A Message from the President thanking our volunteers!

 Don Oravec, President of the Board of Project Bookmark Canada 

Don Oravec, President of the Board of Project Bookmark Canada 

Project Bookmark Canada is comprised of highly motivated volunteers and a dedicated and hard-working staff and together they make the Organization matter, on a daily basis.  

I believe it is important to acknowledge the work of these volunteers whenever possible so, with that in mind, today I want to recognise the volunteer work that the board members have achieved in the past year.

Hughena Matheson works on communications with educators (read her article here), and she helped staff our booth at Word on the Street this past fall. She and board member Linda Hughes met with librarians to promote the Organization and they also work to develop and support Reading Circles across the country, from Halifax to Yellowknife.

I also want to recognise Bianca Spence for her communications expertise. She’s also a co-founder of the Women’s March Toronto.

Alma Lee and Anna Ling Kaye are working diligently to make a second bookmark plaque happen on the nation’s west coast, and Anna is also helping to develop a series of Bookmarks that explore emerging and established voices of writers and readers from a variety of communities.

On the east coast, Munju Ravindra was instrumental in establishing our first community host partnership with Parks Canada, resulting in the Hugh MacLennan Bookmark at the Halifax Citadel. Also an east coaster, our outgoing board member Kevin Noel has helped keep the finances on track for the Organization now for several years and we are grateful to him for his work and sad to see his term end on the board of directors.

I am happy to announce the addition of Susan Lightstone to the board of directors. Susan and I were born one month apart in the same hospital in Sarnia, Ontario, and while we didn’t know one another back then we connected when I worked for the Writers’ Trust of Canada and she was a member of the Politics and the Pen committee in Ottawa (a committee that raised money for the Trust). Susan has ‘hit the ground running’ so to speak and is helping us organize fundraisers.

This only serves to ‘skim the surface’ and highlight some of the activities these wonderful volunteers do to make Project Bookmark Canada work. I cannot begin to thank them enough for all they do annually for the Organization. They donate their time, talent and financial gifts to our national charity, founded by Miranda Hill, herself a volunteer extraordinaire with us, and it is a pleasure to work with them. See for more information about these wonderful volunteers! We also want to thank other volunteers, from student filmmakers to researchers, from across the country.

This thing called Project Bookmark Canada is a literary movement that builds Bookmarks bringing writing to life with Bookmarks on the CanLit Trail, coast to coast to coast. We are always looking for more volunteers for the Organization, including board members, student interns and Reading Circle members. If you are interested, please contact Laurie Murphy and we can find a role for you. It would be our pleasure to welcome you to the fold.

Project Bookmark Canada relies on individual donations to do its work. Donate toward undesignated gifts, and help us with our operational costs. Thank you.

— Don Oravec



Toronto Bookmarks now on Driftscape!

  Driftscape  is a new, local discovery app.

Driftscape is a new, local discovery app.

Article by Chloe Doesburg, of Driftscape.

Project Bookmark has partnered with another one-of-a-kind cultural project called Driftscape – now their site-specific exhibits will be even more accessible to you on the go. 

Driftscape is a new local discovery app that our team, spread between Waterloo and Toronto, has been developing over the last couple of years.  Our app brings together local cultural content in a map-based format.  Project Bookmark is included alongside pins from other amazing organizations such as The Toronto Poetry Map (from the Toronto Public Library), First Story (Indigenous history), The Toronto Dreams Project (fictional dreams of real historical figures), and many, many more. 

This pairing could not be more perfect.  Project Bookmark’s dream of helping to strengthen our sense of ourselves and our connection to the places we live through literature, is right in step with Driftscape’s belief that creating a platform where diverse stories can be shared will inspire a greater understanding of the spaces we inhabit and the people we share them with.

Canada’s landscape is dense with stories and Driftscape offers a tool to encounter them at the places where they are most powerful. Driftscape lets you see all of these stories in one app, and to tailor what you see to suit your interests.  You can also get notifications on your phone when there’s something interesting nearby.

