Washington Island Literary Festival Returns for Another Year

The Washington Island Literary Festival (WILT) joins the Celebrate Water initiative for their 2018 festival, with a theme of “Words on Water.” All of the works discussed will celebrate, reflect upon, and generate literature with a focus upon topics, plots, issues and ideas concerning water. In their own words, “Surrounded by water as we are, a world apart yet vitally connected, we are ideally situated for focus upon watery themes.”

The WILT has two days of workshops followed by a day of presentations. This year they have added “Dear Water”, a pre-conference Creative Laboratory on September 13. It includes a lecture and Q&A with Lane Hall, professor of poetry at UW-Milwaukee, an epistolary and poetic workshop, an optional guided hike, and more. The Creative Laboratory is free and open to the public, and participants can come and go throughout the day. The reader and writer workshops are held on September 14. They cover fiction, memoir, and poetry writing. The workshops are held with this year’s featured authors which include Bonnie Jo Campbell (fiction), Douglas Wood (memoir), Marion Boyer (poetry), and Jean Pendziwol (fiction).

This year’s festival features Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell, Fishing Up the Moon by Marion Boyer, The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell, Alone on the Shield by Kirk Landers, The Lightkeeper’s Daughter by Jean Pendziwol, Deep Woods, Wild Water by Douglas Wood, and Words on Water 2017 – A Ferryman’s Journal by Richard Purinton. Lane Hall, a multimedia artist, writer, and professor in the Department of English at UWM, is also featured. Find more about each work below.



Once Upon a River is an odyssey of a novel about a girl’s search for love and identity. After the violent death of her father, in which she is complicit, Margo takes to the Stark River in her boat, with only a few supplies and a biography of Annie Oakley, in search of her vanished mother. The river, Margo’s childhood paradise, is a dangerous place for a young woman traveling alone, and she must be strong to survive.

Campbell is an American novelist and short story writer. She graduated with a BA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, an MA in Mathematics and MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University. Campbell teaches fiction at Pacific University. She was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award in Fiction for her short-story collection American Salvage, she won a Pushcart Prize for her story “The Smallest Man in the World”, and the 2009 Eudora Welty Prize for “The Inventor, 1972.


The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World is the definitive account of the coming water, why and how this will happen, and what it will all mean. Across the globe, scientists and civilians alike are noticing rapidly rising sea levels, and higher and higher tides pushing more water directly into the places we live, from our most vibrant, historic cities to our last remaining traditional coastal villages. With each crack in the great ice sheets of the Arctic and Antarctica, and each tick upwards of Earth’s thermometer, we are moving closer to the brink of broad disaster.

Goodell is an American author and contributing editor to Rolling Stones magazine. His writings focus on energy and environmental issues. Goodell has six published books. He has appeared on NPR, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, ABC, Fox News, and the Oprah Winfrey Show. The Water Will Come was a New York Times Critics Top Book of 2017.


Alone on the Shield is a story about the Vietnam war and the things that connect us. A torrid 1960s romance between Annette DuBose and Gabe Pender ends after words were exchanged in the heat of anger. They continue on with their lives, each taking a different path in life. Forty years later they reconnect and realize that they have a shared passion: solo canoeing in Ontario’s raw Quetico wilderness. It is the story of aging Baby Boomers, of the rare kinds of people who paddle alone into the wilderness, and of the kind of adventure that comes only to the bold and the brave.

Landers launched his professional writing career in the U.S. Army, writing profiles of his fellow Basic Trainees for the post newspaper in return for getting out of KP and guard duty. After military service, he worked for a suburban shopper, then became a staff writer and editor for an RV magazine. After selling two trade magazines that he revived with several colleagues, he became full-time freelance. He has other books published under a pen name, but used his own name for Alone on the Shield.


The Lightkeeper’s Daughter is a story of family, identity, and art that involves a decades-old mystery. Though her mind is still sharp, Elizabeth’s eyes have failed. No longer able to linger over her beloved books or gaze at the paintings that move her spirit, she fills the void with music and memories of her family—a past that suddenly becomes all too present when her late father’s journals are found amid the ruins of an old shipwreck. With the help of Morgan, a delinquent teenager performing community service, Elizabeth goes through the diaries, a journey through time that brings the two women closer together.

Pendziwol is an award winning Canadian author. Her writing career began with the publication of No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons) in 1999. Pendziwol draws on the culture, history and geography of the region for inspiration for her stories.


Deep Woods, Wild Waters explores a life shaped in the wild. An expert woodsman and wilderness canoe guide, Wood offers all his storytelling and bushwhacking skills as he takes readers hurtling down wild rapids, crossing stormy lakes, or simply navigating the treacherous currents and twisty trails of everyday life. A warm, generous, and knowing guide, Wood maps a journey that “anyone can take, through a landscape anyone can know.”

Wood is an author of books for children and adults, a singer/songwriter, and an outdoor guide. He has been awarded the Christopher Medal, American Booksellers Book of the Year, International Reading Association Book of the Year, and Parent’s Choice Award. His book, Miss Little’s Gift, was recognized as a Notable Book by the Smithsonian Institution. In addition to his work as an author, Wood is a musician and plays 12 string guitar, banjo, mandolin, and keyboards.


Words on Water 2017 – A Ferryman’s Journal is one man’s captivating account of the Washington Island Ferry from many perspectives: running cargo and passengers across Death’s Door; the maintenance of machinery; the uncertainties of weather; Island people, history, lore; the satisfaction of work, and service. The book includes pencil sketches, map and black and white photos.

Purinton is a life-time local. After graduating from Sturgeon Bay High School in 1965, he attended UW-Madison School of Journalism. He has worked for the Washington Island Ferry Line for 39 years, first as deckhand, then captain, general manager and company president.


Lane Hall is a multimedia artist, writer, and professor in the Department of English at UWM, where he teaches courses on modernist avant-garde movements as well as workshops exploring image and text relationships within book and screen formats. His installations have been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, The Milwaukee Art Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Shanghai World Expo, The Science Gallery in Dublin, and Eyebeam in NYC. He is cofounder of the Overpass Light Brigade (OLB), a creative activism collaborative project that has grown into an international movement.


Fishing Up the Moon is a collection of poetry by Marion Boyer. She was added to the list of featured artists this year based on her poetry collection, The Clock of the Long Now. Before retiring, Boyer taught college communication in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Boyer’s poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals and magazines. One of her poems was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2007 and she won first place in Rhino’s 2006 poetry competition. She received another first place award in the 2008 international competition sponsored by the Science Fiction Poetry Association.


For more information and a complete schedule of events for the Festival, visit washingtonislandliteraryfestival.org.

Information compiled from Washington Island Literary Festival website and authors personal websites.

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