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Shelagh Rogers’ multimedia Northwords project brings city-dwelling authors out of their comfort zone

Led by CBC Radio’s Shelagh Rogers, five urban Canadian authors spent a week writing and observing life in Northern Labrador. Northwords, a documentary that captures their experiences, is screening at IFOA, Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. The film will make its television debut Oct. 25, 10 p.m. ET on CBC’s documentary channel, and the radio documentary is available here.

This article appears in the November issue of Q&Q.

Rabindranath Maharaj (Photo: Joel McConvey)

Many authors find the familiarity of daily rituals a necessary part of their practice. Take away the comforts of home, and the writing process can become even more of a challenge.

“I think that writers can be quite obsessive about their routines,” says Toronto’s Alissa York, author of three novels including 2010’s Fauna (Random House Canada). “Sometimes [with] travel that you don’t necessarily plan for, or that’s outside of what you normally do, you think, ‘How am I going to fit that with my life?’”

York posed herself that question when she was approached to participate in Northwords, a multimedia project instigated by CBC Radio’s Shelagh Rogers, host of The Next Chapter.

In August 2011, Rogers invited five writers – York, Sarah Leavitt, Noah Richler, Joseph Boyden, and Rabindranath Maharaj – to join her on an expedition to Torngat Mountains National Park in Northern Labrador. For one week, the authors traded the coziness of their homes and offices for tents and vast, rugged landscapes lashed by inclement weather. They participated in helicopter rides, interacted with Inuit elders, and witnessed caribou hunts and polar bears.

Adding to the sense of disruption was the fact that Rogers brought along a film crew, which captured the writers’ reactions to their unfamiliar surroundings. The resulting Northwords documentary, which airs Oct. 25 on CBC TV and had its premiere screening at the Eden Mills Literary Festival, won the best documentary prize at the Banff International Pilots Competition. Accompanying the film is an interactive website, an ebook published by House of Anansi Press, and an episode of The Next Chapter.

Noah Richler (Photo: Joel McConvey)

For York, the Northwords project changed the way she looks at Canada’s North.

“I’m looking at it as wilderness, and right beside me there’s someone looking at it thinking, ‘I grew up here,’” says York, referring to an Inuit elder who guided the writers through an ancestral village from which her people had been forcibly evacuated. “It’s just a question of shifting away from where we’re told the centre of life is and understanding that there [are] as many centres as there are lives.”

Maharaj, who lives in the Toronto suburb of Ajax, Ontario, was likewise moved by his Northern experience. The Trinidad-born author of the Trillium Book Award–winning novel The Amazing Absorbing Boy (Knopf Canada) recalls studying the geography of Northern Canada in his youth and being motivated to visit a place he’d only encountered in books.

“There was that kind of romantic idea of seeing things that I’d heard about or read about in the distant past,” says Maharaj. “There are some places that are so different from your own experience in every single way that it takes a while to process that, and sometimes the true significance and importance [comes] gradually, rather than some grand moment of clarity while you’re at the place.”

Leavitt, an artist and author of the graphic novel Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me (Freehand Books), felt a sense of reverence not just for the landscape and its people, but for the seasoned, well-known writers whose company she kept.

“I had one book and some shorter publications, but those guys all have multiple books and they have much higher profiles than I do,” says Leavitt, who credits the experience with boosting her confidence as a writer. “It was intimidating, but they’re all just really, really nice people. Just meeting people who are so dedicated to their writing and working on their craft was inspiring.”

While in Torngat, the five authors were required to write original stories and read them out loud to the group. Leavitt produced a series of illustrated, one-page vignettes. Maharaj’s short story followed his Absorbing Boy protagonist on a new adventure, while  York’s story was spurred by thoughts of her brother. Richler riffed on the daunting waiver the writers were asked to sign before embarking on the trip, and Boyden wrote from the point of view of a polar bear.

Saglek Bay inukshuk (Photo: Joel McConvey)

The stories are included in the Northwords ebook, the first publication produced by Anansi’s new digital division. According to president and publisher Sarah Mac­Lachlan, the stories, available as a collection or as digital singles, put an exclamation point on the project.

“I think if you go to the interactive [website] or you watch the movie, you get an idea of each of these writers and their response to the North, but the fun is in reading what they actually wrote all the way through,” she says.

Though he thinks the stories are all unique, Maharaj identifies a common element throughout his fellow travellers’ work. “What we wrote reflected that sense of uncertainty,” he says. “That sense of awe, that sense … of being in a place that may possess secrets or answers.”

