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Canada Reads 2014 seeks inspirational novels

Canada Reads, the CBC’s “battle of the books,” is underway again. The annual radio showdown seeks to elevate one book that all Canadians should read.

This year, advocates will debate not only the best book, but also “the one novel that could change Canada.”

Listeners are once again being asked to nominate titles for the contest. For the first time, listeners are allowed to vote for up to five titles for consideration. The 40 most popular will comprise the 2014 top 40, to be announced by Jian Ghomeshi on on Oct. 24, and will eventually be whittled down to the five books up for debate.

From CBC Books:

We want the final contenders to be great stories, but we also want them to address the issues facing Canada today. In these times of political change, economic uncertainty and civil upheaval around the world, what’s the one book we can look to for inspiration? That will compel Canadians to make a change in their lives, whether it’s at home or work, in their community, in their country or around the world? Perhaps Canada needs a novel to inspire compassion, humour, political engagement, environmental awareness, insight into the lives of First Nations, or a new lexicon for mental illness?

The debates will take place between March 3–6. Up to five novel recommendations can be submitted until Sunday, Oct. 20.

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Q&A with Canada Reads defender Trent McClellan

This year’s Canada Reads debates are underway and David Bergen’s Age of Hope has already been eliminated. Dubbed the Canada Reads Turf Wars, the debates feature five panelists defending a book they selected to represent their region. The contenders are:

  • British Columbia and the Yukon: Carol Huynh defends Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
  • Prairies and the North: Ron MacLean defends The Age of Hope by David Bergen
  • Ontario: Charlotte Gray defends Away by Jane Urquhart
  • Quebec: Jay Baruchel defends Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan
  • Atlantic Provinces: Trent McClellan defends February by Lisa Moore

Quillblog caught up with comedian Trent McClellan to talk about his pick and his affinity for literature. Born in Newfoundland, McClellan is a regular at comedy clubs and festivals, as well as on CBC radio and television, CTV, and the Comedy Network. His selection, February, focuses on Helen O’Mara, who lost her husband in the 1982 sinking of the Ocean Ranger oil rig.

Your book fared pretty well this morning. There wasn’t much opposition and no one voted against it. How are you feeling about the coming days? People say, “Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is your book just not being noticed?” Well I’m going to take it as people enjoy the book so there’s no critique. Even in the exchanges themselves there weren’t a lot of folks who went after it.… It’s a credit to the book and the work that Lisa Moore has done with it. But I have lots of homework to do tonight to prepare in case some arguments come up.

What’s the best part of being a defender on Canada Reads? On a personal level it was just really great to be exposed to books I probably wouldn’t have been previously. With this [format], you have to read all the books, which is great. You’re seeing all these different styles, the topics are varied, the characters are very different, and for myself as a comedian, it’s really helpful with regard to my writing and storytelling ability — the more information you’re taking in, the more you can give out. The other thing is just the whole “making books cool thing.” People are on Twitter going, “Hey, Canada Reads is coming up,” so I think you can see people who aren’t readers but are kind of on the fence are really getting engaged…. Someone mentioned, “Leave it to Canada to have a reality show about books.” It’s so Canadian. It’s been a cool experience so far.

Why does every Canadian need to pick up February? When you read a good story, you’re looking for something that’s primal, something that resonates with you…. This book is about a woman who is trying to process her past, being open to what is happening now and trying to have an optimistic view of the future. Happiness lies in the balance and equilibrium of those three things…. On top of that, there’s the story of industry in general and capitalism and how sometimes we just take away the safety aspect of things because there’s money at stake. But this is all interwoven into [Helen’s] life and experience. Sometimes the book is criticized because people say it’s a female perspective, [but] if you can’t plug your life into this book you’re cold and dead on the inside….  It’s about loss and I’ve dealt with that. I think it’s a book that can help a lot of people move forward.