Imagine you’re near Casa Loma, and up pops a notification: “You’re near the Bookmark for Dennis Lee’s The Cat and the Wizard.”  Stop to read a passage from this book, explore the interactive exhibit, and keep walking. A moment later another notification pops up this time from the Toronto Dreams Project – read a fantastical tale about Casa Loma’s original resident Sir Henry Pellatt, and his dream of a dragon in the castle.  Keep going…  another notification from the Toronto Poetry Map, now wander a little further leaving the castle behind.  You get another notification from First Story telling you that the place where you are now standing used to be atop a cliff on the shore of the great glacial Lake Iroquois – on a well-worn trail leading between the Don and Humber rivers.

This is just a small taste of what you’ll find on Driftscape.  Download Driftscape today to discover hidden gems all around you. We’re currently focused on Toronto, but we have plans to expand nationally and bring you all of Canada’s Literary Trail and so much more!






A Field Trip along Canada’s Literary Trail

 Teen-age filmmaker Astrid Mohr recording  The Convict Lover  Bookmark

Teen-age filmmaker Astrid Mohr recording The Convict Lover Bookmark

An article for teachers by Project Bookmark Canada Board Member Hughena Matheson.

Field trips — excitement for your students, but for you teachers, these trips can mean headaches: collecting money and parental permission forms, ordering buses, and the ultimate worry of losing a student. I suggest a field trip without these worries.

Your only preparation is to make sure your students have access to the Internet. With the click of a mouse at, they will discover Canada’s literary trail. On their virtual field trip, they will visit the exact Canadian settings writers imagined as they wrote a poem or a work of fiction. These locations are marked with Bookmarks, plaques with excerpts from these poems and works of fiction.

Over a decade ago, writer Miranda Hill came up with the idea of a literary trail as she walked in the places where scenes she was reading were set. Her idea was that readers could step right into the stories, experiencing the authors’ visions and the real locales simultaneously. She imagined that someday, we could read our way right across Canada.

On this trip, your students will do just that by stepping into Canadian stories from Newfoundland to British Columbia. On a virtual trip, because your students do not have to “stick together,” they can all be in different parts of the country reading the words of our storytellers.

 Construction of the Bloor Street Viaduct, site of Project Bookmark Canada's #1 Bookmark, for Michael Ondaatje's    In the Skin of a Lion

Construction of the Bloor Street Viaduct, site of Project Bookmark Canada's #1 Bookmark, for Michael Ondaatje's  In the Skin of a Lion

They can have “free rein” exploring the trail wherever they want. Some may stop at the inaugural Bookmark. Located on the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto, it has an excerpt from Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion. At this stop, they can hear the author reading the dramatic excerpt: “Then there was no longer any fear on the bridge. The worst, the incredible had happened. A nun had fallen off the Prince Edward Viaduct before it was even finished. The men covered in wood shavings or granite dust held the woman against them ...” They can even listen to an interview with the author.

Other students may head to Halifax to visit the Barometer Rising Bookmark. At the top of Citadel Hill, they will be with character Dr. Angus Murray as he looks over Halifax and the harbour the day after the great explosion. Writer Hugh McLennan was a ten-year old boy when that explosion occurred in 1917. The unveiling of his Bookmark was held in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the explosion. In Halifax, students may wander “off the trail” to learn more about that historic event, the largest man-made disaster before Hiroshima.

 The aftermath of the Halifax Explosion, 1917.

The aftermath of the Halifax Explosion, 1917.

Those heading west will find a Bookmark with an excerpt from Wayson Choy’s The Jade Peony in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Reading this excerpt, either in English or Mandarin, your students will be with 12-year old Jung, one of the children of an immigrant Chinese family living there in the 30’s and 40’s. He has just handed his coat to tailor Gee Sook who puts it onto the massive steam-pressing machine. After “luxurious blasts of steam penetrated every fibre of the coat,” Sooki draped the coat over Jung who feels a transformation: “I felt intense heat embrace my shoulders, then curve over my back and drop upon my chest. I felt like a young warrior receiving the gift of his bright armour, a steely-grey coat born from fire and steam.”

Those students who end up in Hamilton will find themselves at the edge of the escarpment. As they read “Giants,” John Terpstra’s poem, they will imagine giants sitting there a long time ago watching the glaciers recede. The giants were quite excited “about not having to wear their coats all the time, and what the ice and water had done, shaping and carving the gentle, wild landscape.”

