Toronto’s Word on the Street Book & Magazine Festival runs June 11 & 12 at Queen’s Park Circle. In preparation for the event, we’re profiling some of the writers who will be featured during the festival.


The Author Spotlight Series shines a light on writers creating heartfelt and original work across genres, giving them an opportunity to talk about their books and why they do what they do.


Click Here to follow the series as it progresses.

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“Shannon Webb-Campbell is a mixed Indigenous (Mi’kmaq) settler poet, writer, and critic. She is the author of Still No Word (2015), recipient of Eagle Canada’s Out in Print Award, and I Am A Body of Land (2019; finalist for the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry). Shannon holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, and a MA in English Literature at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, and is pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of New Brunswick in the Department of English. She is the editor of Visual Arts News Magazine. Shannon is a member of Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation and lives in Kijpuktuk/Halifax in Mi’kma’ki.”


When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

As a teenager, I used to write hundreds of letters to pen pals all over the world. Most people I used to write to I had never met. By nature, I am deeply curious and seek out connection. 


Becoming a writer seemed like a natural progression for what’s become a life-long desire and burning need to express, respond and relate. 


Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?

I remember writing a poem in grade school in a special bound notebook that I illustrated. 


How did you develop your skills? 

I worked at a children’s bookstore in high school and read voraciously. Then I became a journalist, and worked as an arts writer for alternative weeklies and magazines while studying literature at Dalhousie University. I swore I would never go to grad school, but a few years later, I ended up doing my MFA in Creative Writing at University of British Columbia. I wrote and published my first poetry book, Still No Word, and worked for a few publishers, and literary publications reviewing and interviewing authors and poets.


Then I started teaching English at Memorial University, but couldn’t go further without a doctoral degree, so I ended up doing a MA in English, where I wrote some of what eventually became I Am a Body of Land. Currently, I am working on my PhD in Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick and writing my first novel, Only Young.


Who are some of your biggest literary influences? Do you have a favourite book/author?

Susan Musgrave, Sylvia Plath, Lee Maracle, Maria Campbell and Lisa Moore are big influences. One of my favourite books is Maggie Nelson’s bluets. I’m a sucker for Anne Carson.


How would you describe your work?

Some days writing is ethereal, moon-like, tidal. Other days writing is hard rock and water.


What’s your writing process like?

Part spontaneous, part combustive. Mostly, I write, rewrite, repeat. Sometimes it’s molasses slow, other times writing feels like a quickfire. 


Tell us about your most recent book. 

Lunar Tides is structured within the lunar calendar, and explores the primordial connections between love, grief, and water. The poetics follow rhythms of the body, the tides, the moon, and long, deep familial relationships that are both personal and ancestral. The book began with the deep grief of losing my mother, and charts the arc to finding her again in the waves. It explores the legacies of colonialism, kinship and Indigenous resurgence.


What are you working on now/next?

I am working on Only Young, a novel consisting of interlinking narratives taking place between Newfoundland’s 1949 Confederation with Canada and 2011 Toronto, Ontario when the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band was officially recognized by the federal government. The novel will examine these events and the narratives surrounding them via the protagonist – Sarah’s exploration of both the colonial constructions of her identity, and her larger family relationship to her ancestral lands and body. 


This novel asks: Who belongs, and where? Are we the sum of our family narratives? Who are when we’ve been estranged from our family, and ultimately, our ancestors? How do our familial and personal mythologies address colonization?  What is love and how do we undo harm? Can a personal story transform collective trauma? Only Young deals with physical migration in search of work, alienation, homesickness, trauma, notions of belonging to the land, and illustrates that resettlement ruptures family connections.


Shannon will be featured (virtually) at this year’s Word On The Street festival Sunday June 12th from 4-5 PM.