Ottawa Writers Festival: Anita Desai, Mary Walsh, Claire Cameron taking part this spring

Claire Cameron's new novel is The Last Neanderthal. Photo: David Kerr.

Some of Canada’s top female writers will join the prolific and profound South Asian writer Anita Desai to headline the 2017 Spring Edition of the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

Included in the lineup that runs from April 27 to May 2 are Claire Cameron, whose new novel is The Last Neanderthal; Barbara Gowdy, who returns with her book Little Sister and Heather O’Neill (The Lonely Hearts Hotel) who will appear with the actor comedian and new novelist Mary Walsh. Her book Crying For The Moon will be in bookstores April 18.

Not only that, the festival has a panel discussing women’s work with Raiyah Patel, former Canadian soldier Sandra Perron, whose searing memoir of her time in the Forces will be launch on April 6 and Ottawa native Monia Mazigh, who now has a couple of books to her credit. (Editor’s note: Watch for an Artsfile interview with Perron by Paul Gessell in coming days)

Also paying a visit are the editor and writer Douglas Gibson, novelist Lawrence Hill talking about his book The Illegal and science guys Jay Ingram and Sean Carroll.

There is an event featuring Ferrukh Faruqui, Janetta Munirah Maclean, Hanan Abdulmalik and Saima Hussain and some Canadian politics with Tom McMillan and Henry A. Giroux talking about the rise of the alt-right.

Here is the schedule so far. One time slot needs to be filled. All events are at Christ Church Cathedral, unless otherwise noted. For tickets and more information, please see

Thursday, April 27

6:30 p.m.: A Woman’s Work with Raiyah Patel, Sandra Perron and Monia Mazigh.

8:30 p.m.: One Day This Will Matter with Buzzfeed’s controversial writer Scaachi Koul.

Friday, April 28

Noon: Children’s Literature from Ireland with Deirdre Sullivan, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick and Oisin McGann. This is a free event.

6:30 p.m.: The Bond Between Us with Claire Cameron and Barbara Gowdy.

8:30 p.m.: At Home In the World with Mary Walsh and Heather O’Neill.

Saturday, April 29

2 p.m.: Written in the Body: A performance by Jan Andrews.

4 PM: 150 Years of Great Canadian Storytellers: A new stage performance by Douglas Gibson.

5 p.m. (The is a free event at the Manx): Plan 99 Poetry with Kevin Connolly, Aisha Sasha John and Cassidy McFadzean. Hosted by David O’Meara.

6:30 p.m,: The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself with Sean Carroll. Hosted by Stephen Rockwell.

8:30 p.m.: This event is TBA.

Sunday, April 30

Noon: The Science of Why with Jay Ingram Hosted by Stephen Rockwell.

2 p.m.: Bridging the Diaspora Divide with Stephen Orlov and Samah Sabawi.

4 p.m.: Book Launch: The Muslimah who Fell to Earth with Ferrukh Faruqui, Janetta Munirah Maclean, Hanan Abdulmalik and Saima Hussain. This is a free event.

5 p.m.: Plan 99 Prose with Ray Robertson and Carys Davies. Hosted by David O’Meara. A free event at the Manx.

6:30 p.m.: Vimy: The Battle and the Legend with Tim Cook. Hosted by Charlotte Gray. (Editor’s note: Watch for an Artsfile interview with Tim Cook on Monday.)

8:30 p.m.: The Illegal with Lawrence Hill. Hosted by CBC’s Joanne Chianello

Monday, May 1

6:30 p.m.: One on One with Anita Desai. Hosted by Peter Schneider.

8:30 p.m.: What You Want with Elise Levine, Lori McNulty and Karen Connelly. Hosted by Rhonda Douglas.

Tuesday, May 2

6:30 p.m.: Rise of the Radical Right with Tom McMillan and Henry A. Giroux. Hosted by Maclean’s Ottawa bureau chief John Geddes.

8:30 p.m.: The Only Journey with Andrew Westoll, Susan Perly and Governor General’s Award winner for poetry Steven Heighton. Hosted by Peter Schneider. (Editor’s note: Artsfile spoke with Steven Heighton recently. You can find that interview here.)

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.