Students discovering the Bookmark on Hamilton’s waterfront will learn another interesting back story. One day when writer Rachael Preston was walking this trail, she noticed a plaque commemorating the city’s lost boathouse community. In her research, Preston learned that a shantytown existed there in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Wanting to beautify Hamilton, city councillors voted to abolish this community. No trace of the community remains, but Preston makes this lost community come alive in her novel, The Fishers of Paradise about the fictional Fisher family living there. 


In Oakville, students will find a Bookmark for Lawrence Hill’s novel Any Known Blood, the story of five generations of a black family moving back and forth across the US-Canada border. The excerpt will introduce them to Captain Robert Wilson who helped runaway slaves cross Lake Ontario to safety. This is another place where students may wander “off the trail” to learn more about that the historical background of the novel.

On a virtual trip, students can visit the trail at their own pace. Some may linger at one spot as they become immersed in the background of a novel. The story behind Merilyn Simonds’ novel The Convict Lover will fascinate them. In 1987, she found a cache of letters, albums, and clippings in the attic of her house in Kingston, Ontario. Among these was a collection of letters written by a prisoner in the Kingston Penitentiary to a young girl who lived near the prison quarry where convicts did hard labour.  From this one-way correspondence, Simonds imagined her novel about the real convict, Joe Cleroux, and the real girl, Phyllis Halliday, who was known to Cleroux as Peggy.

As a side trip, students could watch a short film by Simonds' teenage granddaughter, filmmaker Astrid Mohr, which captures the unveiling of the Bookmark for her grandmother’s novel. 

Sometime on this trip, inevitably one student will shout out, “There are no Bookmarks in our town or province.”  Your answer: “Project Bookmark is only 11 years old. Trails take a long time to blaze, especially across our huge country.”

At this point, you might suggest they do research about Canadian literature, writing and publishing. They could involve the school and community librarians to find out what literature has a local setting. When I asked the librarian at the Cape Breton library I used as a child, I was surprised at how much literature is set in Cape Breton.

If your class is inspired to blaze the literary trail in their part of Canada, they could form a reading circle to make suggestions for Bookmarks. This could be a class, school or community circle. With today’s technology, the members do not have to be in the same location.

I can imagine a cross-Canada reading circle with its members deciding on children’s books to be bookmarked. Children’s literature would be a great topic for a reading circle of young people who still vividly remember the great Canadian stories from their childhood. So far, only one children's book has a Bookmark, Dennis Lee's "The Cat and the Wizard." This book is set at Casa Loma, the castle he writes about in his story.

 The first children's Bookmark, for Dennis Lee's   The Cat and the Wizard   at Casa Loma in Toronto.

The first children's Bookmark, for Dennis Lee's The Cat and the Wizard at Casa Loma in Toronto.

Selecting an excerpt, your students will use their critical thinking skills.  The excerpt from fiction or poetry may be up to 500 words and must be set in an actual and identified location. Is the criteria met by the words your students have chosen to submit? Does their excerpt make the reader wonder what came before and what comes next? Will this piece make people want to read the whole book? Once they have made a suggestion for a Bookmark, students simply fill out the form on the website. This experience will foster an interest in Can Lit. Your students might even select one of the “Bookmarks” currently on the trail as a topic for a class assignment. See the live list of all 19 Bookmarks, or download the map and complete list here

Although you will avoid the usual problems on this virtual trip, you could still have one. You could lose a student or two. Maybe the daydreamers will get lost in thought, imaging ideas for their own poems, short stories or novels.

Decades later, one of your daydreamers is reading a Bookmark excerpt at the unveiling of a Bookmark inscribed with their writing. During the ceremony, your former student recognizes you in the audience and remarks, “I would like to thank my teacher who decades ago took my class on a virtual field trip along this Bookmark trail. Because of that teacher, my writing is now part of Canada’s unique literary trail.”



Holiday Gifting that Gives Back

Help the book lovers on your list to build our great Canadian literary trail, with a gift to Project Bookmark Canada. Make a donation in the recipients’ names, and they’ll receive this charming holiday card (send it by email or print and tuck into a stocking).

A gift with impact — and you can get it without having to wrap a package, stand in line, or get snow in your boot. Happy holidays and best wishes in the coming year from Project Bookmark Canada!



