WEB_20160630_lilygontard_9033Lily Gontard is a settler writer grateful to be living in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, the traditional territories of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Ta’an Kwäch’än Council. Her fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared in magazines such as Geist, The Puritan Magazine, and Up Here. She had a novel manuscript long-listed for the 2019 Guernica Price for Literary Fiction. Her book Beyond Mile Zero (Harbour Publishing, 2017) is a collaboration with Yukon photographer Mark Kelly that explores the vanishing Alaska Highway lodge community. Mark and Lily received the Yukon Historical Museums Associations’ 2017 Innovation, Education and Community Engagement Award in recognition of BMZ’s contribution to Yukon’s history. BMZ won the 2017 gold Foreword Indies travel writing award, and the 2018 silver IPPY travel essay award.

Lily is a regular contributor to the “Endnotes” review section of Geist magazine. Throughout her career in publishing she worked as a self-employed editor and designer, as well as in different roles for several magazines, including the Malahat Review, Geist, and Arcticamag.ca. She was the founding editor of Yukon, North of Ordinary magazine and of the now-defunct circumpolar art and culture magazine Arcticamag.ca.

Lily’s film and TV projects in development include two documentary films, a feature-length screenplay co-written with K. G. Green and two TV series co-written with Tonya Mallet.


  • Manuscript for novel Giantess longlisted for Guernica Prize for Literary Fiction, August 2019.
  • Beyond Mile Zero: The Vanishing Alaska Highway Lodge Community wins a gold award in the 2017 Foreword Indies, non-fiction travel book category.
  • Beyond Mile Zero: The Vanishing Alaska Highway Lodge Community receives a 2018 silver IPPY award in the Travel Essay category.
  • Lily Gontard and Mark Kelly awarded the Yukon Historical Museums Associations’ Innovation, Education and Community Engagement Award for 2017
  • Emerging Northern Writers and Artists Fund, Northern Public Affairs 2016
  • “Simple Division” short-listed for the 2015 23rd Annual SiWC Short Story Contest
  • Advanced Artist Award 2014, Government of Yukon
  • Advanced Artist Award 2002, Government of Yukon

Publishing credits


Non fiction articles


  • “A Daughter’s Lullaby”,  Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology, edited by Priscila Uppal and Meaghan Strimas, October 2018
  • “Okanagan”, Pushing Out the Boat, Spring 2017
  • “Heron Song”, “This Electric Night (or can this be winter?)”, “The Runaway” in the poem:a anthology published September 2016
  • A Daughter’s Lullaby”, The Puritan Magazine, Issue 32: Winter 2016
  • “Rootcrop Haiku I (note to self)” and “Rootcrop Haiku II (he was a determined gardener)” published in the Big Lit Festival, Summer 2014
  • Diagnosis: Crippled by Cliché”, League of Canadian Poets National Poetry Month Blog, April 3, 2013
  • “At the Party”, Cirque magazine, Winter 2012 Issue
  • “Gestation”; “Searching for a Dead Sister in the Red River”, Own 2007 Issue 30
  • A Portrait: Janette”; “Henrile survivant”, Event 2004
  • Two poems, City of Whitehorse Poetry in Motion 2003
  • “Observations II”; “Observations IV”, The Optimist, Spring 2003
  • “Blue Grouse”; “The Patriarch”, Out of Service magazine, Spring 2001
  • “Northern Vortex”, The Inner Harbour Review, 2000

Short fiction

  • “Three Lessons”, The New Quarterly, Spring 2011
  • “The Fighter”, The Northern Review, Fall 2009
  • “Gentleman Gardener’s….”, Urban Coyote: New Territory (Anthology, 2003)
  • “Fattening the Rabbit”, Out of Service, Vol 1 Issue 1
  • “Mouthful O’ Clover”, The New Quarterly, Fall 1996


  • (In development) CONflict, TV series, co-written with Tonya Mallet, based on a book by Jörgen Handsen-Ellenrieder, 3D Evolution Productions
  • (In development) Gutleuthof: House of the Good, TV series, co-written with Tonya Mallet, 3D Evolution Productions
  • (In development) The Perfect Family, full-length feature film co-written with K.G. Green, 3D Evolution Productions

