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Ottawa’s Collected Works seeks buyer by Christmas Eve

Collected Works, Ottawa’s largest independent bookstore, will close in January if a new owner isn’t found by Dec. 24.

Owner and manager Christopher Smith is selling the business for one dollar. In exchange, the new owner would take on all of the store’s current liabilities.

While this may sound like the premise of a Christmas story, Smith says in a statement he has no choice but to sell, as “sizable personal and community investments” have not helped the store meet its basic financial obligations.

Smith says Collected Works’ overhead costs increased after a major expansion over two years ago, but sales remained flat. Starting today, all merchandise is discounted in hopes of generating some cash flow.

“In good times, we might have been able to weather the situation, but major shifts are occurring in the book world (online retailing, big box stores, exchange rates, the rise of digital devices and content),” he says. “Add to that our constantly rising rent and the current economic environment, and we were left with no wiggle room.”

This has not been a kind year to Ottawa’s bookstores, with the closures of Mother Tongue Books and Nicholas Hoare. According to the Ottawa Citizen, Books on Beachwood is also scheduled to close in January.


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This weekend in Canadian literary events: Aug. 24-26

Canadians have the chance to meet and see some of their favourite writers, artists, and poets up close and personal at this weekend’s readings and festivals, featured on Q&Q’s events calendar.

The August Sonata on Aug. 25 offers readings galore from the likes of Ken Chisholm, Julie Curwin, Russell Colman, Sandra Dunn, and several others. The event takes place in Boularderie Island, Cape Breton. Attendees are encouraged reserve seating, and bring four books for the annual book exchange.

The annual Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival kicks off in Vancouver on Aug. 25. The celebration fuses dance, theatre, and music with literary events, including storytelling, panel discussions on writing, and poetry readings.

Dan Parent, creator of Archie Comics’ first gay character Kevin Keller, will appear at Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop on Aug. 26. The free event includes an interview, question period, and book signing.

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Some of Alberta’s finest poets and writers will gather in Calgary on Aug. 26 for Get Literary: Prose and Poetry. Local poet laureate Kris Demeanor will lead an afternoon of readings from Alberta’s literary magazines. Shannon Lee Bennett, Marcello Di Cintio, Jon R. Flieger, Barb Howard, Naomi K. Lewis, and Fred Stenson are set to attend.

Patrick Lane hosts a poetry reading that includes works spanning his half-century career. The event takes place on Aug. 24 in South Frontenac, Ontario. Admission is $40.

Who knows how much longer summer’s warmth will hang over us, so get outside and enjoy it at the Summer When it Sizzles Festival in Ottawa on Aug. 26. The free event invites the public to hear poets share their work over an afternoon of book launches, readings and open mics.

On the other side of the country, Vancouverites can head over to Comix & Stories for Vancouver ComicCon at Heritage Hall. The event puts the spotlight on alternative and small press comics, zines, and artwork; featuring Simon Roy, Brandon Graham, James Stokoe, and Marley Zarcone.

Be sure to check out Q&Q‘s events calendar for more of this weekend’s literary happenings.

Want to add an event to Q&Q‘s calendar? Send your literary event listings to Quill & Quire. Please include the event name, date, time, location, cost, and a brief description.

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Iva Cheung wins Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence

Iva Cheung has won the 2011 Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence for her work on Cow: A Bovine Biography (Greystone Books). Written by Florian Werner, and translated from German by Doris Ecker, the book draws on music, literature, and visual art to study the cultural history and significance of cows.

Cheung received the award at the Editor’s Association of Canada banquet in Ottawa on June 2. On her blog, she thanked all involved in the honour:

Thanks to the EAC for having this award in the first place, and thanks to the donors, awards committee, and judges for this tremendous honour … I’m extremely grateful to Nancy Flight for nominating me. When one of your most respected mentors deems your work worthy of an award, the nomination truly is an honour unto itself.