Launching Bookmark #19!


Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, Halifax’s first Bookmark is for Hugh MacLennan’s Barometer Rising, a tale of a wartime disaster that changed Halifax forever.

All are welcome to attend the plaque unveiling and readings at Parks Canada’s Halifax Citadel National Historic Site:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 2pm
Main Entrance of Halifax Citadel
5425 Sackville Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Pour souligner le 100e anniversaire de l’explosion d’Halifax, le premier signet de la ville met à l’honneur Le temps tournera au beau (traduction de Barometer Rising), de Hugh MacLennan, récit d’une catastrophe en temps de guerre qui a changé Halifax à tout jamais. 

Tous sont invités à assister au dévoilement de la plaque et aux séances de lecture, qui se tiendront au lieu historique national de la Citadelle-d’Halifax : 

Le mardi 5 décembre 2017 à 14 h
Entrée principale de la citadelle d’Halifax,
5425, rue Sackville, Halifax (Nouvelle-Écosse)

This is an outdoor event, rain/snow or shine!
Let us know if you're coming: RSVP

FREE Parking is at the Back Entrance of the Citadel.

  Project Bookmark Halifax Reading Group:  Sarah Emsley ,  Marianne Ward ,  Alexander MacLeod , and Naomi MacKinnon. Missing from the photo are  Susanne Marshall ,  Carol McDougall , and  David Wilson . Monthly meetings are at the Old Triangle Pub.

Project Bookmark Halifax Reading Group: Sarah EmsleyMarianne WardAlexander MacLeod, and Naomi MacKinnon. Missing from the photo are Susanne MarshallCarol McDougall, and David Wilson. Monthly meetings are at the Old Triangle Pub.

Thanks to Bookmark's Halifax Reading Group! Your efforts and enthusiasm are making Nova Scotia Bookmarks a reality. Learn more: Reading circles link readers across Canada.

We appreciate donations to help us build this Bookmark. Mail your cheque to Project Bookmark Canada, 215 Spadina Avenue, Suite 400, Toronto, ON M5T 2C7,  or give onlineProject Bookmark Canada is a nationally registered charitable organization: CRA #82725 7569 RR0001.

 Dr. Keith Mercer, Cultural Resource Manager, Parks Canada Mainland NS

Dr. Keith Mercer, Cultural Resource Manager, Parks Canada Mainland NS

A special thanks to Project Bookmark Canada Founder Miranda Hill for her vision and work to build Bookmarks with Parks Canada community partnership.

We are especially grateful to Dr. Keith Mercer, Cultural Resource Manager, Parks Canada Mainland NS, and his team for their support of Halifax's first Bookmark and the first Bookmark at a National Historic Site.

Thanks also go to Philip Cercone, and the estate of Hugh MacLennan, McGill University, as well as Jared Bland and Kelly Joseph, McClelland & Stewart, Penguin Random House Canada.

Thanks to Rami Schandall for the design of our beautiful plaques in French and English.

See all 19 Bookmarks (download PDF)

Let us know if you're coming: RSVP




Launching Bookmark #18!


On September 30, Project Bookmark Canada will unveil a plaque to celebrate The Convict Lover and its place in the Canadian literary landscape. The plaque will be installed in Portsmouth’s Garrigan Park, once the quarry where Kingston Penitentiary convicts did hard time. This is the 18th Project Bookmark Canada plaque, and the 2nd for Kingston, the first being “Mexican Sunsets,” a poem by Bronwen Wallace.

The unveiling takes place on
Saturday, September 30, at 11 a.m. in Garrigan Park
beside Domino Theatre in Portsmouth village.

(See map below)

In addition to speakers, singer Chris Hugh Brown, Founder of Pros and Cons, will perform “The Prisoner's Song." Juicy Kik food truck will be on site, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

At 12:15 p.m., following the unveiling, Merilyn Simonds, author of The Convict Lover, will lead a “Prisoner’s Walk” from the quarry through the village to the penitentiary, with readings from the book.

Everyone is welcome to attend!

In addition to individual donors, thanks are extended to author Merilyn Simonds,
Kingston WritersFest, City of Kingston and the Ontario Trillium Foundation for their support.
To help build this Bookmark, click below: