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Novelist Sue Townsend dies, Amazon to buy ComiXology, and more

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First-time playwright adapts Yann Martel’s Beatrice & Virgil

Lindsay Cochrane

When Toronto teacher Lindsay Cochrane first read Yann Martel’s allegorical, multi-layered novel Beatrice & Virgil (Knopf Canada), she was convinced it would make a fantastic theatre production.

Four years later, the first-time playwright’s adaptation is having its premiere at Toronto’s Factory Theatre. Directed by Sarah Garton Stanley and starring Damien Atkins and Pierre Brault, the production runs from April 12 to May 11, with an opening night performance on April 17.

Q&Q spoke to Cochrane about her experience.

How did this adaptation come to be? When the book came out four years ago, there was this incessant voice in my head saying that it needs to be adapted into a play. I felt the action between the taxidermist character and Henry the writer was inherently dramatic and would work well on stage. I also thought a lot of the book’s themes would translate, especially the idea of being silenced and finding a voice.

How did you get Yann Martel’s permission? I didn’t have any playwriting experience, but I felt someone needed to do this. On a whim, I emailed Yann Martel a draft of a couple scenes and an outline. I didn’t really expect anything to come of it. His initial response was that he thought it sounded pretty ridiculous but he would take a look at it. A few months later there was a message from Yann on my voicemail giving me permission to adapt it. I was probably the least qualified person to take this on. I teach French immersion at an elementary school.

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Bedouin Soundclash singer writes ebook series, PMO insiders offer intimate portrait of Stephen Harper, and more

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Wayne Johnston, Red Green, Arthur Black among nominees for Stephen Leacock humour award

The nominees for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour were announced today at Lakehead University in Orillia, Ontario.

Black’s latest, Fifty Shades of Black, is up against previous nominee Bill Conall’s The Promised Land and Wayne Johnston’s The Son of a Certain Woman, which was longlisted for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

The five  shortlisted books are:

  • Arthur Black, Fifty Shades of Black (Douglas & McIntyre)
  • Jane Christmas, And Then There Were Nuns: Adventures in a Cloistered Life (Greystone Books)
  • Bill Conall, The Promised Land: A Novel of Cape Breton (Boularderie Island Press)
  • Wayne Johnston, The Son of a Certain Woman (Knopf Canada)
  • Steve Smith, Red Green’s Beginner’s Guide to Women (Doublesday Canada)

Five judges from across Canada and a small committee of readers from Orillia will select the winner, to be revealed on April 24 at the Best Western Mariposa Inn in Orillia.

The winner will receive a $15,000 cash prize provided by TD Bank Group and a silver Leacock Memorial Medal. Last year the prize went to Cassie Stocks for her novel Dance, Gladys, Dance (NeWest Press).

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Paddington Bear writes more letters, TED to co-publish book series, and more

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Luminato Festival curator Noah Richler highlights Toronto’s literary culture

Toronto’s Luminato Festival, which takes place June 6–15, announced its full lineup at a press conference this morning.

Literature and ideas curator Noah Richler, who joined Luminato in January, observes that in the past the festival has not “paid a huge amount of attention to the city in which it is [held], from a literary point of view.”

This year’s program, which he describes as “modest but sound,” includes a “Woodstock-style” literary picnic, Dennis Lee’s cabaret Lost Songs of Toronto, and a series of author-guided walks through local neighborhoods, demonstrating what Richler calls the “middle space” between “the world as it is and as it ends up being represented by writers.”

Richler will also host two author panels at the Toronto Public Library’s Bram & Bluma Appel Salon. “Kill Like a Scandinavian” brings European crime writers to discuss the “art of murder and the craft” behind it. “Luminato #ReadWomen2014” features Canadian women novelists L. Marie Adeline, Heather O’Neill, Elizabeth Renzetti, and Miriam Toews.

“The thing about festivals is you have to do something unusual to make it integrated and noticed, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” says Richler. “If I can succeed in showing writers in a good light, and also showing the city this year in a good light, then I’ll feel I’ll have sincerely succeeded.”

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Carson, Michaels, Goyette among Griffin nominees

The Griffin Poetry Prize finalists were announced today, revealing a strong all-female Canadian shortlist that includes two McClelland & Stewart authors and a third from Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Press. Poet Jeramy Dodds, a finalist for the prize in 2009, presented the Canadian and international shortlists alongside prize founder Scott Griffin at a press conference in Toronto.

The Canadian shortlist is made up of Susan Goyette’s fourth collection, Ocean (Gaspereau); novelist and poet Anne Michaels’ Correspondences (M&S); and Anne Carson’s Red Doc> (M&S), the sequel to her 1998 poetic novel, Autobiography of Red. Goyette and Michaels are nominated for the first time, while Carson was the winner of the inaugural Griffin in 2001 for Men in the Off Hours.