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Alternative markets: why publishers are turning to zine fairs to woo new readers

Canzine, the country’s largest festival dedicated to zines and independent culture, happens this Sunday in Toronto (the Vancouver edition is scheduled for Nov. 17). Following the success of last year’s event, writer Jason Spencer spoke to several independent publishers about the importance of zine fairs to building readership. This article appeared in the Jan./Feb. issue of Q&Q.

(Photo: Jackie Spencer)

Last October, publisher Beth Follett decided to try a new method of connecting with readers: she signed up her company, Pedlar Press, as a vendor at Canzine Toronto, a daylong celebration of indie culture presented by Broken Pencil magazine. Not knowing what to expect, Follett carefully arranged a selection of Pedlar titles on her display table just inside the front doors of the 918 Bathurst Centre, including ReLit Award winners Sweet by Dani Couture and Blood Relatives by Craig Francis Power. As hundreds of misfits, hipsters, and readers began crossing the threshold, she realized she had come to the right place.

“It’s very difficult these days to find an audience and reach new customers,” says Follett, who understands the need to build new alliances as more independent bookstores close down. “It’s very important for me to be here and not in some ivory tower, where only a slice of the populace knows about Canadian literature.”

With nearly 200 vendors, 2010’s Canzine was one of the biggest in its 15-year-plus history. Likewise, thousands of people showed up at Montreal’s Expozine, a two-day event held in November that celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2011. “What does this mean for small presses? It’s a motivation to keep publishing,” says organizer Louis Rastelli. He adds that attending alternative gatherings can be eye-opening for people in the established book industry. “If the industry doesn’t get involved in what the new generation is doing, similar to the music [business], they [will] have some catching up to do.”

ChiZine’s Brett Savory (Photo: Jackie Spencer)

For some small presses, zine fairs perform a similar function to book launches. “You can do direct sales, so it’s a little cash boost, especially around the holidays when the [printer’s] bills are coming in,” says Nic Boshart, co-publisher of Invisible Publishing, which has had a presence at recent gatherings in Toronto, Halifax, and Montreal. But for many, such events are not so much about sales as they are about building relationships with new readers. Brett Savory, co-publisher of ChiZine Publications, says he attended Canzine Toronto in the hopes of accumulating social-media followers and promoting the press’s monthly Chiaroscuro reading series. Boshart adds that zine fairs are a good place to scout talent and network with presses one wouldn’t otherwise meet.

Not only do zine fairs bring scores of cultural artifacts to the public, they also provide a venue for interesting side events. In an effort to trump the previous year’s Puppet Slam, Canzine organized the Typewriter Orchestra Room, a cacophonous installation featuring a dozen poets attempting to channel Shakespeare. Canzine also hosted more conventional readings from authors such as Jonah Campbell, who read from his essay collection Food and Trembling (Invisible), and Expozine welcomed author Jonathan Goldstein, host of CBC Radio’s WireTap.

Such inventive programming can be an opportunity for authors who don’t fit in elsewhere. “If you can’t get a reading, make your own show,” says first-time Canzine Toronto vendor and seasoned attendee Liz Worth, author of Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond (Bongo Beat/ECW Press) and the poetry collection Amphetamine Heart (Guernica Editions). “You really have to get creative and you have to push really hard.”

Invisible’s Nic Boshart (Photo: Jackie Spencer)

Still, publishers who want to succeed at zine fairs need to adapt in order to stand out. Given the number of exhibitors at Expo­zine  – more than 270 – Rastelli recommends that publishers avoid selling titles at list price. “A lot of customers would like a bit of everything instead of spending all their money at one table, so we encourage people to have inexpensive books,” he says. “Even a publisher of perfect-bound books can produce a small zine worth $2, and at least if someone doesn’t buy a $20 book, they can go home with a sampler.” For her part, Follett, who plans to attend Canzine Toronto again in 2012, says she doesn’t advertise prices, in order to encourage discussion with interested readers.

Follett suggests potential vendors should think twice before dismissing zine fairs as lowbrow. “[T]here is a lot of ignorance, some of it willful, about who is producing art in Canada,” she says. “This is the ground where seeds are being planted for future excellence.”

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Q&A: Novelist and broadcaster Christy Ann Conlin on fear, writing, and radio

Christy Ann Conlin, the Halifax-based author of three spooky novels (Heave, Dead Time, and Listening for the Island, forthcoming from Doubleday), is pulling double duty this summer as the host of CBC Radio’s Fear Itself. The 10-part series, which airs Mondays at 7:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 9:30 a.m on Radio One, investigates the “whys, wherefores, and whathaveyous” of fear.

Q&Q spoke with the self-described “connoisseur of fear” about the relationship between her fiction and the radio show, and what it takes to delve into the freaky and frightening.

How does your writing inform the radio show?
I think they’re cousins, or direct relations, as we say in Nova Scotia.

I love talking to people and I love writing. It felt like the radio show was very much a beautiful marriage of these two things. I find people fascinating, and that’s why I became a writer.

Why do people do what they do? I think that drives writers. In radio, that’s what you’re doing, too, trying to learn through people’s stories what it means to be human.

In one episode, Conlin faces her fear of water

How did you decide on themes for each episode?
We thought about these sorts of iconic fears, the big fears we all have. A lot of it also came from our own experience. The pilot episode, “An Ocean of Fear,” was on fear of water. That one came out of how odd it is that I’m an East Coaster with a fear of the ocean. For the pilot, I went for a scuba dive in the North Atlantic.

Has any particular episode stuck with you?
The episode “Fear and Death” [airs Aug. 13] really spun my whole view of these concepts. For this show I interviewed Terri da Silva, who has stage four breast cancer and is 37. She also has a three-year-old daughter. I found that interview very moving.

We also spoke to Stephen Jenkinson, who used to be the head of palliative care counselling at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. He was the subject of a National Film Board documentary called Griefwalker and has witnessed over 1,000 deaths. I think it seems like such a grim topic, and both of these people are really joyous. I wasn’t prepared for that. I think I’ve always viewed death as black and white. These people talked about the other side of fear – courage.

Did any of your interviewees have any fear about sharing their stories?
I think everyone has a fear of being interviewed. It’s right up there with public speaking. For many of the guests, it was about overcoming the fear of reliving their experiences. Most people were very eager to share their stories even if they found it difficult.

I know with “An Ocean of Fear,” Jessica Franey had never spoken about her partner’s drowning in the Bay of Fundy, and the interview was just about a year after it happened. Also in that episode, Hugh Neilson talked about almost drowning off the banks of North Carolina. He was very reluctant to go into those memories.

Marina Endicott [who was interviewed along with author and paramedic Carrie Mac for the episode “Fear and First Responders”] was a little reluctant. She wanted to do the interview, she loved the idea about the show, but she’s never really talked about the fears she had while she was married to an RCMP officer. She’s just started exploring that in her writing. [The episode features Endicott’s essay “How to Talk About Mayerthorpe,” from PEN Canada's 2011 collection Finding the Words, and her poem “The Policeman’s Wife, some letters”].

You interviewed a number of authors for the series (Endicott, Mac, Andrew Pyper, and Ryan Knighton, are just some of the writers who appear on the show). Do you get the sense authors are more willing to share their fears?
I’m always curious, as a writer, about people who write for a living. In one episode we look at people who create fear for a living [“Creating Fear,” featuring Pyper and filmmaker Karen Lam], and a companion show, “Reflecting Fear” [airs July 30], looks at their creations – films and scary books.

If someone has written a book you might think they’ve processed their feelings, or they’re at a point where they have some distance and can look back a bit more objectively. We certainly didn’t want to talk to people who were in the throes of dealing with something, because I think you can damage yourself if you talk about a fearful experience before you’ve moved through it.

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Book links roundup: TTC launches book club, activists concerned about London Book Fair’s China focus, and more


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Canadian literary event roundup: Jan. 20-26

It’s a busy week for literary events. Here’s a sample of what’s going on across the country:

  • Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild presents “Writing North: Writing the Extraordinary,” University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon (Jan. 20–21, free, www.skwriter.com)
  • Poet Tanya Davis leads Stanzas in the Stacks: Poetry in the Library after Dark, Spring Garden Road Memorial Public Library, Halifax (Jan. 20, 8 p.m., free)
  • Dragnet literary magazine launches its fourth issue, Academy of the Impossible, Toronto (Jan. 21, 9 p.m., pay what you can)
  • Third annual Sparks Literary Festival, Memorial University, St. John’s (Jan. 22, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., free)
  • William Gibson discusses his new book, Distrust that Particular Flavor, Bolen Books, Victoria (Jan. 23, 7 p.m., free)
  • Robbie Burns marathon poetry reading with haggis and shortbread, Simon Fraser University Harbour Centre, Vancouver (Jan. 25, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., free)
  • CBC Radio and McNally Robinson host 5 Readers, 5 Writers, 5 Minutes, Winnipeg (Jan. 25, 8 p.m., free)
  • Brian Brennan, author of Writing My Way From Ireland to Canada, and Frances Hern, author of Yip Sang and the First Chinese Canadians, read from their work and discuss the Canadian immigrant experience, Central branch, Calgary Public Library (Jan. 26, 12 to 1 p.m., free. Call 403-260-2620 to register)
  • Ottawa Independent Writers presents “How to Write a Winning ‘How-To’ Book” with business author Dr. Denis Cauvier, Library & Archives Canada (Jan. 26, 7 p.m., $10, www.oiw.ca)
  • Reading and book signing with UPEI writer-in-residence Michael Crummey, Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Charlottetown (Jan. 26, 7:30 p.m., free)

Quillblog is looking for photos from literary events across Canada. Send your photos to scflinn@quillandquire.com.

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Spring preview 2012: Canadian non-fiction

In the January/February issue, Q&Q looks ahead at the spring season’s new books.

MEMOIR AND BIOGRAPHY

Revolutionary activity in the Middle East and North Africa has created an appetite for stories about life in these regions. Among them is the story of CBC News foreign correspondent Nahlah Ayed. In A Thousand Farewells: A Reporter’s Journey from Refugee Camp to the Arab Spring (Penguin Canada, $32 cl., April), the Winnipeg-born journalist traces her passion for reporting on the Middle East to her Palestinian roots and the time she spent in a Jordanian refugee camp as a child. • When Nazanin Afshin-Jam, a Vancouver-raised beauty queen, first heard of Nazanin Fatehi, a teen on death row in Tehran for the murder of her would-be rapist, the two young women had only a name and their Iranian heritage in common. The Tale of Two Nazanins (HarperCollins Canada, $31.99 cl., May), co-written with Susan McClelland, is the story of how the women found common ground in the struggle for Fatehi’s freedom.

While on a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2006, reservist Trevor Greene had an axe plunged into his skull and lived to tell the tale. Read it for yourself in March Forth: The Inspiring True Story of a Canadian Soldier’s Journey of Love, Hope and Survival (HarperCollins Canada, $29.99 cl., Feb.), co-written with his wife, Debbie Greene.

A pair of memoirs out this spring feature sons coming to terms with their late fathers’ true identities. Deni Béchard follows his fictitious family saga, Vandal Love, with a personal story. Cures for Hunger (Goose Lane Editions, $29.95 cl., May) finds the novelist dealing with the fallout from discovering his dad’s criminal past. • In Cold Comfort: Growing Up Cold War (Talonbooks, $18.95 pa., May), poet Gil McElroy writes about discovering his father’s hidden past working on the controversial Distant Early Warning Line.

In The Many Voyages of Arthur Wellington Clah: A Tsimshian Man on the Pacific Northwest Coast (UBC Press, $29.95 pa., Jan.), historian Peggy Brock creates a portrait of Arthur Wellington Clah, a Hudson’s Bay Company employee who left one of the few first-hand accounts of colonization in Western Canada written from an aboriginal perspective. • In 2008, the Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria commissioned a chronicle of the globetrotting life and unconventional work of artist and printmaker Pat Martin Bates. The result is Balancing on a Thread (Frontenac House Media, $49.95 cl., April), a biography and critical analysis by Pat Bovey, former director of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Internationally renowned composer and music educator R. Murray Schafer recounts personal and artistic growth in My Life on Earth and Elsewhere (The Porcupine’s Quill, $27.95 pa., May), which follows his journey from aspiring painter to sailor to vagabond before deciding to dedicate his life to music. • As an octogenarian, Naomi Beth Wakan considers herself somewhere between old and “old-old,” and thus amply qualified to comment on retirement homes, elder abuse, death, and the disconnect between self-image and society’s perception of seniors. Liquorice and Lavender: Some Thoughts on Roller-coasting into Old Age (Wolsak & Wynn, $19 pa.) appears in April.

William Stevenson may be best known for his book A Man Called Intrepid, about the similarly named British spy William Stephenson, often considered the real-life model for James Bond. Stevenson tells his own life story, touching on his career as a war reporter, in Past to Present: A Reporter’s Story of War, Spies, People, and Politics (Lyons Press/Canadian Manda Group, $28.95 cl., June). • B.C. cowboy and rodeo regular Bruce Watt spins a few yarns about the good, the bad, and the ugly of ranching in Chilcotin Yarns (Heritage House, $16.95 pa., May).

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS

As the Canadian government works toward repatriating child soldier Omar Khadr, McGill-Queen’s University Press is set to publish a timely anthology exploring the Canadian-born man’s background, his incarceration at Guantanamo Bay, his treatment at the hands of Canadian authorities, and the implications raised by his legal case. Omar Khadr, Oh Canada ($24.95 pa., May), edited by Janice Williamson, includes contributions from Sherene Razack, Roméo Dallaire, Charles Foran, Judith Thompson, George Elliott Clarke, and Maher Arar.