The EAC established the annual award in 1983 to recognize editors’ contributions to a work. Winners receive a cash prize of $2000. Editors Andrea Douglas, Heather Ball, and Jean Wilson served as judges for this year’s competition.

Other editors shortlisted for the prize were Smaro Kaboureli for In Flux: Transnational Shifts in Asian Canadian Writing by Roy Miki (NeWest Press), and Peter Midgley for The Man in Blue Pyjamas by Jalal Barzanji, translated by Sabah Salih (The University of Alberta Press). Each received $500.


Ryerson University confers honorary doctorates on Mistry, Atwood, Gibson

Toronto’s Ryerson University is confering honorary doctorates on three CanLit heavyweights at the school’s spring convocation ceremony.

This morning, Rohinton Mistry received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the Faculty of Communication and Design, and treated soon-to-be Ryerson grads to a speech that bordered on a “brilliant, political fairy tale,” according to one tweeter in the audience. Mistry has previously received honorary doctorates from the University of Toronto, York University, and the University of Ottawa.

Margaret Atwood and partner Graeme Gibson will be presented with their Doctor of Letters degrees from the Faculty of Arts at convocation events on Tuesday afternoon. Atwood is no stranger to honorary doctorates, having received recognition from U of T, Trent University, and the National University of Ireland Galway, among others.


Canadian literary event roundup: June 1-7

  • Deux Voiliers Publishing open house featuring Brendan Ray, Stephen Lorne Bennett, Chris Turner, and Con Cu, Collected Works Bookstore, Ottawa (June 1, 7 p.m., free)
  • Niagara Literary Arts Festival kicks off with readings by Erno Rossi and Marsha Barber, Patrick Sheehan’s Irish Pub, St. Catharines, Ont. (June 1, 7:30 p.m., free)
  • Ridgeway Reads all-day book fair, Legion Branch 230, Ridgeway ON (June 2, 9 a.m., $20 per table)
  • Writing for Children and Young Adults workshop with Brian Henrey and Kelley Armstrong, Oakville Central Library, Oakville Ont. (June 2, 10 a.m., $48; $44 in advance)
  • Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia Annual General Meeting, Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia, Halifax (June 2, 12 p.m., free)
  • Kathryn Ellis launches her new YA book, Home in Time for Dinner, Chapters Richmond Hill, Ont. (June 2, 1 p.m., free).
  • “Out of the Shadows,” a panel on the art of translation featuring Hugh Hazelton, Susan Ouriou, and Gisèle Villeneuve, Shelf Life Books, Calgary (June 2, 3 p.m, free.)
  • Authors and Angels at the Astor, a tribute to Joyce Barkhouse featuring Alex Hickey, Vernon Oickle, Marcia Pierce Harding, E. Alex Pierce, and Janet Barkhouse, Astor Theatre, Liverpool, N.S. (June 2, 7 p.m., $10, $10 for reception)
  • Jay Ingram reads from Fatal Flaws, Plaza Theatre, Calgary (June 3, 11 a.m., $10; $20 includes lunch)
  • Esther Paul launches Mending Fences, McNally Robinson, Winnipeg (June 3, 2 p.m., free)
  • Battle of the Sexes Poetry with Dwayne Morgan, Elle Seon, Ritallin, Tammy Soulful, Dahveed Delisca, Dianne Robinson, Denyce, and Tomy Buick, Lamabadina Lounge, Toronto (June 3, 6 p.m., $20 $15 in advance)
  • Toronto Jewish Book Festival kicks off with Michael Wex interviewing Auslander, Toronto Reference Library (June 4, 8 p.m., $25)
  • 8th House Publishing launches The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover by Charles Talkoff, Jump the Devil by Richard Rathwell, and The Midas Touch by James Cummins and Cameron W. Reed, Paragraphe Bookstore, Montreal (June 6, 6 p.m., free)
  • Readings with Angie Abdou, Mark Lavorato and Teri Vlassopoulos, Librarie Drawn & Quarterly, Montreal (June 6, 7 p.m., free)
  • Book signing with Treena Wynes, McNally Robinson, Saskatoon (June 7, 7:30 p.m., free)
  • Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist readings featuring Ken Babstock, Phil Hall, David Harsent, Yusef Komunyakaa, Sean O’Brien, Joanna Trzeciak/Tadeusz Różewicz and Jan Zwicky, Koerner Hall, Toronto (June 6, 7:30, from $12.50)
  • Shree Gatage launches her novel Thirst, Pages on Kensington, Calgary (June 7, 7:30 p.m., free)
  • The Heroines of The Sexual Gothic fundraiser, featuring Susan Swan, the Billie Hollies and Martha Chaves, Toronto Women’s Bookstore (June 7, 6:30 p.m., $30 $25 in advance)
  • Dan Rather discusses his memoir Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News, Indigo Manulife, Toronto (June 7, 7 p.m., free)

Quillblog is looking for photos from literary events across Canada. Send your photos to

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Richard Gwyn wins $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen prize

Richard Gwyn’s Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times; Volume Two: 1867 – 1891 (Random House Canada), the second volume in the two-part biography of Canada’s first Prime Minister, is the recipient of this year’s Writers’ Trust of Canada Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. Gwyn was awarded the $25,000 prize at the Politics and the Pen Gala in Ottawa on Wednesday night.

In a press release, the jury comprised of journalist David Akin, historian Charlotte Gray, and political scientist Janice Gross Stein praised Gwyn’s book as a “fully rounded and compelling portrait of our prime minster’s public and private life.”

The first volume of Gwyn’s biography, John A: The Man Who Made Us, was a finalist for the prize in 2007, and in 2011 was named one of the best Canadian political books of the last 25 years by the Writers’ Trust of Canada. Nation Maker was a finalist for the 2011 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

Nation Maker beat out Ron Graham’s The Last Act: Pierre Trudeau, the Gang of Eight, and the Fight for Canada (Allen Lane Canada), Max and Monique Nemni’s Trudeau Transformed: The Shaping of a Stateman, 1944 – 1965 (McClelland & Stewart), Andrew’s Nikiforuk’s Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests (Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation), and Jacques Poitras’ Imaginary Line: Life on an Unfinished Border (Goose Lane Editions). Each of the four runners-up received $2,500.

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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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Book links roundup: Ottawa reviews Target, Harry Potter ebook sales over $1.5 million, and more


Carmen Aguirre wins CBC Canada Reads

Carmen Aguirre came out victorious at this year’s CBC Canada Reads. The B.C.-based author and playwright’s memoir, Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter (Douglas & McIntyre), about growing up in the underground among South American revolutionaries during the 1970s, beat out Ken Dryden’s The Game (Wiley Canada), the former Habs goalie’s recollections of pro hockey and a very different version of the ’70s.

Something Fierce defender Shad had his work cut out for him, winning three votes to two against The Game’s champion, Alan Thicke, Thursday morning at the CBC studios in Toronto. The hip-hop artist was backed by Arlene Dickinson and Anne-France Goldwater (one of the rare instances when these two panelists agreed), while Thicke was seconded by Stacey McKenzie. The final showdown proved to be one of the tamest panels yet in a contest that included allegations of lying, bullying, terrorism, and lots of tears (we’re looking at you, Stacey).

Aguirre, who is currently touring her one-woman show, Blue Box, called into the studio from Ottawa after she heard the news. “It was a very interesting week for me because I’m alone in Ottawa right now,” she said. “I’d had to go every night to do my 80-minute monologue and then not sleep at night because I was waiting to see what will happen the next morning, but I’ve had a lot of virtual support.”

The Game and Something Fierce (a Q&Q Book of the Year for 2011), were the last titles standing after one by one panelists voted off Dave Bidini’s On a Cold Road (McClelland & Stewart), John Vaillant’s The Tiger (Vintage Canada), and Marina Nemat’s Prisoner of Tehran (Penguin Canada).

