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All stories relating to British Columbia

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New B.C. book fair will support indie authors, Frontier College

In the wake of the recent report on the feasibility of mounting an annual book fair in Toronto, Vancouver’s Black Bond Books has announced an inaugural fair in Richmond, B.C., dedicated to supporting independent writers.

Touted as “Sundance for Books,” Raindance: A Festival for Indie Authors is being mounted by the bookstore mini-chain, which operates 10 locations in the greater Vancouver area. The fair is in partnership with Vancouver’s Vivalogue Publishing, an author services company that provides publishing and editorial assistance to self-published authors. Donations, a book drive, and a post-fair fundraiser will support the literacy work of Frontier College.

Vivalogue director Lynn Duncan says in an e-mail that Raindance is “our first attempt to start the migration from ‘vanity’ to ‘indie’ publishing.” Vivalogue, which also maintains an office in London, U.K., was launched in 2010 “to provide quality, cost-efficient services to self-published authors as an alternative to the POD model,” Duncan says. “It was clear that publishing needed to make the same transition as music and film, where ‘indie’ is an accepted (and often celebrated) term.”

In a press release about the Raindance book fair, Black Bond owner Cathy Jesson explains why the partnership with Vivalogue is a “natural fit”: “We welcome this opportunity to promote local independent authors,” Jesson says. “We also know how important it is to help Canadians improve their literacy and increase their opportunities. Supporting Frontier College is an effective way of doing that.”

“As the major independent bookstore chain in the Metro Vancouver area, Black Bond is continually approached by self-published authors,” Duncan writes. “I had increasingly come to believe that something like a co-op model might allow self-published authors to help each other.”

Helping self-published authors gain a foothold in an increasingly crowded marketplace seems to be one of the primary goals of Raindance, which will be free to the public, and feature author readings and one-on-one mentoring sessions with publishing professionals. For $20, participants can learn how to produce and market a self-published work, and $50 will secure a half-hour session with a professional editor.

The inaugural Raindance book fair will be held on Nov. 9 at Richmond’s Lansdowne Centre.

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Robson Reading Series coming to an end

After a decade-long run, Vancouver’s Robson Reading Series will be shutting down in March. According to a statement on its website, the series will be concluding in light of the closure of both its host venues – the University of British Columbia library’s Robson Square branch, which closed in August of last year, and the coming March 28 closure of the UBC bookstore at Robson Square.

Run by the UBC bookstore and the university’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Robson Reading Series’ aim is to provide a forum for the discussion of Canadian literature. The series has hosted a number of writers from across the country, including Sheila Heti, Ian Ferguson, Julie Wilson, Linda Besner, and Esi Edugyan.

“Our mandate was to host writers with only one or two published books alongside more well-known ones … to bring in a wider audience, but also as a means to build community,” says Michael Smith, who co-founded the series.

According to Smith, the series’ end was also sparked by economic considerations. In addition to issues over funding, Smith says sales resulting from the events were minimal. “Often, the bookstore couldn’t cover the cost of staffing with the profit from the sale of books,” he says.

“I think it’s a great loss to the city, and to downtown,” Smith adds. “The bookstore [and] library at UBC went above and beyond to extend a helping hand, to offer space, staffing, and finances to host our Canadian writers.”

According to Glenn Drexhage, UBC library’s communications manager, the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre will be “looking for new partners going forward, in Metro Vancouver and possibly beyond, to continue offering a reading series that will highlight Canadian authors.”

The UBC bookstore’s website states that the growth of online retail and a reduced need for textbooks at the store have led them to focus on online sales through the main bookstore website. Prior to the downtown UBC library’s closure, its computer and study space was shuttered and converted into classroom space. It is unclear what led to the closure.

The Robson Reading Series will continue until the end of March. Speakers include dramatic monologue artist Walid Bitar, poet Al Hunter, and Born Weird novelist Andrew Kaufman.

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Heritage House buys assets of Greystone Books

Victoria’s Heritage House Publishing has acquired all assets of Greystone Books from D&M Publishers.

According to a press release issued late Thursday night, the assets will form the backlist for a new company, Greystone Books Ltd., based in Vancouver. All books currently under contract are included in the deal, with a list of 2013 titles to be announced in the next few weeks.