Nora Young, host of CBC Radio’s Spark, explores issues such as the real-world impact of online communities and why it’s essential to ensure digital privacy in The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us (McClelland & Stewart, $29.99 cl., April). • Some form of monarchy has ruled Canada since the start of the nation’s recorded history. The Secret of the Crown: Canada’s Long Affair with Royalty (House of Anansi Press, $29.95 cl., March) by John Fraser is a witty look at our country’s enduring appetite for all things regal.

HISTORY

A number of titles this season take an unflinching look at Canada’s history of racism. In Orienting Canada: Race, Empire, and the Transpacific (UBC Press, $34.95 pa., Jan.), John Price, associate professor of history at the University of Victoria, exposes anti-Asian racism at home and in foreign policy through examples such as the 1907 Vancouver race riots and Canada’s early intervention in the Vietnam War. • Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: Two Centuries of Bondage (Véhicule Press, $27.95 pa., May), George Tombs’ English-language translation of the late Marcel Trudel’s groundbreaking work on the history of slavery in colonial Canada, identifies Canadian slave owners and reveals the extent to which national leaders tried to cover up this unsavoury past. • Bryan Prince looks at slavery in One More River to Cross (Dundurn Press, $24.99 pa., Jan.), which tells the real-life story of Isaac Brown, a slave who was falsely accused of murder and made a daring escape from New Orleans before coming to Canada.

Educator Paul Keery and illustrator Michael Wyatt borrow from the graphic novel tradition to make Canada’s military history accessible in Canada at War: An Illustrated History of Canada in the Second World War (Douglas & McIntyre, $24.95 pa., May). • Originally published in Italian in 2003, Pietro Corsi’s Halifax: The Other Door to America (Guernica Editions, $15 pa., March), translated by Antonio D’Alfonso, explores the city’s role in the immigrant experience through a first-hand account.

POP CULTURE

In The Weakerthans: Watermark ($12.95 pa., April), the second instalment in Invisible Publishing’s Bibliophonic music series, author Dave Jaffer makes the case that the Winnipeg indie rockers are among the country’s best musical acts.

SPORTS

Hockey-shmockey. This season’s ice sport of choice is Arctic aviation. Based on the Canadian TV series of the same name, The Ice Pilots: Flying with the Mavericks of the Great White North (Douglas & McIntyre, $21.95 pa., Jan.), by Survivorman series co-author Michael Vlessides, follows pilots at Buffalo Airways in Yellowknife as they haul supplies and passengers in their Second World War–era propeller planes to remote Arctic outposts. • Frontenac House Media is set to publish Yukon Wings ($59.95 cl., May), an illustrated history of the territory’s aviation sector by industry veteran Bob Cameron.

Much has been written about Leanne Shapton’s quirky style and seemingly charmed career. Swimming Studies (Penguin Canada, $26.50 cl., June) dives into new territory: the illustrator’s lifelong passion for swimming, and her former dream of making it to the Olympics. • Speaking of the Olympics, a former athlete and coach have authored a pair of books on leadership. In The Power of More: Achieving Your Goals in Sport and Life (Greystone Books, $22.95 pa., May), three-time Olympic gold-medal rower Marnie McBean explains how to break down big tasks, set goals, strive for more, and recognize success. • In Leave No Doubt: A Credo for Changing Your Dreams (McGill-Queen’s University Press, $19.95 cl., March), NHL coach Mike Babstock (with co-writer Rick Larsen) expands on a pep talk originally intended for Team Canada, whom he coached at the 2010 Winter Games. • Start your own journey from novice to Olympian with Paddle Your Own Kayak (Boston Mills Press/Firefly Books, $29.95 pa., March), a fully illustrated guide by longtime paddlers Gary and Joanie McGuffin.

Vancouver writer Kevin Chong recounts how he unexpectedly found a new life direction as part-owner of a horse in My Year of the Racehorse: Falling in Love With the Sport of Kings (Greystone, $22.95 pa., April), a look into the tradition and faded elegance of the horse-racing scene.

GARDENING

When friends Rachel Fisher, Heather Stretch, and Robin Tunnicliffe ventured into business together they came up with Saanich Organics, a co-operative of small organic farms around greater Victoria. They’ve teamed up again for All the Dirt: Reflections on Organic Farming (TouchWood Editions, $29.95 pa., Feb.), in part a personal reflection on food entrepreneurship, in part a how-to for small-scale organic farming. • Get growing with Canadian Gardener’s Guide (Dorling Kindersley/Tourmaline Editions, $30 cl., March), an illustrated handbook by prolific food writer and urban gardening guru Lorraine Johnson.