Do you feel connected to the loss Helen goes through in February? My grandparents raised me, and by the time I was in Grade 8 my grandfather had passed away. The year I graduated from university, my grandmother passed away. So [I was] pretty much an orphan at the age of 21 or 22. You have a lot of questions: Why me? How did that happen? In the book, Helen wonders, “What was Cal doing when the rig went down?” And you feel all those things. I wondered what my grandmother was thinking when she passed away. What were her last moments? They’re pointless questions because you’ll never have resolution but you can’t help but think them…. It was quite easy to plug my life into the book and look at it in a broader scope.

You’ve also talked about how being a comedian doesn’t mean you can’t defend a serious book because comedy and drama are so alike. On Twitter, some folks were saying, “Really, a comedian to defend February?” But … it’s still storytelling. My object when I’m on stage is to say something to make people laugh. In drama, someone’s doing the exact same thing — making you feel something. They’re not that far removed. When I first started doing stand-up, I felt this obligation to be funny [on and off stage]…. But [now] I don’t. I felt that going in to this today, I wanted the other panelists to see that I was serious about this book. That this wasn’t just, “Hey, I’m a comedian, I’m going to make fun of your cover or this character.” I want them to see I have a literary background and I’m here to talk seriously about these books. If humour presents itself as an opportunity then I’ll take that, but not at the expense of the book I’m defending.

You mention your literary background. How has that helped you prepare for the debates? I have a degree in English and History from Memorial University. I was an avid reader and drifted away from it for a while. When I got into this, it felt like university again. We have themes, and motifs, and cross-themes, and it was really kind of good to exercise those muscles and it took me right back to university…. It’s like riding a bike; you can always pick it back up.

The Canada Reads debates run until Feb. 14, and can be followed on the web, or via radio or television.

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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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Fall preview 2012: Canadian non-fiction, part II

The season of high-profile literary awards and author festivals is on its way, and there’s no shortage of new releases from marquee names. In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the fall’s biggest books.

TRUE CRIME

In 2009, police discovered a car in the Rideau Canal just outside of Kingston, Ontario. The car contained the bodies of three sisters – Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti Shafia – and 50-year-old Rona Amir Mohammad. Authorities later arrested the girls’ father, brother, and mother, all of whom were convicted of first-degree murder for their roles in the honour killings. Paul Schliesmann’s Honour on Trial (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $19.95 pa., Oct.) examines the facts behind the case that horrified Canadians.

BUSINESS & FINANCE

He’s been a dragon in his den and gone to prison for his reality-television show, Redemption Inc. Now, Kevin O’Leary, businessman, pundit, and author of the hybrid memoir/business guide Cold Hard Truth, returns with The Cold Hard Truth about Men, Women and Money (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Dec.), a guide to avoiding common financial mistakes. • O’Leary’s left-leaning opponent on CBC’s The Lang and O’Leary Exchange, Amanda Lang, has a leadership book out this season. The Power of Why: Simple Questions that Lead to Success (HarperCollins Canada, $33.99 cl., Oct.) postulates that asking the right questions leads to increased productivity.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

From the internal combustion engine and cold fusion to the Internet and the artificial heart, all scientific discoveries and technological advancements are the product of human ingenuity. In the 2012 CBC Massey Lectures, Neil Turok argues that science represents humanity’s best hope for progress and peace. The Universe Within: From Quantum to Cosmos (House of Anansi Press, $19.95 pa.) appears in September. • Terence Dickinson is editor of the Canadian astronomy magazine Sky News and author of the bestseller NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. His new book, Hubble’s Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Images (Firefly Books, $49.95 cl., Sept.), is a visually sumptuous compendium of images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

CULTURE & CRITICISM

Novelist and short-story writer Thomas King, who was also the first native person to deliver the prestigious CBC Massey Lectures, has long been a committed advocate for native rights. In The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday Canada, $34.95 cl., Nov.), King examines the way European settlers and natives have viewed each other via pop culture, treaties, and legislation. • Poet and critic Kathleen McConnell explores the portrayal of women in pop culture through the ages in Pain, Porn and Complicity: Women Heroes from Pygmalion to Twilight (Wolsak & Wynn, $19 pa., Nov.).

In A Civil Tongue, philosophy professor and public intellectual Mark Kingwell predicted the devolution of political discourse into a schoolyard-like shouting match. His new collection, Unruly Voices: Essays on Democracy, Civility, and the Human Imagination (Biblioasis, $21.95 pa., Sept.), is about how incivility and bad behaviour prevent us from achieving the kind of society we desire.

Poet, publisher, and critic Carmine Starnino turns his incisive and cutting attention to CanLit in his new collection of essays, Lazy Bastardism (Gaspereau Press,  Sept.). • James Pollock believes that Canadian poetry lacks an authentic relationship with poetry from the rest of the world. His new book, You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada (The Porcupine’s Quill, $22.95 pa., Nov.), attempts to situate Canadian poetry in a global context, through examinations of the work of writers such as Anne Carson, Eric Ormsby, and Karen Solie.

A new anthology from Women’s Press brings together essays addressing specific concerns of LGBT communities and individuals across the country. Edited by Maureen FitzGerald and Scott Rayter, Queerly Canadian: An Introductory Reader in Sexuality Studies ($64.95 pa., Sept.) takes up issues of education, law, and religion, among others. • For a brief moment in the 1960s, Montreal became a hotbed of Civil Rights activism, radically challenging traditional conceptions of racial hierarchies. The 1968 Congress of Black Writers included activists and spokespeople such as Stokely Carmichael, C.L.R. James, and Harry Edwards. David Austin chronicles this important gathering in Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal (Between the Lines, $24.95 pa., Nov.).

Belles Lettres (McArthur & Company, $29.95 pa., Nov.) is a collection of postcards from authors such as Baudelaire, Flaubert, Proust, and Charlotte Brontë, collated and annotated by Greg Gatenby, the founding artistic director of Toronto’s International

Festival of Authors. • In The Other Side of Midnight: Taxi Cab Stories (Creative Book Publishing, $19.95 pa., Oct.), writer and anthologist Mike Heffernan chronicles the experiences of St. John’s cab drivers and their clients.

ENTERTAINMENT

In the years following Liz Worth’s Treat Me Like Dirt, the market for books about the Canadian punk music scene has been as frenzied as the audience at a Fucked Up concert. In Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk, (ECW, $22.95 pa., Oct.), Sam Sutherland looks at the historical context for Canadian punk progenitors such as D.O.A., the Viletones, and Teenage Head. • One early Canadian punk band – Victoria’s NoMeans­No – is the subject of the latest book in the Bibliophonic series from Invisible Publishing. NoMeansNo: Going Nowhere ($12.95 pa.), by Halifax author Mark Black, is due out in October.

Marc Strange, who died in May, was known for mystery novels such as Body Blows and Follow Me Down. He was also the co-creator (with L.S. Strange) of the seminal Canadian television series The Beachcombers. Bruno and the Beach: The Beachcombers at 40 (Harbour Publishing, $26.95 pa., Sept.), co-written with Jackson Davies, the actor who played Constable John Constable in the series, chronicles the iconic show and its equally iconic lead actor.

Since its release in 1971, Ken Russell’s notoriously blasphemous film, The Devils, has been the subject of heavy censorship in both the U.S. and the U.K. Canadian film scholar Richard Crouse examines the history of this cult classic in Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils (ECW, $19.95 pa., Oct.), which includes an interview with the film’s director, who died in 2011.

HUMOUR

Former model and current stay-at-home mom Kelly Oxford has found her largest measure of fame as a result of her sarcastic Twitter feed (@kellyoxford), which features such Oscar Wildean witticisms as “IDEA: ‘Bless This Mess’ novelty period panties” and “Some parents in China get their kids to work in factories and I can’t get my kid to pass me some Twizzlers.” The essays in Everything’s Perfect When You’re a Liar (HarperCollins Canada, $24.99 cl., Sept.) promise more of the same. • If you prefer your humour with a larger dollop of political satire, you’ll be pleased to know that Rick Mercer has a collection of brand new rants on the way. A Nation Worth Ranting About (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Oct.) includes the author’s description of bungee jumping with Rick Hansen, and a more serious piece about Jamie Hubley, a gay teen who committed suicide after being bullied.