D&M is preparing for the expected increase in sales, often referred to as the “Canada Reads effect,” with a reprint of the book. As part of its participation in the contest, the publisher will make a financial donation to Frontier College’s Aboriginal Literacy Program.

Something Fierce will be released in the U.S. in August.

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Robert Lepage’s creative alchemy

This feature by Sarah Greene appeared in the November 2011 issue of Q&Q.

Robert Lepage’s impressive artistic career spans theatre, film, and opera, and includes stints as designer and director for Cirque du Soleil and a Peter Gabriel world tour. The prolific Quebec actor, writer, and director has now added graphic novelist to his list of achievements. The Blue Dragon, first published in French earlier this year by Quebec’s Éditions Alto, appears this month from House of Anansi Press.

Adapted from the play of the same name, the book reunites co-writers Lepage and Marie Michaud, both of whom performed in the original 2008 production. The idea for the graphic novel, first suggested by Lepage’s sister and assistant Lynda Beaulieu, seemed natural given the influence on the play of Hergé’s The Blue Lotus, about TinTin’s adventures in Shanghai; the use of Chinese calligraphy, video, and comic panel-like squares in the set design; and the fact that the central character, Pierre Lamontagne, is a graphic artist and calligrapher.

“We thought a graphic novel would be more faithful, do more justice to the piece,” says Lepage. “We saw it as an opportunity to extend the themes of The Blue Dragon.”

A follow-up to the mid-1980s production The Dragons’ Trilogy, the story is set in modern-­day China and revolves around three characters in a love triangle: Lamontagne, a middle-aged Quebecois artist who lives in Shanghai and runs a contemporary art gallery; his ex-wife, a Montreal-based ­advertising executive hoping to adopt a baby; and Lamontagne’s younger Chinese lover. Just as there are three characters interacting in three languages (French, English, and Mandarin), there are three possible endings to the play and the book. Éditions Alto played on the number by printing a first run of 3,333 copies.

To adapt the highly visual play into print, Lepage and his production company, Ex Machina, imagined how they would present the story as a film. They auditioned a number of Quebecois artists for the project, eventually choosing Fred Jourdain, a young illustrator known for his portraits of rock stars and celebrities. Jourdain’s fluid, vivid illustrations of a rainy Shanghai are conveyed by mixing comic-book art with more painterly images. “He was very strong at expressing emotions on his characters’ faces,” says Lepage.

Anansi publisher Sarah MacLachlan fell in love with this combination of graphica and fine art. “I thought that was an extraordinary thing,” she says. The Blue Dragon is Anansi’s first graphic novel for the adult market (its children’s imprint, Groundwood Books, published the YA title Skim by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki in 2009). Canadian fiction editor Melanie Little met Éditions Alto president Antoine Tanguay last January, at the Canada Council for the Arts’ inaugural translation rights fair in Ottawa, and presented an offer within days.

The graphic novel has also had an effect on the theatrical version of The Blue Dragon, which will be remounted by Toronto’s Mirvish Productions in January. “Our work with Fred had a big influence on the piece,” Lepage says. “Both to make it stronger by simplifying some of the storylines, but also by complexifying some things that needed to be more [complex]. A lot of that came from some of the very rich, effervescent exchanges we had with Fred.”

Lepage says the adaptation was so successful it’s changed his approach to publishing: “Whatever play we come up with we should try to find a format – not necessarily another graphic novel – that is as faithful to our visual approach to the stage as it is [to] the written word.”

Éditions Alto and Ex Machina have continued their partnership, producing a limited-­run souvenir book for Lepage’s production of Stravinsky’s opera The Nightingale and Other Short Fables and collaborating on a nine-volume box set for his epic nine-hour opera Lipsynch.

“[Lepage] is a central cultural figure in Quebec right now,” says Tanguay. “Everything he does turns to gold.”

Illustrations by Fred Jourdain, courtesy of Anansi

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