FOOD AND DRINK

In 2009, Lynn Crawford resigned as executive chef at Four Seasons New York to launch a restaurant in Toronto and kick off a new travel series for Canada’s Food Network. The spin-off book, Lynn Crawford’s Pitchin’ In: 100 Great Recipes from Simple Ingredients (Penguin Canada, $37 cl., Jan.), includes recipes the chef acquired in her travels across North America. • While Crawford peddles local foods, University of Toronto geography professor Pierre Desrochers and economist Hiroko Shimizu suggest a different approach in The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet (Public Affairs/Perseus Books Group, $30 cl., June). The duo argues the locavore ethos is little more than a well-meaning marketing strategy that distracts from global food problems.

A perfect counterpoint to last season’s roster of meat-heavy cookbooks, Eleanor Boyle’s High Steaks: Why and How to Eat Less Meat (New Society Publishers, $17.95 pa., June) investigates the ecological, health, and social problems caused by conventional meat production, and offers guidance on supporting sustainable livestock practices. • University of Toronto Press’s Edible Histories, Cultural Politics: Towards a Canadian Food History ($34.95 pa., May), edited by Franca Iacovetta, Valerie J. Korinek, and Marlene Epp, is a rare scholarly examination of food culture and traditions from a Canadian point of view. • For nearly three decades, Toronto’s FoodShare has fought to make healthy eating possible for everyone. Share: Delicious Dishes from FoodShare and Friends (Between the Lines, $24.95 pa., May), by Adrienne De Francesco with Marion Kane, brings together favourite recipes from the FoodShare community that emphasize healthy, affordable, culturally diverse, and seasonal meals.

BUSINESS, FINANCE, AND ECONOMICS

Economist Jeff Rubin follows up his bestselling Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller with The End of Growth (Random House Canada, $29.95 cl., May). This time, Rubin posits that the tendency for governments to tie economic well-being to population growth will ultimately lead to disaster. • Michael Lewis and Pat Conaty tread similar territory but offer a solutions-based approach in The Resilience Imperative: Cooperative Transitions to a Steady-state Economy (New Society, $26.95 pa., June), about shifting from growth to a sustainable, low-carbon economy.

Rob Carrick, a columnist at The Globe and Mail, has written a personal finance guide for the Boomerang Generation. How Not to Move Back in with Your Parents: The Young Person’s Guide to Financial Empowerment (Doubleday Canada, $22.95 pa.) comes out in March, just in time for the end of the academic year. • Toronto ad man Rick Padulo – the brains behind the slogans “Leon’s Don’t Pay a Cent Event” and “Black’s Is Photography” – shares the story of his climb up the agency ladder, and spills a few trade secrets, in I Can Get It for You Retail: Down and Dirty Tales from a Canadian Ad Man (Dundurn, $29.99 cl., March).

HEALTH AND WELL-BEING

It seems a new health and fitness fad springs up every week. Timothy Caulfield, director at the Health Law and Science Policy Group at the University of Alberta, has tried some of them so the rest of us don’t have to. Through first-hand research and analysis, Caulfield’s The Cure for Everything! Untangling the Twisted Messages About Health, Fitness, and Happiness (Penguin, $32 cl., Jan.) exposes the special interests behind many scientific claims in the health industries, and suggests getting healthy is not as complicated as it seems. • In Thinking Women and Health Care Reform in Canada (Canadian Scholars’ Press, $39.95 pa., Feb.), the Women and Health Care Reform working group sets out its argument for why changes to Canada’s health care sector are women’s issues. Researchers raise the issue of gender in such areas as privatization, home care, medical insurance, access to treatment, and maternity care. • When a group of women in Parry Sound, Ontario, decided to raise money for a new mammogram machine at their local hospital, they opted for a fundraising project that was fun, creative, and cheeky. Compiled by the West Parry Sound Health Foundation, Support the Girls: Bra Art for Breast Health (Second Story Press, $21.95 pa., April) features the personal stories and bra-based artwork of breast cancer sufferers and survivors, their loved ones, and health-care workers. A portion of proceeds will go to breast cancer research.

Clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Nancy Reeves has travelled throughout North America facilitating workshops on grief, trauma, spirituality, and art therapy. A Path Through Loss: A Guide to Writing Your Healing and Growth (Woodlake Books, $19.95 pa., Feb.) contains self-guided journalling exercises Reeves has employed and honed over the years.

