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What on Earth is Going on? is a podcast for the curious, where small talk is banned and tangents are prized. Strap yourself in for genuine dialogues with people who think deeply and are ready to tackle the big questions, such as broadcaster Terry O'Reilly, fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay, and journalist Sally Armstrong.

Join Ben Charland to peel back the headlines and ask, what are the forces, people and ideas that shape the human story today? From the Mafia to the Beavertonwomen in politics to women in leadershiphistory to artificial intelligence, and entrepreneurship in the digital age to the art of wheelchair fencing, just what on Earth is going on?

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Jan 10, 2020

Lucy Ellmann's groundbreaking and award-winning novel, "Ducks, Newburyport", consists of a single sentence broken up only by the small bits of a parallel story of a mountain lioness protecting her cubs. It's a powerful, engrossing and genuinely readable piece of literature that challenges how fiction is read as well as our base assumptions of history, women, motherhood and the incredible flux of the 21st century.

Ben discusses the book with Barbara Bell, Artistic Director of Kingston WritersFest.

About the Book

Baking a multitude of tartes tatins for local restaurants, an Ohio housewife contemplates her four kids, husband, cats and chickens. Also, America’s ignoble past, and her own regrets. She is surrounded by dead lakes, fake facts, Open Carry maniacs, and oodles of online advice about survivalism, veil toss duties, and how to be more like Jane Fonda. But what do you do when you keep stepping on your son’s toy tractors, your life depends on stolen land and broken treaties, and nobody helps you when you get a flat tire on the interstate, not even the Abominable Snowman? When are you allowed to start swearing?

With a torrent of consciousness and an intoxicating coziness, Ducks, Newburyport lays out a whole world for you to tramp around in, by turns frightening and funny. A heart-rending indictment of America’s barbarity, and a lament for the way we are blundering into environmental disaster, this book is both heresy—and a revolution in the novel.

About the Guest

Barbara Bell is the Artistic Director of Kingston WritersFest, with which she has been involved since the first meeting in 2009, becoming Artistic Director in 2014. “I love working in the arts,” she says, “and offering writers and readers a place to come together to celebrate literature.”

Besides being a brilliant organizer, she is an actor, theatrical and film producer, television host, editor, and writer. Barbara won the Eastern Ontario Drama League’s Award for Best Actress for her ‘courageous’ and ‘riveting’ title role performance in Dacia Maraini’s Mary Stuart.

She wrote, produced, and performed the one-woman play, Dreams and Desires in Kingston and at fringe festivals across the western provinces. She co-produced: a 28-minute film, Pretty Pieces, which screened at the Reel Heart International Film Festival, among others; several shorts including the award-winning Digging Up Plato; and a feature — Fault — which debuted at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival. A second feature is in post-production. Barbara co-produced and hosted TVCogeco’s Pageturners: Kingston’s Book Club, sparking lively conversations with local authors.

Barbara is past-chair of the City of Kingston’s Arts Advisory Committee, sat on the inaugural Mayor’s Arts Awards Nominations Working Group, and also sat on Kingston Arts Council’s Arts Advocacy Committee and the Kingston Writers’ Refugee Committee.

Mentioned in this Episode

The Quote of the Week

"...the fact that we all go on pretending things are fine, hoping everything’s a-okay, even though everything is nowhere near okay and we all know it, no matter how many candlelit vigils you hold..."

- From Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann