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Wade Davis wins Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction

Wade Davis with the Samuel Johnson Prize judging panel (Photo: Samuel Johnson Prize 2012)

Wade Davis was awarded the £20,000 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction for his book Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest (Vintage Canada) at an award ceremony in London, U.K., last night.

Into the Silence, which recounts English mountaineer George Mallory’s attempt to climb Mount Everest in the 1920s, was also shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language non-fiction, The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, and the Boardman Tasket Prize for Mountain Literature.

Davis is the author of 15 books, including The Serpent and the Rainbow (Simon & Schuster), an anthropological investigation of Voodoo culture’s place in Haitian history. He is currently an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C.

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Project Bookmark picks The Jade Peony for first Vancouver plaque

Project Bookmark Canada has announced its first Western plaques will be dedicated to Wayson Choy’s 1995 debut novel, The Jade Peony (Douglas & McIntyre).

The English- and Mandarin-language bookmarks will be placed at the intersection of Pender Streer and Gore Avenue in Vancouver’s Chinatown, where Choy will read on Oct. 15 at 11 a.m.

Project Bookmark erects textual markers from stories and poems in the physical locations where literary scenes are set. For the Choy bookmarks, the non-profit organization collaborated with the Vancouver International Writers Festival, which kicks off Oct. 16.

In August, “The Sea Breeze Lounge” bookmark, named after a poem by Al Pittman, was unveiled at the Writers at Woody Point Festival in Newfoundland.

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Burt Award recognizes YA lit by First Nations, Metis, and Inuit authors

Canadian literary organization CODE has announced a new award for works of YA fiction by native authors in Canada.

Established in collaboration with philanthropist William Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation, the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature is modelled after the Burt Award for African Literature, a YA prize that has been in existence since 2008.

The inaugural annual award will be presented to three English-language YA books, with a prize of $12,000 for the winning author (and translator, where applicable). Two runners-up will receive $8,000 and $5,000, respectively, and publishers of the winning titles will be awarded a guaranteed purchase of 2,500 copies to ensure communities have access to the books.

The Canada Council for the Arts will administer the Burt Award jury process. Submissions are now open and will be accepted until May 1, 2013.

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Q&A: talking swimming and the Olympics with author Leanne Shapton

As a youth, Toronto-born author and illustrator Leanne Shapton was a dedicated competitive swimmer, at one time ranking eighth in Canada. She competed in two Olympic trials (1988, 1992), but narrowly missed qualifying. In her new book, Swimming Studies (Blue Rider Press/Penguin Canada), Shapton meditates on her life in the pool through essays, photos, and watercolour paintings.

Shapton is an accomplished artist who began her career at the National Post before moving into art director positions at Saturday Night magazine and The New York Times. She is the author of five illustrated books.

Quillblog caught up with Shapton in New York City, where she’s resided since 2003.

How did Swimming Studies come to be?
When I’d talk about swimming, [former Saturday Night editor and Rogers Publishing president] Ken Whyte, who started his career as a sports writer, encouraged me to write things down. So I took some writing courses and tried to organize the material.

In 2007, when I had about a quarter of the book written, I sent it to my agent and then told them to throw it away. It wasn’t the right time.

Why is this the right time?
I made a two-book deal with Blue Rider Press, but after the auction catalogue (Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry), I didn’t want to do another picture-heavy book. It was really important to do something weirder and less like what I’ve done before.

For a while I had a column in The New York Times Magazine. It was a revelation to work with an editor. The book then became a huge experiment in whether I could write anything longer than a caption or small capsule.

A series of paintings from Swimming Studies (Photo: Leanne Shapton)

Did you set out to write a non-traditional memoir?
I think it’s a funny book – there are a lot of different levels and layers. This is how I described it to my editor as I was working through the manuscript: I wanted it to be a book of landscapes – either interior or literal. I see these landscapes and because I don’t have a photograph of them and I don’t want to paint them, all I have is this language that I’m trying to learn as I go.

Did you keep diaries as a kid?
When I was training at 14 or 15, I mostly kept photo albums. When I was training with the University of Toronto team for my second Olympic trials in 1992, I kept them. It wasn’t until around 2006 that I started writing the other things down.

Shapton's Speedo “paper suit,” worn during the 1992 Canadian Olympic swimming trials (Photo: Leanne Shapton)

One of the most striking chapters in the book is “Size,” which includes photos of your personal collection of bathing suits. Why did you choose to include these?
That’s only half of them. I tried to get a sense of going from competitive to non-competitive to getting my first two-piece at 27 or 28. I really resisted getting one.

That chapter is called “Size” because there’s so much body stuff going on in terms of eating and shape and insecurities. There’s so much around bathing suits in particular – it’s all twisted and tangled, the idea of body size and image.

The book contains many references to time. Was that intentional?
One thing that came with training is that I know what five seconds feels like in the same way that a well plumber knows what five feet looks like from a different angle than the erst of us might. It’s a temporal understanding of things. It’s like how a minute feels when you’re late for a train.

How would you describe your relationship to water now?
I still swim, but I still don’t like swimming in open water. I will do it because I always feel like jumping into water, but I’m not entirely comfortable.

It makes me feel good to be in water – it’s like wearing a favourite sweater. It’s something that I know really, really well. I know my body so much more in water. I’m clumsier outside of it.

What about your relationship to the sport?
I’m not competitive at all. I joined a team to see if I had any spirit left, and I didn’t. It’s not a challenging thing for me anymore and I have no jock mindset for it.

Although watching the Olympics makes me cry. I love watching swimming. When I watch it on TV and they turn, I do it in my head, too.

Would you say you’ve replaced swimming with art?
For years I wanted the same focus that I had as a swimmer because I knew I was moving toward a perfection or a time goal. So now I’ll do 20 sketches or paintings. I’ll work the sport’s discipline into how I work, whether it’s an assignment or a series of paintings.

Since retiring from swimming I’ve tried to find that dumb blind zone you go into as an athlete. I’ve found it now with drawing and painting, which is so nice.


Wattpad teams up with Margaret Atwood to launch Atty Awards for international poetry

Wattpad, a Toronto-based online community for international writers and readers, has put out a call for submissions for its first ever Atty Awards recognizing work by undiscovered poets. Winning entries will be selected by Margaret Atwood, the prize’s namesake, who in July began posting a new series of poems to the site under the title Thriller Suite.

“We want to create a digital-first opportunity for poets to share their work and for audiences to discover the genre. Poems can be submitted from anywhere, and we anticipate that some entries will be written on mobile devices,” says Wattpad CEO and co-founder Allen Lau in a press release.

Award hopefuls are encouraged to enter their English-language work as either a competitor or an enthusiast. Competitors are to put forward a collection of 10 poems, each one following a different poetic form. Prizes for the competitor category include $1,000 (U.S.), feedback sessions with Atwood via Fanado, copies of The 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology (House of Anansi Press), subscriptions to Sarah Selecky’s Story is a State of Mind online writing courses, and participation certificates signed by Atwood.

Enthusiasts are required to submit one poem, and will be entered in a draw for prizes such as a Nexus 7 tablet and a special-edition Atty Award t-shirt signed by Atwood. All entries in both categories will be considered for a draw to name a character in Atwood’s upcoming novel, MaddAddam.

The deadline for entries is Oct. 31. Details can be found via Wattpad.

In addition to the Attys, Wattpad offers more than $10,000 worth of prizes through its annual Watty Awards, which celebrate the most popular and well-liked stories posted to the online community.

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CLA awards recognize Kit Pearson, Catherine Austen, and Matthew Forsythe

The Canadian Library Association named the winners of its annual book awards Monday morning.

Kit Pearson’s The Whole Truth (HarperCollins Canada), which touches on the Depression era, family drama, and forgiveness, has been selected as the 2012 CLA Book of the Year for Children. In a press release, jury chair Myra Junyk says, “Kit Pearson’s superbly crafted story introduces readers to a moral dilemma that has no easy answer.” Janet McNaughton’s Dragon Seer’s Gift (HarperCollins) and Rachna Gilmore’s That Boy Red (HarperCollins) received honourable mentions.

All Good Children by Catherine Austen (Orca Book Publishers) is the recipient of the Young Adult Book Award, which recognizes the author of “an outstanding Canadian English-language work of fiction” for young people aged 13 to 18. Karma by Cathy Ostlere (Penguin Canada) and This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel (HarperCollins) were named honour books.

Matthew Forsythe is the winner of the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award for his artwork in My Name Is Elizabeth!, written by Annika Dunklee (Kids Can Press). The jury praised Forsythe’s illustrations for “engag[ing] the reader from the first page, keeping the focus on the determined heroine and adding expressive detail to this appealing story. Simply perfect.”  Honourable mentions went to Ashley Spires for Small Saul (Kids Can Press) and Isabelle Arsenault for Migrant, written by Maxine Trottier (Groundwood Books).

The awards will be distributed on May 31, at the CLA National Conference and Tradeshow in Ottawa.

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David Bergen shortlisted for IMPAC Dublin

David Bergen is the sole Canadian nominated for this year’s IMPAC Dublin Award, at €100,00 the world’s richest prize for an English-language work of fiction. The Winnipeg author was shortlisted for his novel The Matter with Morris, which was also a finalist for the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

The complete shortlist is as follows:

  • Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer (Scribe Publications)
  • The Matter with Morris by David Bergen (HarperCollins Canada)
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Bloomsbury)
  • Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor (Bloomsbury)
  • Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (Atlantic Monthly Press)
  • Landed by Tim Pears (William Heinemann)
  • Limassol by Yishai Sarid; translated from Hebrew by Barbara Harshav (Europa Editions)
  • The Eternal Son by Cristovão Tezza; translated from Portuguese by Alison Entrekin (Scribe)
  • Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin (Faber & Faber)

The last Canadian to win the prize was Rawi Hage in 2008 for De Niro’s Game. Alistair MacLeod won in 2001 for No Great Mischief.

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Wilfrid Laurier, Toronto, McGill-Queen’s university presses recognized at Canada Awards

Authors published with Wilfrid Laurier University Press, University of Toronto Press, and McGill-Queen’s University Press are among the recipients of the 2012 Canada Awards.

The Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences presented the annual prizes, which recognize the best English- and French-language scholarly works published through the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program, at a ceremony in Montreal last week. Each winning author was awarded $2,500.

The winners, described by CFHSS president Graham Carr as “valuable contributions to the body of knowledge about Canada,” are:

Social Sciences
Veronica Strong-Boag, Fostering Nation? Canada Confronts Its History of Childhood Disadvantage (WLUP)
Michel Ducharme, Le concept de liberté au Canada à l’époque des Révolutions atlantiques, 1776–1838 (MQUP)

Susan R. Fisher, Boys and Girls in No Man’s Land: English-Canadian Children and the First World War (UPT)
Louise Vigneault, Espace artistique et modèle pionnier: Tom Thomson et Jean-Paul Riopelle (Hurtubise)

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Book links roundup: Canada’s best-selling graphic novels, Schnittman leaves Bloomsbury for Hachette, new Vonnegut e-single; and more


Author to spend six days in bookstore window

Isabel Losada has just wrapped another day sitting in the window of a Parisian bookstore. That’s four down and two to go for the U.K. author, who’s in town to promote the release of the French-language translation of her 2001 book, The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment/Mes Tribulations sur le chemin de l’éveil (Presses du Châtelet).

It isn’t the first time Losada has been “author in residence in window” (as she refers to the experience on her website). Last year, the author — who also wrote the 2004 bestseller For Tibet, with Love — set up shop for a week in the window of a London Waterstones to mark the SW11 Literary Festival. This time around, she’s parked her publicity/merchandising stunt from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the window of W.H. Smith, the largest English-language bookshop in Paris. If a recent status update on Losada’s Facebook page is any indication, the setting hasn’t been ideal for selling a French-language title:

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Book Pictures

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

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

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

Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

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

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

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

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

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

Frances Boyle, Dean Steadman, Lesley Strutt and Alastair Larwill

Amanda Earl

Jewel of the Thames launch

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