Writers Festival: From Bovril to Blackberrys, the governor general’s new book is all about Canadian innovation

David Johnston might be one of the most prolific writers ever to fill the post of governor general in Canada.

The author, or co-author, of some 25 books has a new offering for the sesquicentennial.

Johnston will be appearing with his co-author Tom Jenkins at a free event sponsored by the Ottawa International Writers Festival on March 28 at Library and Archives, 395 Wellington St., at 7 p.m. Jenkins is the former CEO of OpenText, Canada’s largest software company. He is at present the chancellor of the University of Waterloo and the chair of the National Research Council.

The book they have written is a survey of the history of Canadian innovations “from Bovril to BlackBerrys, lightbulbs to liquid helium, peanut butter to Pablum.”

Ingenious: How Canadian Innovators Made the World Smarter, Smaller, Kinder, Safer, Healthier, Wealthier, and Happier (Signal) aims to get inside the mind of an innovator.

Last year, Johnston released a popular collection of letters he had written, but not always sent, to people he has met or admired. The book is called The Idea of Canada: Letters to a Nation (Signal). Meanwhile his partner in life and in writing Sharon Johnston penned her own book while ensconced at Rideau Hall. This one was a novel called Matrons and Madams (Dundurn) set in the wild Canadian west in the early part of the 20th century. The novel is intended to be the first of trilogy, she told me in 2015 in an interview. The second book, Bread and Roses, will take in the Second World War; and the third, The Boy in Orange Pyjamas, will encompass the 1960s and 1970s in Toronto.

The final writers’ festival lineup isn’t out just yet but there is a plan for Earth Day on April 22. The evening features Nishnaabeg storyteller Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and her latest, This Accident of Being Lost (House of Anansi), a collection of stories and songs featuring Nishnaabeg storytelling, science fiction, contemporary realism and voice.

She will be joined by David Suzuki and Ian Hanington, who are slated to appear with their new book Just Cool It! (Greystone Books) in hand. This book surveys the current state of climate science and knowledge and examines ways to resolve global warming.

Suzuki is the author of more than 50 books in his storied career as a broadcaster, scientist and environmental activist.

Ian Hanington is the senior editor at the David Suzuki Foundation. He co-authored, with Suzuki, Everything Under the Sun.

Betasamosake Simpson, Suzuki and Hanington will be at Christ Church Cathedral, 414 Sparks St. at 6:30 p.m.

For tickets: writersfestival.org.

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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.