ENVIRONMENT

David Suzuki is back with another collection of thoughts on the environment. The aptly titled Everything Under the Sun: Toward a Brighter Future on a Small Blue Planet (Greystone, $24.95 pa., June), co-written with Ian Hannington, broaches topics such as solar-energy dependence, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the difference between human hunters and other predators. • Documentarian Amy Miller investigates the effects of carbon-emissions trading and carbon credit–funded projects in Carbon Rush (Red Deer Press, $24.95 pa., June), a scathing exposé of a system that bankrolls large-scale industrial operations and endangers all manner of life.

Cameron Dueck’s The New Northwest Passage: A Voyage to the Front Lines of Climate Change (Great Plains Publications, $24.95 pa., April) recalls the journalist’s trip through one of the least accessible places on the planet to encounter the effects of climate change on Arctic life. • In Save the Humans (Random House Canada, $29.95 cl., April), Rob Stewart, the filmmaker behind Sharkwater, turns his attention from marine life to the human cost of environmental carelessness. • Couched in tales of hard-living fishermen and the history of the West Coast fishing industry, Bluebacks and Silver Brights: A Lifetime in the B.C. Fisheries from Bounty to Plunder (ECW Press, $22.95 pa., May), by Norman and Allan Safarik, presents a dire ecological outlook for the Pacific Coast thanks to government mismanagement and overfishing. • In Nevermore: A Book of Hours ($20 pa., April), the third title published by Quattro Books’ non-fiction imprint, Fourfront Editions, David Day elegizes species that are long extinct, with illustrations by Maurice Wilson.

SCIENCE

Carolyn Abraham travels around the world, DNA kits at the ready, to probe the genetic background of her spotty family tree. Along the way, she struggles with the ethics behind using genetic tests to trace bloodlines. The Juggler’s Children: Family, Myth and a Tale of Two Chromosomes (Random House Canada, $32 cl.) lands on bookshelves in April. • In developing neurological exercises to overcome her own severe learning disabilities, Barbara Arrowsmith Young pioneered a cognitive training program that demonstrated the possibility for neuroplasticity – the notion that behaviour and training can alter brain function. The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: Stories of Transformation from the Frontier of Brain Science (Free Press/Simon & Schuster, $29.99 cl., May) recounts Arrowsmith’s story and sets out her methodology.

ESSAYS

Author and writing teacher Douglas Glover shares the finer points of the writing life, as well as a few exercises to get scribbling, in The Attack of the Copula Spiders and Other Essays on Writing (Biblioasis, $21.95 pa., April). • Thirty-three writers with ties to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, including Michael Turner, Madeleine Thien, and Wayde Compton, recast the maligned neighbourhood as a hub of creativity and humanity in V6A: Writing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (Arsenal Pulp Press, $19.95 pa., April), edited by Elee Kraljii Gardiner and John Mikhail Asfour. • Edited by Kathy Page and Lynne Van Luven, In the Flesh: Twenty Writers Explore the Body (Brindle & Glass, $24.95 pa., April) contains essays by André Alexis, Trevor Cole, Lorna Crozier, Candace Fertile, Kate Pullinger, and Brian Brett that explore aging, illness, and insecurity through a specific body part.

FINE ART AND GRAPHICA

Canadian cities provide a rich source of inspiration for a number of fine art and non-fiction graphica titles this season. Dave Lapp combines new and previously published comics about encounters and conversations on the streets of Toronto in People Around Here (Conundrum Press, $17 pa., April), a follow-up to 2008’s Drop-in. • Toronto streets are brought to the fore in Full Frontal T.O. (Coach House Books, $24.95 pa., May), a chronicle of the Big Smoke’s ever-changing streetscapes by photographer Patrick Cummins and Stroll author Shawn Micallef. • Meanwhile, illustrator Michael Cho wanders Toronto’s backstreets for Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 pa., May), a collection of vibrant illustrations of the city’s hidden streetscapes.

Heading West, Michael Kluckner’s Vanishing Vancouver: The Last 20 Years (Whitecap Books, $35 pa., April) updates the artist’s classic book of the same name two decades after its initial release. The new edition documents the city’s rapid development and features more than 200 images, including the author’s own watercolours and brush-and-ink drawings. • Rocky Mountain Books celebrates 100 years of the Calgary Stampede with Cowboy Wild ($39.95 cl., May), a photo book by David Campion chronicling a decade of the greatest show on earth, with text by Samantha Shields.

The latest from D&Q’s Petit Livre art book imprint is Idyll: Dream-filled Landscapes, Portraits, and Abstracts in Beautiful Detail ($19.95 cl., March) by Amber Albrecht. Inspired by the dreaminess of childhood, Albrecht’s paintings, screen prints, and drawings employ folklore and female iconography to address loneliness and loss.

