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SUN May 28 | Wakefield Writers Festival presents: Steven Heighton Remembered | 4pm

We invite you to get to know Steven Heighton: the thoughtful writer, poet, musician and spontaneous giver who passed away April 2022.

Steven Heighton Remembered

Sunday 28 May 2023 at 4PM at Motel Chlesea

Tickets $25 here:

On this Sunday afternoon you will get to know Steven Heighton: the thoughtful writer, poet, musician and spontaneous giver who passed away in April 2022. Rhonda Douglas, along with Steven’s friends and fellow authors Angie Abdou, Wayne Grady and Dave O’Meara, will steer a conversation about this gifted creative architect of language and story.

Steven’s legacy endures through his poems, novels, short stories, memoir and songs, and in the hearts and memories of those he touched through his capacity to love, listen and empathize. Personal tributes will be given by Ginger Pharand, Steven’s editor and life partner, and Hugh Christopher Brown, his friend and music producer. Also a musical retrospective, Chris and Ginger will perform some of Steve’s songs from his 2021 album The Devil’s Share, along with newer works soon to be produced.

“He challenged and encouraged in equal measure, almost always getting the balance right. In this age of ironic detachment he risked being earnest, vulnerable, showing care and concern.” Daniel Wells, Biblioasis publisher

STEVEN HEIGHTON (1961-2022) was a songwriter, musician and prolific writer of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. His debut book of poetry, the 1989 provocatively titled Stalin's Carnival, set him up as a new and exciting voice in Canadian poetry. Other collections include The Ecstasy of Skeptics (1994), The Address Book (2004), Selected Poems 1983-2020 (2021), and The Waking Comes Late (2016), a collection of sombre reflections on the state of the world and the struggle of having hope for the future, which won the 2016 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry.

Steven’s fiction debuted with the short story Flight Paths of the Emperor (1992), a finalist for the Trillium Award and for which the Globe and Mail described him as a "young Ondaatje, a superb craftsman at ease in foreign places and distant times." His novels include Afterlands (2005), The Shadow Boxer (2000), Every Lost Country (2010); and the 2017 The Nightingale Won't Let You Sleep.

His 2020 memoir Reaching Mithymna tells the story of Steven’s sudden decision in 2015 to go to Greece and volunteer at a camp for Syrian refugees. It was a finalist for the 2020 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

Steven’s fiction and poetry have been translated into 10 languages, appeared in numerous publications. He has received the Governor General's Award for poetry, the Gerald Lampert Award, the 2010 K.M. Hunter Award (literature), the 2011 P.K. Page Founders' Award, The Petra Kenney Prize, the Air Canada Award, and four gold National Magazine Awards.

Steven’s love of music saw him busking his way around Europe and Australia as a young man and traveling through Asia–he lived in Japan for a year—but writing poetry and books dominated his creativity in the decades that followed. Finally, in 2021, his album The Devil's Share gave birth to 11 original songs fusing blues, rock, folk, country, soul and Americana. Recorded at the Post Office Studio, Wolfe Island, Canada, it was produced by Hugh Christopher Brown.

Readers and listeners will have still more to discover. In early 2023, Biblioasis published Instructions for the Drowning, Steven’s final collection of short stories. In 2024, ECW Press will publish Songbook, a collection of Steven’s lyrics and music, including 12 songs written for the follow-up album to The Devil’s Share.

Photo credit: Mary Huggard.

ANGIE ABDOU has published seven books and co-edited Writing the Body in Motion and Not Hockey, collections of critical essays on Canadian sport literature. Her novel The Bone Cage was a Canada Reads finalist. Her two memoirs on youth sport hit the Canadian best-seller list. Booklist declared Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom a “first rate memoir” and a “must-read for parents with youngsters who play organized sports.”

Abdou is Professor of Creative Writing at Athabasca University and a nationally certified swim coach. She lives in Fernie, BC.

WAYNE GRADY is the author of three novels and fourteen books of nonfiction. His novel Emancipation Day was long-listed for the Giller and won the First Novel Award in 2013. He is also an award-winning translator: his translation of Antonine Maillet’s On the Eighth Day won the Governor General’s Award for Translation. He has published short stories and essays in Queen’s Quarterly, The Walrus, Event, Numero Cinq, and has twice appeared in Best Canadian Essays. His most recent book, Pandexicon: How the Language of the Pandemic Defined Our New Cultural Reality, came out this year.

Wayne lives in Kingston, Ontario, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with his wife author Merilyn Simonds.

DAVID O'MEARA is the author of five collections of poetry including Masses On Radar (Coach House Books, 2021). His play Disaster was nominated for four Rideau Awards. David has been shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award, the ReLit Prize, the K. M. Hunter Award, the Trillium Book Award, and a National Magazine Award, He has won Ottawa Book Award, and is a four-time winner of the Archibald Lampman Prize.

David is the founding Artistic Director for VERSeFest (Canada’s International Poetry Festival) and was a jurist for the 2012 Griffin International Poetry Prize. In 2016 he was awarded the Ottawa Arts Council Mid-Career Artist Award. He lives in Ottawa.​

RHONDA DOUGLAS is the award-winning author of Welcome to the Circus and Some Days I Think I Know Things: The Cassandra Poems.

Her next book Some Other Epic Things will come out with Mansfield Press in late 2023. She is the host of The Resilient Writers Radio Show and you can find her at

Musician and music producer HUGH CHRISTOPHER "CHRIS" BROWN established Wolfe Island Records, an artist-run label centred around music produced at The Post Office studio, housed in the former post office on Wolfe Island, Ontario, near Kingston. A multi-instrumentalist (organ, piano, clavinet, trombone, tuba and more), Chris has performed and recorded for such artists as Ani DiFranco, Joan As Police Woman, Tony Scherr, Barenaked Ladies, Ashley MacIsaac, Crash Test Dummies and Jen Chapin. In the 1980s and 1990s he was one of the primary singer/ songwriters for the alternative rock band Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, and later worked as a duo with Kate Fenner, a Bourbon bandmate. All Music Guide said of Chris that he has “a real talent for writing thought-provoking political songs that somehow manage to keep the feet tapping and the mind racing at the same time.”

Chris is also a passionate and committed social justice activist. In 2018 he founded the Pros and Cons program, a charitable organization where he runs music workshops, volunteers at Kingston’s Pittsburgh Institution, and organizes programs for inmates who later themselves mentor inmates. Chris recorded and produced with the prisoners the album Postcards from the County, described by (Exclaim!) as “inescapably honest and sincere.” His ongoing work with prisoners has been acknowledged and hailed by the Toronto Star, Truthout,, CBC (Canada) and Sirius XM Canada.

Chris recently produced debut albums for the late Steven Heighton, Suzanne Jarvie and David Corley. He divides his time between Brooklyn, NY, and Wolfe Island, producing albums, touring and performing with Kate Fenner and Open Hearts Society.


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