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JULIA COOK: Weekend of writing by the sea

Trevor Corkum is the writer-in-residence for this year's festival. Joshua Lewis/Special to The Guardian
Trevor Corkum is the writer-in-residence for this year's festival. Joshua Lewis/Special to The Guardian - Contributed

The Victoria Literary Festival, now in its sixth year, is a chance of potentially introverted writers to have their gathering time.

I have a romantic image of spending months in a cottage by the sea and writing the next Canadian classic. I’d likely be wearing sweaters and drinking coffee on a porch in the crisp ocean salt air.

This is clearly a dream sequence of mine. And this weekend, this image isn’t too far off from the reality of what is taking place on P.E.I. The Victoria Literary Festival, now in its sixth season, is a celebration of writing and the arts, Victoria style.

“This year's theme is Surrender to the Mystery, so we'll be exploring the concept of mystery and secrets,” explained Trevor Corkum, the writer-in-residence for this year’s festival.

“This year's festival offers a number of workshops for those curious about writing and literature and for folks to who love writing, reading and the literary life.”

The festival takes place from today to Aug. 12 and is aimed at writers of all levels, including those who are simply curious about writing and literature. No prior experience is necessary, and it’s for all ages.

It also takes place in beautiful Victoria, where you can not only take in the festival, but also explore the restaurants and shops. As someone who lives here, I think it's important occasionally to act like a tourist for a day and to visit some of the beautiful towns across the Island.

Poster by Henry Dunsmore
Poster by Henry Dunsmore

Corkum is leading a few of the workshops, as well as co-hosting the evening review on Saturday. There will be signature literary-based cocktails, as well as food from Island Chocolates. Plus, people can take in some readings, a dance performance and interactive storytelling.

“Having a literary festival in a community like Victoria signals that the arts and literature are valued and celebrated, and that's something writers, readers and lovers of the arts across the Island are keen to support.”

The following day people can enjoy an afternoon of Poetry of the Breath that’s being hosted by Corkum and Josh Lewis.

“Poetry of the Breath is designed to connect the rhythms and magic of written poetry with the richness of mindful awareness of the body,” said Corkum.

“We'll be combining a few simple writing prompts and exercises with attention to breath and simple, curious, playful movement.”

People can sign up for the workshops at Island Chocolates in Victoria or buy tickets at the door. The workshops are $15, while the evening review is $20. There is also a short story contest with a $500 grand prize and publication.

While out in Victoria, there's a full day of exploring to do in the picturesque seaside village. As already mentioned, Island Chocolates is a must-stop, and you can head to Landmark Cafe for dinner afterwards. The entire drive along the Trans-Canada Highway is also peppered with antique stores.

If you’re wanting a bit of sunshine and fresh air, both Strathgartney Park and Bonshaw Hills are along the way. Either hike the trails or mountain bike certain sections. In particular, if you are in Bonshaw Hills, take the Harwood Hills and Saw Mill trails. They are less busy than the other trails and having rolling hills.

A weekend in Victoria, with the literary festival, chocolate and hiking almost fulfils my romantic fantasy of coastal writer’s getaway. Almost.

If you go

What: Victoria Literary Festival

When and where: Aug. 10-12 in Victoria

Tickets: Workshops are $15 and the evening review is $20. Tickets are available in advance or at the door.

Julia Cook is an entertainment columnist for The Guardian. She can be reached at

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