Puny Sorrows. Or creating an atmosphere so easy that Margaret Atwood put on a show last year more akin to a stand-up comedienne than a serious Canadian writer. Or Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes (and summer resident of Woody Point) sneak-previewing his new novel, The Illegal, before its publication.

This festival has built up its own traditions, like Saturday afternoon at the swimming hole for authors and audience alike. Or later that evening, when all the musicians from the week gather for one last jam at the Legion Hall.

But such easy charm means you’ll need to book your tickets early. They go on sale May 14 at writersatwoodypoint.com and sell out fast.

And if it’s all sold-out? Don’t let that stop you. There are “a number of fantastic free un-ticketed events during festival week – morning readings at Galliott Studios, pub readings at the Merchant Warehouse, Writers in the Wild, Saturday and Sunday night at the Legion, and a few more surprises too. “

So if you’re looking for a perfect — and quintessentially Canadian — holiday in August, this is it.

Bob Ramsay attended Writers at Woody Point as the festival’s guest, but it didn’t review or approve this story.

See the article here.

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