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Richards, Thurston, Goyette win Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia Awards

New Brunswick author David Adams Richards was the big winner at this year’s Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia Awards, which were presented Oct. 12 at a ceremony in Halifax.

Richards received the $20,000 Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award for his novel Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul (Doubleday Canada). Richards was up against two debut novelists: Valerie Compton (Tide Road, Goose Lane Editions) and Heather Jessup (The Lightning Field, Gaspereau Press).

Harry Thurston, who hails from Amherst, Nova Scotia, won the $2,000 Evelyn Richardson Memorial Non-Fiction Award for The Atlantic Coast: A Natural History (Greystone Books), which recently won a Lane Anderson Award for science writing.

Halifax writer Sue Goyette won the $2,000 Atlantic Poetry Prize for outskirts (Brick Books), which received the Pat Lowther Memorial Award in June.

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Women can’t have it all, but Anne-Marie Slaughter can get a book deal

Yesterday, Random House announced it acquired a book by Anne-Marie Slaughter, based on her controversial article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” which was the cover story in the July/August issue of The Atlantic. Canadian rights were secured by Anne Collins, publisher of the Knopf Random Canada Publishing Group.

It’s no shocker that Slaughter, the first-ever female director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department, was approached to write a book. Her piece about gender and work/life balance is The Atlantic’s most-read story to date, generating over 1 million website hits and 2,300 comments. Although the untitled book will not be released until 2014, Quillblog speculates that issues surrounding women and the pursuit for career success won’t go away any time soon.

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Book links roundup: Police sketches of literary characters, Bookninja’s send-off, and more

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Book links roundup: Largehearted Boy celebrates 10 years, the greatest books of all time, and more

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Where to watch the Scotiabank Giller Prize gala

Tomorrow night’s Scotiabank Giller Prize awards ceremony will be broadcast live on CBC’s new cable channel Bold at 9 p.m. (EST), followed by a rebroadcast on the same channel at 11:05 p.m.

For viewers with digital cable subscriptions, Bold is free for the month of November. Online viewers can catch the livestream on CBC Books or follow the Twitter feed @cbcbooks.

If you prefer the thrill of watching in a crowd, there are Scotiabank Giller Light bashes in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver, all of which support literacy programs at Frontier College. Halifax is hosting its own Giller Lite party, with proceeds going to the Atlantic Book Awards Society.

Photos: Pam Westoby

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U.K. poets band together to protest cuts

It’s National Poetry Month here in Canada, an annual initiative by the League of Canadian Poets to bring public attention to poetry. But across the Atlantic, the beginning of April more closely resembles T.S. Eliot’s characterization as “the cruellest month.” On March 30, Arts Council England (ACE) announced cuts to over 200 arts organizations, including the Poetry Book Society, which Eliot himself established in 1953. Responding to the cut in funding, British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy said that it was “a national shame and a scandal” that “goes beyond shocking and touches the realms of the disgusting.”

In response to the denial of funding for the Poetry Book Society, a letter of protest has been signed by more than 100 poets. The Poetry Book Society claims it will have to shut down entirely if the proposed cuts kick in as of April 2012.

This reaction is to some extent predictable; what is less predictable is the reaction in opposition to proposed funding for British publisher Faber. In light of cuts to the Poetry Book Society and certain smaller publishers, the decision to give money to a relatively well-off publisher such as Faber has ruffled some feathers. From the Guardian:

Former Faber director Desmond Clarke, also a former chair of the board at the Poetry Book Society, said he found ACE’s decision to favour the publisher over the Poetry Book Society “extraordinary.”

“As a commercially profitable publisher, Faber is more than capable of investing in a small number of poets each year,” he said. “The reality is that Faber has made enormous amounts of money by publishing poetry, and out of the royalties of Cats which has provided it with many millions over the years.” T.S. Eliot, author of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which inspired the musical, left his literary estate to Faber.

Clarke added: “If I were still a director of Faber I would actually be embarrassed that we should take money when the Poetry Book Society has lost funding.”

The broader picture shows that literature is actually the biggest winner in ACE’s new budget, seeing a 10 per cent increase in funding, while all other cultural arenas experience a net loss. The same article quotes Rachel Feldberg, director of the Ilkley Literature Festival (one of the organizations that will benefit from ACE’s allocation of funds) as feeling “torn” between her own elation and sadness for those who lost out:

“It’s exciting for us but for our colleagues the outlook may be bleak,” she said. The increased funding will enable the festival to continue and expand projects including work with young people in Leeds and Bradford schools.