Griffin himself says he is pleased with the shortlist. “Particularly on the Canadian side, the finalists are very strong this year,” he says. “The presentation of these books is beautifully done, too.”

M&S senior vice-president and publisher Ellen Seligman says she is “absolutely thrilled” with the two nominations and to be “in the company of such an extraordinary list across the board.” She adds that the nominations come on the heels of the press’s “relaunch” of its poetry program, which includes the appointment of a new poetry board comprised of Ken Babstock, Dionne Brand, and Kevin Connolly.

“The timing of this shortlist is really wonderful,” she says. The poetry relaunch “is bringing a lot of attention to an already celebrated program, and I think this helps highlight that.”

For his part, Gaspereau publisher Andrew Steeves is glad to see Goyette getting recognition for Ocean, the Halifax author’s first collection with the press.

“I think you [work] with the people that understand what you’re trying to do, wherever they are, and it’s really special when they’re in your own neighbourhood,” he says. “For me, Sue is part of the day-to-day life of the region I live in and is a recognized and valuable contributing player in the literary life of the [East Coast].”

Goyette’s nomination is the second for Gaspereau, following Jan Zwicky’s Griffin nod for Forge in 2011. “The Griffin is the only one of the ‘G’ prizes we haven’t won yet,” Steeves says, referring to the press’s 2001 Governor General’s Literary Award win for George Elliott Clarke’s Execution Poems and its 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize win for Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists.

Steeves says he isn’t worried about anything like a “Griffin effect” with the new nomination. “Being on the shortlist, there’s not much of an impact to sales,” he says. “Winning is maybe a little better for sales – maybe you’d sell 400 [additional] copies, but for a lot of poetry books that could double your sales.”

He adds that Ocean is already in its second printing. “Sue is out there all the time, just being a poet – like George Elliott Clarke – and that always helps to sell books,” he says.

The shortlist for the international Griffin comprises Rachael Boast’s Pilgrim’s Flower (Picador), Brenda Hillman’s Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (Wesleyan University Press), Carl Phillips’s Silverchest (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and Colonies (Zephyr Press), written in Polish by Tomasz Różycki and translated by Mira Rosenthal.

Of the eight writers who made the Canadian and international shortlists, women outnumber men six to two.

“It’s interesting because I think 15 or 20 years ago it would have been the other way around,” says Griffin. “I don’t know whether you can read too much into it, because it just happens now that one year is stronger [with women] than another, but it goes to show that definitely poetry is not gender related.”

A three-member jury comprising Robert Bringhurst, Jo Shapcott, and C.D. Wright selected the shortlists from 539 books from 40 countries. The winners will each be awarded $65,000, while the seven finalists will receive $10,000. The winners will be announced at a private event on June 5, following a reading by the shortlisted authors at Toronto’s Koerner Hall on June 4.


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Archie Comics to kill off Archie

Riverdale’s most famous redhead, Archie Andrews, will meet his demise in an upcoming issue this July.

According to CNN, Archie Comics plans a bloody conclusion to its Life with Archie series, which imagines possible future scenarios for the eternal teenager, including marriages to Betty and Veronica.

In a statement, Archive Comics publisher and co-chief executive Jon Goldwater says, “Archie dies as he lived – honorably, and saving the life of a friend. It’s a fitting end to our flagship title, ‘Life with Archie,’ and truly showcases what Archie’s meant to fans for over 70 years. He’s the best of us, and a hugely important part of pop culture. This is comic book history.”

The death doesn’t affect the original Archie series, which has been running since 1941.



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Tartt, Lahiri nominated for Baileys Women’s Prize, inside Rolling Stone founder’s million-dollar book deal, and more

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George Murray named new poet laureate of St. John’s

The City of St. John’s has appointed George Murray as its new poet laureate, a position he will hold for the next four years.

Murray is the author of six poetry collections, including Whiteout and The Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms (both by ECW Press). This spring he will publish his first children’s book, Wow Wow and Haw Haw (Breakwater Books), illustrated by Michael Pittman.

From 2003 to 2011, Murray was editor and publisher of the literary website He reviews poetry and fiction for The Globe and Mail and has been a part-time faculty member at the University of Toronto, The New School University, and Humber College. He is a former poetry editor of the Literary Review of Canada.

Murray is the city’s third poet laureate, following Tom Dawe (2010–2013) and Agnes Walsh (2006–2009).

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

Tea and snacks inspired by Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak talks to the audience about the best and worst of Catherine the Great's favourites

Eva Stachniak smiles as she signs a copy of Empress of the Night for a fan

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Lesley Strutt, Dean Steadman, Amanda Earl, Alastair Larwill and Frances Boyle

Frances Boyle, Dean Steadman, Lesley Strutt and Alastair Larwill

Amanda Earl

Jewel of the Thames launch

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