If you want to know whether you might be a redneck, ask Jeff Foxworthy. If you want to know whether you might be a native of Saskatchewan, check your birth certificate or consult the new book from author Carson Demmans and illustrator Jason Sylvestre. You Might Be from Saskatchewan If … (MacIntyre Purcell/Canadian Manda Group, $12.95 pa.) appears in September.

FOOD & DRINK

Rob Feenie is the latest Food Network Canada celebrity chef with a new cookbook. The host of New Classics with Chef Rob Feenie, who famously defeated Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America, offers innovative approaches to classic, family-friendly fare in Rob Feenie’s Casual Classics: Everyday Recipes for Family and Friends (D&M, $29.95 pa., Sept.). The recipes have undergone stringent quality control, each one having been approved by Feenie’s children, aged 3, 6, and 7.

Camilla V. Saulsbury’s 500 Best Quinoa Recipes: Using Nature’s Superfood for Gluten-free Breakfasts, Mains, Desserts and More (Robert Rose, $27.95 pa., Oct.) provides more healthy recipes based on the reigning superstar ingredient. • Aaron Ash, founder of Gorilla Food, a Vancouver restaurant that features vegan, organic, and raw cuisine, has achieved popularity among celebrity fans including Woody Harrelson and Katie Holmes. His new book, Gorilla Food: Living and Eating Organic, Vegan, and Raw (Arsenal Pulp, $24.95 pa., Oct.), collects 150 recipes, all of which are made without a heat source.

SPORTS


Rocker Dave Bidini returns to his other passion – hockey – in A Wild Stab for It: This Is Game Eight from Russia (ECW, $22.95 cl., Sept.), in which the author talks to various Canadians about the influence of the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series. The release of the book is timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the iconic series. • The man who made that series so memorable also has a book out this fall. Co-written with sports commentator Roger Lajoie, The Goal of My Life (Fenn/M&S, $32.99 cl., Sept.) traces Paul Henderson’s route through the OHL and the NHL, on his way to scoring “the goal of the century.”

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup, ex–CFL quarterback and coach Frank Cosentino has penned the appropriately titled The Grey Cup 100th Anniversary (McArthur & Company, $29.95 pa., Oct.). • Crime fiction writer Michael Januska offers his own take on 100 years of Canadian football history in Grey Cup Century (Dundurn, $14.99 pa., Sept.).

Q&Q’s fall preview covers books published between July 1 and Dec. 31, 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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Frye Festival throws 100th birthday bash for Northrop Frye

Frye Festival

As Northrop Frye’s 100th birthday is recognized across Canada this week, the Frye Festival is commemorating its namesake by hosting a community event in honour of the literary critic. The free event takes place on July 13 at the Moncton Public Library.

The celebration will feature the unveiling of a life-sized bronze sculpture of Frye, depicted sitting on a park bench with an open book in his lap. The event will also include a barbecue and birthday cake, live music, and a reading by local poet Serge Patrice Thibodeau, whose poem, to be read in French, was originally published in a special edition of the University of Toronto Quarterly dedicated to Frye.

“There isn’t much public art in Moncton so we thought this would be a great way to enhance the downtown area while celebrating Frye’s legacy,” says Danielle Leblanc, the festival’s executive director.

Designed by local artists Darren Byers and Fred Harrison, in collaboration with Janet Fotheringham, the sculpture was funded through the Department of Canadian Heritage, private donors, and local fundraisers. CBC reports that officials at the University of Toronto have expressed interest in having a copy created for its campus, where Frye taught.

Along with the unveiling of the sculpture comes the announcement that leading Frye scholar Dr. Robert D. Denham has donated his personal collection of Frye memorabilia to the library. Appraised at $40,000, the donation includes signed editions of Frye’s works, plus paintings and caricatures, audio-visual materials, and Frye’s writing desk, chair, and typewriter.