HUMOUR

Just in time for summer break, Thomas Allen Publishers will release Almost There: The Family Vacation Then and Now ($24.95 pa., May), Curtis Gillespie’s take on family travel. • A “good mommy” is as real as a unicorn or Bigfoot, argues Willow Yamauchi in Bad Mommy (Insomniac Press, $19.95 pa., April), which celebrates the kind of parenting that falls somewhere between Joan Crawford and June Cleaver.

RELIGION

Conservative commentator and Sun News Network host Michael Coren’s latest book, Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity (Signal/M&S, $29.99 cl., April) picks up where 2011’s Why Catholics Are Right left off, challenging popular assumptions about Christianity regarding issues such as homophobia, sexism, and racism. • To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, in which the Roman Catholic Church updated its practices for an increasingly secular world, Novalis will publish Vatican II: Fifty Years of Evolution and Revolution in the Catholic Church ($18.95 pa., May) by Margaret Lavin, associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Regis College.

The fine print: Q&Q’s spring preview covers books published between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2012. All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. • Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.

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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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Publishing at the polls: where’s the art speak?

During the 2008 federal election, Stephen Harper spoke up for all those “ordinary people” who were tired of rich, elitist artists drowning in champagne at fancy galas. That glib comment backfired for the Conservatives, especially with Quebec voters, and for a brief moment, arts funding actually made headline news.

Obviously, Harper learned his lesson. This election, the Conservatives are steering clear of any discussions related to the arts. They haven’t attended any all-candidates arts and culture meetings, or responded to any requests for arts platform information.

But the discussion doesn’t end with Harper. The Canadian Arts Coalition has provided a handy Arts Vote Toolkit, which includes questions to ask your local candidates, statistics, and information on where to vote. The organization suggests using the hashtag #artsvotecan whenever you’re tweeting culture-related election issues, and offers some helpful social media tips.

UPDATE: Conservative candidate Dean Del Mastro, Liberal candidate Bob Rae, and the NDP’s Charlie Angus will debate arts and culture issues on CBC Radio 1 program Q, tomorrow a.m.

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Bibliomania and the not-so-light side of book hoarding

Last week, the National Post‘s Mark Medley wrote a piece about his ever-expanding book collection and the difficulty he has lightening his load by even a single volume. “I am a book hoarder,” he says. “Help me, please.”

The same day the article was published, CBC Radio’s Metro Morning picked up the story and host Matt Galloway spent the rest of the week discussing the impulse on air, and over Twitter and Facebook. He even brought in Shelagh Rogers to talk about her own book-collecting habits. By the end of the weekend, the term “book hoarder” came up in national media a lot.

The piece caught the eye of one Jessie Sholl, author of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding. In her view, the conversation around book hoarding overlooked an important fact: hoarding is more than a mild eccentricity, it’s an illness. (To be fair, Rogers avoided the word “hoarder” throughout her interview with Metro Morning, opting instead to call herself a “book lover.”) Sholl responded to Medley’s article on her blog at Psychology Today.

In her post, “You Are Not a Book Hoarder,” she attempts to set the record straight on bibliomania:

Just because you have a lot of books, that doesn’t mean you’re a bibliomaniac. Can you walk through the room in which your books are stored? Have you depleted any of your life savings on these books? Do you hide when the doorbell rings or not allow a plumber into your home when your sink is clogged?

[C]arelessly tossing the label of hoarder around, as the National Post essay does, is disrespectful to hoarders and those affected by the disorder…. [N]o one’s arguing that the term hoarding is off limits. Or that you can’t joke about hoarding, ever…. Maybe the line between harmless humor and disrespectful minimization of a mental illness is similar to what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography — you know it when you see it. Or maybe it’s simply keeping in mind that common expression: Language matters.

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Pullman pulled in Peterborough

Philip Pullman keeps running afoul of Ontario school boards.

In what is looking like the most effective publicity campaign ignorance can buy, Pullman’s The Golden Compass has been pulled from the shelves of school libraries in two Catholic School Boards in Peterborough, Ontario.* According to the Peterborough Examiner, “all three books in the trilogy were taken from school libraries this month after two parents complained.”

This follows hard on the heels of similar action by the Halton Catholic School board. (More details here.) A boycott of the movie version of the book is being urged by the Catholic League in the U.S.

What’s the author’s take on all this? In an interview with CBC Radio’s Writers & Company this weekend, Pullman said that “the thing they should do if they don’t want people to read the book is to say nothing about it…. If you want people to read a book, then make a fuss about it, make it controversial. Tell your children they are not to read this book under any circumstances. What is more likely to make them go to the shelf and take it down and read it from there?”

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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

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