Heritage House president Rodger Touchie initiated the deal, which was approved by the Supreme Court of British Columbia last week. Former Greystone publisher Rob Sanders, who launched the imprint in 1993, will become a “significant shareholder” in the company. Sanders will return to his former position of publisher, joined by former associate publisher Nancy Flight.

In the press release, Touchie says, “In the past 20 years Greystone Books built a significant legacy in Canadian publishing. I have long admired their program and have great respect for both Rob and Nancy. They will add immensely to our Heritage Group team, and together we will make sure Greystone is around for a long time to come.”

Greystone’s backlist includes Candace Savage’s A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape, which won the 2012 Hilary Weston Prize for Non-fiction, and Charlotte Gill’s tree-planting memoir Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe, which won the B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and was nominated for the Hilary Weston Prize and the Charles Taylor Prize.

Canadian distribution of Greystone titles will continue to be handled by HarperCollins Canada, with the exception of rural Western Canada, which will be handled by Heritage Group Distribution. Publishers Group West, the California-based division of Perseus Books Group, will distribute Greystone titles in the U.S. and to international territories.

Documents filed last year to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy revealed that D&M owes $6.3 million to 143 creditors. In late December, the Supreme Court of British Columbia awarded the company a further 45-day extension on its creditor protection. D&M has until Feb. 18 to file a proposal.

Q&Q will continue to report on the story as more details become available.


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Esi Edugyan, JJ Lee, Charlotte Gill nominated for B.C. Book Prizes

The West Coast Book Prize Society has announced the shortlists for the 28th annual B.C. Book Prizes, and for Esi Edugyan, the competition cuts close to home.

Edugyan, whose novel Half-Blood Blues won the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize and this morning was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, is competing against her husband, Steven Price, and his novel, Into That Darkness, for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Both books are published by Thomas Allen Publishers.

Charles Taylor Prize for Non-fiction shortlisted authors Charlotte Gill and JJ Lee face off again, this time for the Hubert Evans Non-fiction Prize, alongside 2012 Canada Reads finalist Carmen Aguirre. Gill is also nominated for the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award.

The winners in all seven categories will be announced at the Lieutenant Governor’s B.C. Book Prizes Gala on May 12 in Vancouver.

Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize:

Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize:

  • Chuck Davis, The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver (Harbour Publishing)
  • Fred Herzog, Fred Herzog: Photographs (Douglas & McIntyre)
  • Andrew Nikiforuk, Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests (Greystone Books)
  • Sheryl Salloum, The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton (Mother Tongue Publishing)
  • Scott Watson, Thrown: British Columbia’s Apprentices of Bernard Leach and Their Contemporaries (Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery)

Hubert Evans Non-fiction Prize:

Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize:

  • Patrick Lane, The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane (Harbour)
  • Susan McCaslin, Demeter Goes Skydiving (University of Alberta Press)
  • Garry Thomas Morse, Discovery Passages (Talonbooks)
  • John Pass, crawlspace (Harbour)
  • Sharon Thesen, Oyama Pink Shale (House of Anansi Press)

Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize:

Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize:

  • Glen Huser, The Runaway (Tradewind)
  • Pamela Porter, I’ll Be Watching (Groundwood)
  • Karen Rivers, What is Real (Orca)
  • Caitlyn Vernon, Nowhere Else on Earth: Standing Tall for the Great Bear Rainforest (Orca)
  • Moira Young, Blood Red Road (Doubleday Canada)

Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award:

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BookNet bestsellers: nature

This week’s bestsellers list, which looks at the nature category, includes two titles from the 2012 Charles Taylor Prize shortlist. Andrew Westoll’s The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary (#20) might have been the big winner at today’s Charles Taylor Prize announcement, but it’s Charlotte Gill’s Eating Dirt that takes the top spot on this list.