Readings and events


  • Nakai Story Crawl, Pivot Festival, venue TBD, January 15, 2019.
  • Guest reader, Joanna Lilley’s launch of her book Worry Stones, Baked Cafe, Whitehorse, Yukon, November 29, 2018.
  • Guest reader, Circumpolar Duet, Yukon Artists at Work, Whitehorse, Yukon, September 29, 2017
  • Guest reader for Chrys Salt reading, Baked Cafe, Whitehorse, Yukon, June 19, 2017
  • Guest reader for the launch of summer evening, oak leaflet series, Whitehorse, Yukon, February 26, 2014
  • Poetry in the Park, Whitehorse, Yukon (Whitehorse Poetry Society event), June 19, 2013
  • Brave New Words featured reader, Baked Cafe, Whitehorse, Yukon, October 25, 2010
  • An Evening with Yukon Writers, Yukon Public Libraries’ 50th Anniversary event, Whitehorse, Yukon, October 22, 2009
  • Poetry in Motion launch, Whitehorse, Yukon, August 2003
  • Finalist, CBC Poety Face-off, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, March 2003
  • Yukon Writers Festival Poetry Slam, Whitehorse, Yukon, May 2002
  • Out of Service magazine launch, Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2001
  • JBI reading series, featured reader, Victoria, B.C., March 2000
  • Mocombo Poetry Reading Series, featured reader, Victoria, B.C., April 2000
  • Poet Laureate, Peter Gzowski Invitational Golf Tournament for Literacy, Whitehorse, Yukon, June 2000

Panel moderator

  • “The Fine Art of Editing, Publishing and Promoting” Whitehorse Poetry Festival, June 22, 2013, Whitehorse, Yukon


  • Atlin Arts and Music Festival: “Words and Whatnot” with Yvonne Blomer and Jamella Hagen, Atlin, B.C., July 9, 2016
  • Magnetic Encounter, Magnetic North Theatre Festival: “Words and Whatnot” with Erin Brubacher and Talya Rubin, Woodcutter’s Blanket, Whitehorse, Yukon, June 14, 2016.
  • Poetry in the Park, Whitehorse, Yukon (Yukon Writers’ Collective Ink event), July 11, 2014
  • Book launch Joanna Lilley‘s poetry collection The Fleece Era (Brick Books), Whitehorse, Yukon, March 21, 2014
  • The Crash Reading Series, Vancouver, British Columbia, May 2004

People of A Feather (Joel Heath & the Community of Sanikiluaq)

people of a feather

It’s hard to imagine that a bird—even a flock of birds—no bigger than the average housecat could sustain a people for centuries. But that is exactly the nature of the relationship between the eider duck and the Inuit people living in Sanikiluaq on the Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay.

For centuries, the eider have been a food source—eggs, meat—and provided protection from the elements: their feathered skins sewn together to make the most exquisite traditional anoraks, and their warm downy feathers fill modern anoraks.

It’s a human/animal relationship similar to that which the Gwitchin peoples of northern Canada and Alaska have with the Porcupine caribou herd. But how can this be understood in a modern world of WalMart, Target, Old Navy, and meat packaged in Styrofoam and tight Cellophane. In the circumpolar world, this reliance on the bounty from the wilderness is not foreign—some First Nations affectionately refer to the land that surrounds their communities as “the fridge” or “the supermarket”.

Canadian biologist-turned-film-director Joel Heath was studying the eider duck, when his research brought him to the Belcher Islands to help the Inuit figure out what had caused the mass death of thousands of ducks in one season. Though the film never solves the mystery, People of a Feather explores the challenges faced by these birds who don’t migrate, but winter in the Arctic version of an oasis: a pond in the ice. A co-production by Heath and the community of Sanikiluaq, the film switches between footage of the reality of life for the Inuit now and reenactment of life before European contact.