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Harry Potter, Dan Brown dominate U.K. list of best-selling books

The stereotype has it that England is filled with recondite literati ensconced in mahogany-lined libraries reading leather-bound volumes of Romantic poetry and plump Victorian novels. This as compared to the beer-swilling philistines in America, gorging themselves on a diet of Dan Brown and Tom Clancy (if they read at all). Well, newly released data indicates that this conception is flawed. Readers in the U.K., it would seem, have every bit as much devotion to Dan Brown as their counterparts across the Atlantic.

As noted in the Guardian over the weekend, Brown took the number one spot on Neilsen Bookscan’s list of the U.K.’s best-selling books released since the company began collecting data in 1998. According to the service, which tracks 90 per cent of book purchases in the U.K., The Da Vinci Code moved 4,522,025 units between 1998 and 2010, which accounted for a staggering £22,857,837.53 in revenue. Angels and Demons, Brown’s prequel to The Da Vinci Code, took the fourth spot on the list, with 3,096,850 units sold, accounting for sales of £15,537,324.84.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of the top 10 is devoted to Harry Potter: all seven of J.K. Rowling’s books about the boy wizard are featured, with the first in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, taking the number two spot. The only place in the top 10 not devoted to Brown or Rowling goes to Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight, which clocks in at number nine. In fact, one has to make it to number 13 before a title by an author not among the three already mentioned appears: Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones.

Perhaps surprisingly, Stieg Larsson does not crop up on the list until number 17, although the three novels in the Swedish author’s Millennium Trilogy came in at numbers one, two, and three respectively on the list of U.K. bestsellers for 2010.

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Christopher Hitchens talks cancer and religion

In the September issue of Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens discussed his cancer diagnosis in an essay called “Topic of Cancer.” In it, he gave a more intellectual than emotional account of his illness, one that still managed to be moving.

Now, The Atlantic is following Vanity Fair’s lead. Last week, the magazine posted a video of Jeff Goldberg interviewing Hitchens at the latter’s home in Washington, D.C. Martin Amis even drops in to chat for a bit. According to the Los Angeles Times book blog, Jacket Copy, the video is one in a series “on the possibility of Hitchens having a religious conversion or awakening.”

Hitchens, for his part, does not consider such a thing likely.

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The Atlantic kindles a new relationship with Amazon

Edna O’Brien, Curtis Sittenfeld, and Paul Theroux are among the writers who will be making their short fiction available exclusively to Kindle users thanks to a new deal between online retailer Amazon.com and the general interest magazine The Atlantic. The first two of these stories, O’Brien’s “Shovel Kings” and Christopher Buckley’s “Cynara,” are available today. From the press release:

As outlets publishing fiction rapidly dwindle, The Atlantic asserts its historic commitment to the form by introducing two new short stories each month via Amazon’s Kindle – becoming the first magazine to deliver fiction exclusively to Kindle readers…. These works will also be available for purchase and reading with the Kindle for iPhone and Kindle for PC apps, as well as planned Kindle platform expansions for Mac and Blackberry.

At the risk of sounding snarky, this Quillblogger would like to point out the irony in the first clause of that opening sentence, given the magazine’s decision in 2005 to cease publishing short fiction on a monthly basis and to group fiction into a kind of annual gulag in their summer issue.

Moreover, The New York Times points out that authors who have their work published as part of this agreement will have access to a rather exclusive audience:

For authors who sign with The Atlantic for the Kindle deal, their contracted work is limited to that one format, since those who don’t own a Kindle – or an iPhone, on which readers can install a Kindle app – won’t be able to read it.

Participating authors, who have been paid what the NYT refers to as “a four-figure fee,” may at some future time reprint their stories in collections or other periodicals, but they are prohibited from allowing them to appear on competing e-readers.

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Authors challenge the idea of a national literature

Canadian authors Margaret Atwood and Anne Michaels, along with Britain’s Monica Ali and Ireland’s Joseph O’Neill, have contributed their thoughts on the idea of a national literature to The Atlantic‘s Fiction 2009 special issue, created in partnership with the Luminato Festival of Arts and Creativity held in Toronto last month. The four essays, grouped under the title “Border Crossings,” discuss how globalization, immigration, and the internet have affected the concept of a national literature, and question whether the notion that books and authors belong only to one place can still exist.

In her essay “Reading Faust in Korean,” Michaels argues that the idea of a national literature is created by the reader who relates to the book in his or her own way, rather thanby the writer’s place of birth. Atwood, for her part, thinks that it’s impossible to place an author or a book into a single category. In her essay “The Beetle and the Teacup,” she writes:

“Do you identify as a woman, or as a writer?” I’ve been asked. “A North American? A Torontonian? An environmentalist? A poet, or a novelist?” As if we were so divisible.

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