For the two weeks ending Feb. 26:

1. Eating Dirt, Charlotte Gill (D&M Publishers, $29.95 cl, 9781553659778)

2. Unlikely Friendships, Jennifer Holland (Workman Publishing, $16.95 pa, 9780761159131)

3. The Wave, Susan Casey (Anchor Canada, $21 pa, 9780385666688)

4. Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada, Amanda Karst (Lone Pine Publishing, $29.95 pa, 9781551055725)

5. The Sacred Headwaters, Wade Davis (Douglas & McIntyre, $50 cl, 9781553658801)

6. Horse Breeds of North America, Judith Dutson (Storey Publishing, $12.95 pa, 9781580176507)

7. The Book of Deadly Animals, Gordon Grice (Penguin, $16 pa, 9780143120742)

8. Compact Guide to Ontario Birds, Andy Bezener (Lone Pine, $14.95 pa, 9781551054674)

9. Tar Sands, Andrew Nikiforuk (Greystone Books, $20 pa, 9781553655558)

10. Birds of Ontario, Andy Bezener (Lone Pine, $26.95 pa, 9781551052366)

11. National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Jon L. Dunn, (National Geographic, $32 pa, 9781426208287)

12. Plants of Coastal British Columbia, Andy MacKinnon (Lone Pine, $28.95 pa, 9781551055329)

13. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Thomas Allen & Sons, $18.95 pa, 9780618249060)

14. The Rescue of Belle and Sundance, Birgit Stutz with Lawrence Scanlan (HarperCollins Canada, $14.99 pa, 9781554686209)

15. Edible Wild Plants, James Kavanagh (Waterford Press, $6.95 pr, 9781583551271)

16. Animal Tracks, James Kavanagh (Waterford Press, $6.95 pr, 9781583550724)

17. Trees (Waterford Press, $6.95 pr, 9781583551783)

18. Animal Tracks of Ontario, Ian Sheldon (Lone Pine, $9.95 pa, 9781551051093)

19. Animal (Dorling Kindersley, $55 cl, 9780756686772)

20. The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, Andrew Westoll (HarperCollins Canada, $29.99 cl, 9781554686490)

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Lorna Crozier talks poverty in Canada on CBC

Lorna Crozier reads at Ottawa International Writers Festival 2011. Photo from pesbo's Flickr photostream.

Last Friday, poet and University of Victoria professor Lorna Crozier hosted a special edition of CBC Radio’s The Current.

“I know what it’s like to come from a needy family. Though both my parents worked, we lived in substandard rental housing. We went without. And I keenly felt my mother’s worry as she tried, and failed, to make ends meet,” Crozier said by way of introducing “We Are the 10%: Poverty in Canada.” The special in three segments presented various experiences of poverty from around the country (and also featured poetry readings by Crozier’s husband, Patrick Lane).

The first segment profiled three very different people who are just scraping by. The second looked at child poverty and focused specifically on current socio-economic conditions in British Columbia — the province with one of the highest rates of poverty. Crozier wrapped up with a panel discussion on the paradoxically higher day-to-day costs facing those with the lowest incomes.

The special has been so well received that The Current host Anna Maria Tremonti announced a follow-up call-in show with Crozier this Thursday, in which CBC listeners will discuss what it’s like to be poor in Canada.

The original radio special is available online at The Current‘s website.

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Event photo: Louise Penny at Bolen Books in Victoria

Best-selling mystery writer Louise Penny read from her seventh novel, A Trick of the Light (St. Martin’s Press/Raincoast), at Bolen Books in Victoria on Sept. 24. The crowd of over 100 made for standing room only. Above: fans with their copies of the book. (Photo by Louise Penny)

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B.C. ecologist Don Gayton wins Peace Corps Travel Book Award

British Columbian ecologist Don Gayton’s Okanagan Odyssey: Journeys Through Terrain, Terroir and Culture (Rocky Mountain Books) has won the 2011 Peace Corps Travel Book Award. The prize is presented annually to an author with Peace Corps experience. Prior to moving to Canada from the U.S. in the 1960s, Gayton was a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Colombia.

Gayton receives a cash award and a special citation from the blog Peace Corps Writers.

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Chinese novel alleged to have stolen from Canada’s “literary elite”

The “Great Chinese Canadian Literary Feud” is now underway, according to a Toronto Star story by Bill Schiller. The author at the centre of the supposed controversy is Toronto’s Zhang Ling, whose previous novel, Aftershock, became a surprise bestseller in China when a film version was released there last summer.

For her latest novel, Gold Mountain Blues, Zhang is accused of stealing from a diverse group of Chinese-Canadian authors, including Denise Chong, Wayson Choy, Sky Lee, and Paul Yee. An English translation of the novel was due to appear with Penguin Canada by early 2012, but according to the Star, it has been put “in limbo until [Penguin] is satisfied that the author hasn’t been poaching from the works of Canada’s Chinese Canadian literary elite.”