The donation will be housed in the library’s Heritage Room, though some pieces will be displayed in its lobby for viewing at the party.

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Classic Newfoundland novel Hold Fast to become a film

The classic 1978 Newfoundland coming-of-age novel Hold Fast, written by Kevin Major, will make the jump from the page to screen next year in a film written by Rosemary House and directed by Justin Simms. The film stars Douglas Sullivan, Avery Ash, Aiden Flynn, and Molly Parker.

The novel tells the story of Michael (played by Ash), who must leave his small-town home for the big city after his parents die in a car accident.

Ash, 14, and Sullivan, 12, were cast after months of auditions throughout Newfoundland. Major has visited the set since shooting began last month. CBC quotes him saying:

It’s very gratifying to think that a book that’s almost 35 years old now is still on the go, still being read by people, still appreciated by people. I hope it speaks to the story, that it’s a universal story … And maybe it will reach a whole new group of people. I’m hoping that, anyway.

Hold Fast, funded by Telefilm Canada and the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corp., will be produced by Rock Island Productions and Markham Street Films. It is set for release in Canada and internationally next year.

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PEI pulls publishing grant – again

The government of Prince Edward Island has axed a subsidy designed to support the province’s publishers. The Island Publishers Support Program offered up to $10,000 to PEI publishers to “encourage and develop Prince Edward Island information, stories, and authors,” and “help increase sales of Prince Edward Island books,” according to the program’s website.

For PEI’s publishing and literary communities, the cut must seem like déjà vu: last year the provincial government announced it would defund its publishing assistance program, but promptly overturned the decision. At the time of the reversal, Culture Minister Robert Vessey told CBC News that a meeting with the province’s publishers had convinced him to give the program another try, with the expectation that more would take advantage of it. “It’s a not a huge dollar figure but it helps the publishers and I think it’s very important that we continue that program,” Vessey said.

A representative from the Department of Tourism and Culture states that the most recent decision to cut comes after the program “saw very little uptake; in fact, this program … was for the most part accessed by one business.”

Acorn Press received funding through IPSP in 2012. Owner Terrilee Bulger is now left to once again figure out how to sustain operations in PEI. Bulger told CBC News that although 2012 has been the company’s biggest year yet, she wouldn’t have sent her full roster of 13 titles to press had she known the cuts were coming.

Irene Novaczek, director of University of PEI’s Island Studies Press, says that despite the expectation surrounding the grant’s 2011 reinstatement, her company was shut out from the program because of its institutional affiliation. “We have already swallowed our bitter pill,” Novaczek writes in an email to Q&Q. “The further blow to other publishers is most regrettable.”

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Canadian literary event roundup: April 20-26

  • Fan Expo Vancouver celebrates science fiction with Spider Robinson, D.D. Brant, A.M. Dellamonica, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Vancouver Convention Centre (April 21-22, check website for times)
  • Blue Metropolis Festival offers readings, panel discussions, master classes, literary performances, slams, and awards, Opus Hotel, Montreal (April 20-23, check website for times)
  • Michael Christie reads from The Beggar’s Garden, Waverley Resource Library Auditorium, Thunder Bay (April 23, 7 p.m., free)
  • Seven Readings for Seven Masters, University of Toronto Masters of Arts in creative writing graduates read, Supermarket, Toronto (April 23, 6 p.m., free)
  • This Is Not a Reading Series presents the launch of Richard Stursberg’s The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC, Gladstone Hotel, Toronto (April 24, 7:30 p.m., $5)
  • Gary Geddes reads from his travel memoir Drink the Bitter Root, Runnymede Library, Toronto (April 24, 7 p.m., free)
  • The Anansi Press Poetry Bash features readings by Erin Knight, Dennis Lee, A.F. Moritz, and Erin Mouré, Tranzac, Toronto (April 25, 6:30 p.m., free)
  • John Gould reads from 7 Reasons Not To Be Good, Christianne’s Lyceum of Literature and Art, Vancouver (April 26, 7 p.m., free)

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

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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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Brandon Wint

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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