plan to be inspired

While we cannot come physically together next to the magnificent Mattawa River, we can be engaged with the work of authors and how nature affects their writing, come together from all parts of the world, acquire a new lens on the outdoors, and connect our community with stories.


“Creating connections with our natural world through the arts is more important than ever after these many months of living with uncertainty, stress and sorrow,” Janet Joy Wilson, artistic director of the festival, says. “While participants are not able to come together with writers in the woods, as they have in past years, we can bond remotely.”

The In Conversation series took place over three months with three themes.

Curating this program to discuss topics of aging, children and grief in relation to the outdoors has been simple. It’s as a perfect conduit for the author to share their work and how their writing is influenced by nature but then to dig into the subject with an expert will take the audience to a deeper level.

AGING and NATURE March 24

Investigative journalist Moira Welsh has focused on social justice, the environment and the lives of people living in seniors’ homes.

Welsh, the author of HAPPILY EVER OLDER, has co-authored investigations which have won three National Newspaper Awards and a Michener Award for Public Service Journalism.

Guillermo (Gil) Penalosa is passionate about creating vibrant cities and healthy communities. He is the founder and chair of the non-profit organization 8 80 Cities and is the first ambassador of the World Urban Parks, president of G. Penalosa and Associates.

VIDEO of the invigorating conversation!

KIDS and NATURE April 21

Dr. Angie Abdou is the author of five novels and a memoir of hockey parenting, Home Ice. Her first novel, The Bone Cage, was a CBC Canada Reads finalist and was awarded the 2011–12 MacEwan Book of the Year. Angie is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Athabasca University.

THIS ONE WILD LIFE: A MOTHER-DAUGHTER WILDERNESS MEMOIR] is available at your local independent retailer!

Bill Steer a.k.a. “Back Roads Bill” is the General Manager and the “originator” of the Canadian Ecology Centre. He holds degrees and diplomas from Laurentian University, Nipissing College, McMaster University and Durham College. Most of his work experience is within the field of environmental education and special education with the Near North District School Board and the Simcoe County Board of Education. He is also the Director of the National Green Check GPS Certification Program, which administers three levels of geomatics certification.

VIDEO of the lively conversation!


Catherine Owen has published 15 collections of poetry and prose. LOCATIONS OF GRIEF is her memoir anthology and RIVEN: Poems both published in 2020.

Dr. Allan Peterkin is a Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at the University of Toronto, where he heads the Program In Health, Arts and Humanities and is Faculty Humanities Lead for Undergraduate and Post MD Medical Education. He completed undergraduate studies in English and French literature and completed residencies in family medicine and psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal.

VIDEO of our meaningful conversation!


Seth Klein is currently the Team Lead and Director of Strategy for the Climate Emergency Unit (a five-year project of the David Suzuki Institute). For 22 years (1996-2018), he served as the founding British Columbia Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a public policy research institute committed to social, economic and environmental justice. He is a freelance researcher, writer, policy consultant and speaker. Seth is also an adjunct professor with Simon Fraser University’s Urban Studies program. A social activist for over 35 years, Seth lives in East Vancouver with his partner and two children. Seth has been listed by Vancouver Magazine as one of the 50 most powerful people in the city, and by Homemakers Magazine among the “60 men we love.” He does not know how he ended up on either list, but he humbly accepts the latter.

We will have a conversation about his book A Good War Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, published by ECW Press.


Please give generously to the Canadian Ecology Centre EDUCATION FOUNDATION! Donate here


“This three-part series on Nature in relation to Aging, Children and Grief was essential. Through deep conversations, poetry, Powerpoint presentations and questions, the approach to the material at hand was incredibly meaningful and moving. And Janet Joy was a superbly incisive and warm host. We need more such events as the Mattawa River Writers Festival!” ~ Catherine Owen RIVEN poems and LOCATIONS OF GRIEF

“Congratulations and gratitude to the whole Mattawa River Writers Festival team for presenting a professional, energetic, stimulating, and heart-warming virtual event in these tough, online times. Bill and Bart the Bear joining us from the great outdoors made it the next best thing to actually being there on the riverbanks. I loved our tree-hugging, planet-loving conversation, which left me inspired and full of hope. I can’t wait to visit the ecology centre for real, when we’re able. Thank you, Mattawa River Writers Festival!” ~ Dr. Angie Abdou author of THIS ONE WILD LIFE: A MOTHER-DAUGHTER WILDERNESS MEMOIR]

“Days after attending “In Conversation about Aging and Nature,” I am still inspired by the authenticity, wisdom and passion of guests Gil (Guillermo) Penalosa, Moira Welsh Happily Ever Older, and moderator/activist Janet Joy Wilson The Reading Line.

The talk has already inspired a number of engaging conversations with my 50-something husband and his parents, who will both be in their 80’s by the end of this year. It has made me think differently about how I envision their future care, lifestyle choices and access to nature as they embrace their retirement in good health and within a rural setting.

We are privileged to live within walking distance to High Park in Toronto, with plenty of green space all around us. Many lower income neighbourhoods aren’t so lucky.

I look forward to the rest of this fascinating series from the Mattawa River Writers Festival.” ~ Tracey Hoyt, Coach, Director, & Actor

From the ZOOM Chat Room:

“wonderful combination of perspectives and insights”

“Very inspiring! Will get books! My Mom just moved this week here in New Brunswick from a special care home to a nursing home. She is in advanced stages of Alzheimer. Moira Welsh’s comments & principles present compelling arguments for more freedom & risk taking.”

“I’m with you Gil Penalosa, there is so much that can be done. Thank you for your continued passion and inspiration!!”

“Thank you very much for a great lecture!!! I learned a lot!!!”

“Great conversation! Thanks!!!!”

“This conversation has helped a lot with a deep process of grief I’m experiencing right now. Great to relate the loss with poetry.”

“Thank you very much for the wonderful poetry and discussion. I will take these ideas to my work with patients who have recently lost someone.”

“Thank you so much for an amazing and inspiring evening!!!!”

“This is soooo good on many levels. The most meaningful and relevant discussion of grief I have ever heard. Thank You! Thank you Thank you. I feel inspired by your sharings. Xo”

Meet Our Authors

Seth Klein

A Good War - Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency

Moira Welsh

Happily Ever Older

Gil (Guillermo) Penalosa

Our Third Act Older - Healthier & Happier

Dr. Angie Abdou

This One Wild Life - A Mother-Daughter Wilderness Memoir

Back Roads Bill Steer

Canadian Ecology Centre

Catherine Owen

Riven - Poems (2020) Locations of Grief - An Emotional Geography (2020)

Dr. Allan Peterkin

Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine, University of Toronto