Books

New documentary series celebrating Canadian literature to air on CBC Gem

The series features 12 Canadian writers from different backgrounds and showcases the deep diversity of contemporary literature in Canada.

Writing the Land is streaming now on CBC Gem

Writing the Land is a CBC Gem documentary series celebrating Canada and its literature. (CBC)

Writing the Land, a documentary series celebrating Canada and its literature, is coming to CBC Gem.

Stephanie Weimar is a filmmaker and the director of Writing the Land. (Markus Wustmann)

The series features 12 Canadian writers from different backgrounds and showcases the deep diversity of contemporary literature in Canada, including Esi Edugyan, Joshua Whitehead and Madeleine Thien

Writing the Land is directed by Stephanie Weimar and filmed throughout four seasons, which gives the documentary a range of complex textures, colours and emotions. 

Weimar is a director and story editor born in Germany who immigrated to Canada in 2003. She has directed several documentaries and documentary series, including My Brother's Vows, Watchers of the North, Equator – A New World View and the interactive documentary Polar Sea 360. She is also the creative producer of Arctic Secrets and the story editor of the CBC documentary There's No Place Like This Place. Anyplace.

The series consists of four parts: Light, Rock, Trees and Water. Each episode runs for 30 minutes. 

You can stream Writing the Land for free on CBC Gem.

The first two episodes will be broadcast CBC on on Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. ET and the second two episodes will be broadcast on Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. ET.

You can meet the 12 writers featured in the series below!

Eden Robinson

Eden Robinson is the author of Son of a Trickster. (CBC)

Eden Robinson is a member of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations in Northern B.C. She is the author of Monkey Beach and the Trickster trilogy: Son of a Trickster, Return of the Trickster and Trickster DriftMonkey Beach was nominated for the 2000 Giller Prize. In 2017, Robinson received the Writers' Trust Fellowship, a $50,000 prize that supports mid-career authors. Son of a Trickster was championed by actor Kaniehtiio Horn on Canada Reads 2020.

"When I was growing up, we would sit around the kitchen table after supper and have coffee and cigarettes and just tell stories; many of them were Wee'git stories," said Robinson in an interview with CBC Books.

Kaniehtiio Horn & Eden Robinson discuss Son of a Trickster

3 years ago
Duration 5:19
Letterkenny actress Kaniehtiio Horn will defend Eden Robinson's novel Son of a Trickster on Canada Reads 2020. Ahead of the debates, the actor and author chatted about what really lies at the heart of the award-winning supernatural novel.

Catherine Hernandez

Catherine Hernandez is a writer, author and playwright from Scarborough, Ont. (Writing the Land/CBC)

Catherine Hernandez is a Canadian writer, author and playwright. She is from Toronto and of mixed Filipino, Chinese, Spanish and Indian descent. Her debut novel, Scarborough, tells the multi-voiced story of a Toronto neighbourhood that refuses to fall apart in the face of poverty and crime. She is also the author of the Crosshairs and the picture book I Promise, which was illustrated by Syrus Marcus Ware.

"In Scarborough, you are constantly surrounded by characters. Every day there is somebody who wants to tell you their story," Hernandez commented on how her neighbourhood inspired her book in an interview with CBC Books.

Why I Write: Catherine Hernandez

4 years ago
Duration 3:23
In this CBC Books video series, Catherine Hernandez explains why today’s Canadian writers need to be aware of anti-oppression and decolonization in order to be successful.

Aviaq Johnston

Aviaq Johnston is an Inuk author from Igloolik, Nunavut. (Writing the Land/CBC)

Aviaq Johnston is an Inuk writer from Igloolik, Nunavut. Her debut novel, Those Who Run in the Sky, won the Indigenous Voices Award for most significant work of prose in English by an emerging Indigenous writer in 2018. Her other works include the short story collection Tarnikuluk, the YA novel Those Who Dwell Below and the picture book What's My Superpower?

"My stories are rooted in the natural world of the Arctic, which in itself is a spiritual place. When you are surrounded by ice and snow for most of your life, you learn to appreciate the strength of the land, animals and people. My stories try to reflect that," she said in an interview with CBC Books.

Aviaq Johnston freely admits the first book she ever wrote as a teen was terrible. But the author from Igloolik, Nunavut has moved on from a "Harry Potter rip-off" to a debut novel shortlisted for a Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature.

Madeleine Thien

Madeleine Thien is the author of the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize winning novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing. (Writing the Land/CBC)

Madeleine Thien is a Canadian novelist. Her novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General'sLiterary Award for fiction in 2016. Her other books include novels Certainty, Dogs at the Perimeter and children's book The Chinese Violin.

"As a novelist, you are invested in every single word. Writing novels is about the act of listening even more than the act of speaking," she said in an interview with The Next Chapter.

Madeleine Thien on her latest novel, which is long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Katherena Vermette

Katherena Vermette is an award-winning writer who has published poetry, novels and children’s literature. (Writing the Land/CBC)

Katherena Vermette is a Métis writer from Treaty One territory, the heart of the Métis nation, Winnipeg. Her first book, North End Love Songs, won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry. She is also the author of novels The Break and The Strangers.

"There are so many things about being an Indigenous person in this world that fills me with rage. There is joy too... There's lots of love. I am so proud of who I am and where I come from. But there are so many injustices in this world," Vermette said in an interview with The Next Chapter.

Katherena Vermette talks to Shelagh Rogers about her latest novel, The Strangers.