The end of a species (and cultural practices associated with the species) is often said to be beginning of the end of an Aboriginal people. This is a difficult idea for many non-Aboriginal people to comprehend, and watching this movie about the intricate relationship between the Belcher Island Inuit and the eider will perhaps make this concept more tangible.
As the ducks’ habitat is threatened by the warm fresh water from the hydro dams that flood into the cold salty Hudson Bay every fall and winter reversing the seasonal temperatures of the water and reducing the salinity, so do rap music, Kentucky Fried Chicken (eaten with a side of seal meat) and mod-cons flood into this remote community. An example of the cultural shift is the musical gangsta rap interlude performed by a group of Sanikiluaq youth part way through the film (note: listen to the lyrics, they are good).

Published in Arcticamag.ca 22/04/2012

The Klondike (Drawn and Quarterly) by Zach Worton

In the graphic novel, The Klondike (Drawn and Quarterly) author and illustrator Zach Worton sets out to tell the story of the Great Klondike Gold Rush that to this day remains one of the largest voluntary movements of people in the history of the planet. This puts the telling of the story in perspective: it’s an undertaking as large as the event’s historical significance.

Worton attempts to show what transpired during the Klondike Gold Rush through the experiences of a variety of real and fictional characters and their stories en route to and in the Klondike. Skookum Jim and George Carmack, the men who first discovered gold at Rabbit Creek (later renamed Bonanza Creek), Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith, Frank Reid and Belinda Mulrooney make up part of the cast of “real” characters. In his author’s note, Worton admits to using a variety of fictional characters and subplots to convey the story he wanted to tell. This is the crux of The Klondike: there is no defining narrative thread and it lacks a unifying plot. The stories occur independently and rarely weave. There are so many characters who are similarly drawn that’s it’s hard to differentiate one character from the other. The Klondike has a beginning, lacks a climax and the end, when it occurs, brings to a close the life of the most interesting character in Worton’s tale, just when the reader is warming up to the character’s eloquent dialogue and wicked complexities.

Published in Arcticamag.ca 19/10/2012

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (Werner Herzog)

Not that long ago, but in a land far enough away, there is a village populated by people leading simple lives regulated by the rotation of the seasons: spring flows into summer, which in turn gently eases into fall that then folds, ever so quietly, into winter.

During the 12 calendar months, happiness reigns in the mysterious and stunning Siberian Taiga that is resplendent with spruce trees, a majestic river and nature’s bounty.

The scene sounds idyllic, and in the hands of German filmmaker Werner Herzog, Happy People: A year in the Taiga, portrays the village of Bakhtia as a fairytale come to life. (Personal disclosure: Move aside Dos Equis man, I consider Werner Herzog to be the most interesting man in the world.) But in the true sense of his storytelling predecessors die Gebrüder Grimm, Herzog delves into the darkness of the fairytale.

Post-Soviet era, Bakhtia appears trapped in time with lingering Communist nuances. The villagers came to the “collective farm,” (as one interviewee refers to the village) from various parts of Soviet society: as one trapper navigates his narrow and long wooden boat upstream, Herzog’s calm narrative voice explains that the man is a relation of famed Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris, Nostalghia). The indigenous peoples of the community admit to having trouble with alcohol and work. During the filming, the last of their protective spirit dolls are destroyed in a house fire started by a cigarette.

The hero of Herzog’s tale is a man whose rough-hewn face could easily grace the cover of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. Having arrived at the life of a trapper as a young man, he nearly died of starvation during his first winter working as a trapper in Siberia, and then never left. He could be 100 years old, but is likely closer to 50, and for most of the film he calmly shows Herzog the elements of his, and his fellow trappers, sustainable and independent life: stocking cabins on the trapline, making skis, setting traps.

Filmed in a style reminiscent of 1970s Canadian Film Board documentaries, it might come as a surprise that Herzog’s film was made in 2010.

Without explosions, hardly a raised voice, very little drama, Happy People is a meditation on a way of life that few people experience, but will be familiar to many people who live in the circumpolar region.

Published in Arcticamag.ca 19/10/2012