It’s a damning accusation, but the case against Zhang is anything but cut and dried. The accusations of plagiarism appear to stem from an online smear campaign led by an anonymous blogger known as Changjiang. When the Star tracked down and questioned the man supposedly behind the posts, one Robert Luo, he “grew alarmed and then hung up.” Another of Zhang’s attackers, Cheng Xingbang, also refused an interview.

Meanwhile, Penguin has not said it is delaying publication of Gold Mountain Blues, only that it is waiting for the English translation to be complete before making an internal decision about how to handle the accusations. And two of the supposed victims of plagiarism contacted by the Star – Sky Lee and Denise Chong – were equally in the dark, as neither reads Chinese. As the Star reports, Chong, who is also published by Penguin, is hesitant to weigh in on the controversy:

Changjiang’s website accuses Zhang of borrowing the key character of Chong’s [1994 memoir, The Concubine’s Children] – her grandmother May-ying, the hard-drinking, smoking, gambling “concubine” of the title — then fashioning it into a character in Gold Mountain Blues.

Chong says that without a translation she can’t really comment.

But she did send an email to alert her agent once the controversy hit the Chinese blogosphere.

Reached in Montreal, reclusive Canadian writer Sky Lee, author of the groundbreaking novel Disappearing Moon Café (1990), an instant classic, admits she was “shocked and dismayed” when she first heard from a friend in British Columbia that someone might be poaching her work.

But then she realized that she couldn’t really evaluate the allegations first-hand. She doesn’t read Chinese either.

So she farmed it out to her trusted friend, Jennifer Jay, a historian at the University of Alberta who is fluent in Chinese, who spent a day reading an online version of Gold Mountain Blues.

Jay was careful in a telephone interview, saying she was not an expert, noting she had had limited reading time and, while intimately familiar with Disappearing Moon Café, she had not read it for a while. But she said Gold Mountain Blues did make her feel “alarm.”

“I’m not ready to say this author is a plagiarist,” she says. “At this point I’m saying it’s ‘problematic.’ ”

At the same time, says Jay, she has “a lot of sympathy” for Zhang.

“It must be a nightmare for the author to be going through this if she’s innocent,” she says.


“I’ll have a venti mochaccino and an award-winning book, please.”

In his memoir On Writing, Stephen King advises aspiring writers to avoid writing in coffee shops. Canadian novelist Corey Redekop, by contrast, admits that “the majority of [his] writing occurs in coffee shops.” There is undoubtedly a certain clichéd mystique surrounding writers who find inspiration along with a strong cup of Joe at their local java joint; now there’s even a prize for books written in coffee shops.

Yesterday, the Toronto Star published an article about the first annual Coffee Shop Author contest, which recently announced its inaugural winners. The contest winner is Mississauga resident Ranjini George Philip. Second and third place went to Theresa Wouters of Grande Prairie, Alberta, and Ron Stewart of Komoka, Ontario, respectively.

The brainchild of Calgary resident Susan Toy and Oolichan Books owner Randal Macnair, the contest asked writers to register with the Coffee Shop Author website, secure the endorsement of a local coffee establishment, “then pledge to write the bulk of a novel, short story collection, poetry collection or a work of creative non-fiction at the coffee shop between November 2009 and April 2010.” Entrants paid a fee of $30 and the first-place winner receives a spot at the Fernie Writers Conference in Fernie, British Columbia.

From the Star:

Forty-two Canadians entered the online contest, promising to write most of their submissions — poetry, novels, teen fiction — in coffee shops. A few bent the rules and created in local libraries, and in one case, in rural Saskatchewan, an ice cream parlour.

Writing is a lonely pursuit and has always driven writers out of their houses to find companionship — or distraction or inspiration — in public places.

“I’ve been a coffee shop writer for a long time,” says Philip, 46, who taught at Zayed University in Dubai before coming to Canada with her husband and two children three years ago.

“There’s a lot of solitude and I find I work better when there is a buzz of noise around me.”

According to the Star, the contest’s popularity has convinced Toy to expand next year’s contest beyond Canada. It would appear that there are a significant number of writers out there willing to ignore Stephen King’s advice.

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

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

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Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

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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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