Catherine Leroux

Catherine Leroux is a writer and translator from Quebec. (Writing the Land/CBC)

Catherine Leroux is a writer, translator and journalist from Rosemère, Que., who is now based in Montreal. She is the author of her debut novel La marche en forêt and short story collection ​​Le mur mitoyen, which won the Prix France-Québec in 2014. The English edition, The Party Wall, won the 2016 Governor General's Literary Award for translation and was shortlisted for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

"Reading my work translated was a very strange feeling. It feels like it's your work but not your work at the same time. You feel like you just walked into your house but all the furniture has been moved and some of the walls were painted different colours. It's still yours, but there's something different about it," Leroux said in an interview with CBC Books.

TNC columnist Catherine Lerouxx reveals her top picks for new French/English translations out now.

Esi Edugyan

Esi Edugyan is the author of the novels Half-Blood Blues and Washington Black. (Writing the Land/CBC)

Esi Edugyan is a writer who was born in Calgary and is now based in Victoria. She has won the Scotiabank Giller Prize twice: in 2011 for Half-Blood Blues and in 2018 for Washington Black. Edugyan is delivering the 2021 Massey Lectures this fall. The talk is based on her nonfiction book Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling.

"My writing is the commitment, given who I am and where I am from. We cannot help but write through the lens of who we are. Confronting the world as a Black woman is my particular reality, one that informs my work in both obvious and subtle ways," she said in an interview with CBC Books.

The celebrated Canadian writer talks to Michael about growing up black in Calgary, the legacy of slavery, and what it's like to win (or be nominated for) so many literary prizes.

Joshua Whitehead

Joshua Whitehead is the author of the novel Jonny Appleseed and the poetry collection full-metal indigiqueer. (Writing the Land/CBC)

Jonny Appleseed, Joshua Whitehead is a two-spirit, Oji-nêhiyaw Indigiqueer scholar and writer from Peguis First Nation. He is the author of the novel Jonny Appleseed, which won Canada Reads 2021, when it was defended by actor Devery Jacobs. He also wrote the poetry collection full-metal indigiqueer and edited the anthology Love after the End.

"What gives me brazen hope is the sheer shifting of gravitational forces in this industry we call CanLit in that queer, BIPOC, and trans narratives have made space, taken space for themselves in this machination as a legitimate and powerful force of oration beyond simply pulp or genre work — works that span generations, young and elder, intersections, space and place, and most importantly, voice," he said in an interview with CBC Arts.

We revisit Shelagh's interview with Joshua Whitehead on his book Jonny Appleseed. The novel is a 2021 Canada Reads selection.

Uzma Jalaluddin

Uzma Jalaluddin is an author and educator based in Ontario. (Writing the Land/CBC)

Uzma Jalaluddin is a teacher, parenting columnist and author based in Ontario. She was born in Toronto to parents who immigrated from India. Her debut novel, Ayesha At Last, is set in a close-knit Toronto Muslim community. She is also the author of Hana Khan Carries On, which is being adapted into film by Mindy Kaling and Amazon Studios.

"I love the classic rom-coms. One of the really popular tropes is 'enemies to lovers,' and I'm a sucker for that trope. I love it so much," she said in an interview with The Next Chapter.

South Asian creators, critics weigh in on the importance of thoughtful representation

12 months ago
Duration 3:03
Bilal Baig, Uzma Jalaluddin and Amil Niazi spoke with CBC News about increased media visibility for South Asian Canadians and why off-screen representation is crucial in film and television.

Michael Winter

Michael Winter is a writer from Newfoundland; he divides his time between St. John's and Toronto. (Writing the Land/CBC)

Michael Winter was born in England but grew up in Newfoundland. The province serves as a backdrop for his five novels, one nonfiction book and three collections of short stories. Winter won the CBC Short Story Prize in 2004. He's the author of Minister Without Portfolio, ​​The Death of Donna Whalen and Into the Blizzard.Minister Without Portfolio was defended by wrestler Adam "Edge" Copeland on Canada Reads 2016.

"I was interested in adults who had tried at being adults once when they got to be 20 and 30, but then they got to be 35 and the attempt at progress through adulthood met some kind of failure. What do you do then? What do you do when you're in your mid-30s and you're asked to try again?," he said to The Next Chapter about writing Minister Without Portfolio.

Michael Winter's Labrador visit

6 years ago
Duration 2:47
Michael Winter's Labrador visit

Ivan Coyote

Ivan Coyote is a writer and storyteller from Yukon. (Writing the Land/CBC)

Ivan Coyote is the author of 11 books, the creator of four short films and has released three albums that combine storytelling with music. Having performed across the world over the last 20 years, Coyote has become an audience favourite at storytelling, writer's, film, poetry and folk music festivals. Their titles include the memoir Tomboy Survival Guide, collaborative book Gender Failure, YA collection One in Every Crowd, novel Bow Grip and the latest Care Of.

"It's about how stories and those experiences as we live them in our lives, connect us to other people. Especially when someone reaches out to me with their grief. How is that not going to resonate and rattle my own similar loss in my chest?" they said during an interview with The Next Chapter.

A mantra for the misgendered: Storyteller Ivan Coyote offers some 'armour' for trans kids

2 years ago
Duration 5:12
Watch the prolific Coyote's moving performance from our virtual special Queer Pride Inside.

Edem Awumey

Edem Awumey is a Togolese Canadian writer who lives in Quebec. (Writing the Land/CBC)

Edem Awumey was born in Togo and immigrated to Gatineau, Que. in 2005. His debut novel Port-Mélo won the Grand prix littéraire d'Afrique noire. His other novels include Dirty Feet and Descent into Night, which won the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for translation. 

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