Newfoundland leaves its mark at Atlantic Ink

Joan Sullivan
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One Newfoundland writer came close to a prize, while a book with a Newfoundland setting did come first at the 2009 Atlantic Ink Festival.

Running May 4-9, Atlantic Ink had a full program of readings and workshops, panel discussions and parties dotted throughout the Atlantic provinces.

One Newfoundland writer came close to a prize, while a book with a Newfoundland setting did come first at the 2009 Atlantic Ink Festival.

Running May 4-9, Atlantic Ink had a full program of readings and workshops, panel discussions and parties dotted throughout the Atlantic provinces.

For example, on the penultimate night of the week-long fete, people gathered for a reading in Halifax, as they had been for the previous several days in St. John's and Charlottetown, in venues from upscale downtown bars to senior's homes.

This event was hosted by Outside the Lines Bookstore, an independent outlet on Quinpool Road in Halifax.

Two walls were filled with bookshelves featuring anything from the latest Barbara Gowdy novel to second-hand copies of "I, Claudius," packed with lots of philosophy and international bestsellers and children's favourites in between.

A clutch of opened wine bottles stood gleaming; a circle of chairs were set in the middle of the room; all a charm against the foggy coolness outside.

Featured were Ian Colford and Sara Tilley, both finalists for the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, and Steven Kimber, finalist for the Evelyn Richardson Non-fiction Prize. Both awards, along with two others, were to be announced the next day.

Colford's book, "Evidence," is a short story collection linked by the throughline of one character, Konstandin, who emerges from a devastated East European country only to find himself in an academic assistant post in Canada.

Tilley's novel, "The Skin Room," "is a coming of age story for the same person at two different points in her life, at 12 and in her 20s," Tilley told the audience.

Also up for the Raddall award was Douglas Arthur Brown, who was reading from "Quintet" at a similar 'do in Dartmouth.

Kimber, who is also the Rogers Communications Chair at King's College, read from "Loyalists and Layabouts," which had its genesis in a piece of research Kimber found indicating that Shelburne, N.S., was once the fourth largest city in North America, after New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

The cause was the exodus of Loyalists from America, post-Revolution, when 3,000 or more largely middle-class book binders and jewelers sailed to their promised new laid-out town in Atlantic Canada.

These loyalists intended to bring their prospects and privileges with them - sometimes requesting they be allowed to ship 80 horses and dismantled mansions along.

But instead of the nascent New York they expected, they found trees, which led to rocks, which led to the salt water; few stayed long. The other two Richardson finalists were Marq de Villiers ("Dangerous World") and William D Naftel ("Halifax at War").

Friday at the Scotiabank Theatre, St. Mary's University capped the festival, with the four awards presented during a ceremony hosted by John Dunsworth, well known both as an actor ("Trailer Park Boys") and as an anti-gambling advocate.

Dunsworth, in turn, introduced the keynote speaker, acclaimed author Alistair MacLeod, who discussed geography as inspiration.

In MacLeod's words, geography is a kind of artistic destiny, because where we are born determines what we see and eat, how our bodies look and how strong and resistant they are, and largely what we do.

"Sherpas don't generally come from Halifax," MacLeod said. Most essentially, he said, geography informs what we worry about - and good writing often focuses on what we worry about.

Canadians, he said, worry about winter, and quite rightly so, because it can kill us. So Canadian writing is full of frosts and blizzards, an environment other parts of the world can scarcely imagine.

For example, people in Havana wonder at the term 'icy roads' - would it be the same as if they took three, or even four, trays of ice cubes and scattered them on the road?

Geography can also be a place you try to get away from, MacLeod said.

"You can be born with the ocean wind on your face, and hate it."

Equally, geography can also be somewhere you are always trying to get back to. For writers, the geography gives the specifics, and the worry the universal.

The awards were then announced.

Naftel took the Richardson Award (the oldest award in Atlantic Canada, ongoing for 32 years).

The three nominees for the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children's Literature were Joanne Jefferson ("Lightning and Blackberries"), winner Jill MacLean ("The Nine Lives of Travis Keating," set in a Newfoundland outport) and Philip Roy ("Submarine Outlaw").

The three poets up for the Atlantic Poetry prize included winner Brent MacLaine ("Shades of Green"), Sue Sinclair ("Breaker"), and Alan R. Wilson ("Sky Atlas").

Finally, the prestigious Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize went to Brown for "Quintet."

Organizations: King's College, Rogers Communications Chair, Scotiabank Theatre St. Mary's University Trailer Park Boys

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Halifax, Atlantic Canada St. John's Charlottetown Quinpool Road New York Dartmouth Shelburne North America Boston Philadelphia America Havana

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Recent comments

  • John
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Nice comment Martin. I see that you have nothing better to do then to read what us NLers are doing in our local paper. Must have lots of time on your hands. Btw, where's your book?

  • Martin L. Hannaford
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Newfoundland literature is as bland as its foggy skies and about as exciting as this article. As for Newfoundland publishers, their market is aimed at the tourists who love your quaint little 'How's she going bye' Newfies' and your history.
    A VERY big Yaaaawwwnnnn ...

  • John
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Nice comment Martin. I see that you have nothing better to do then to read what us NLers are doing in our local paper. Must have lots of time on your hands. Btw, where's your book?

  • Martin L. Hannaford
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    Newfoundland literature is as bland as its foggy skies and about as exciting as this article. As for Newfoundland publishers, their market is aimed at the tourists who love your quaint little 'How's she going bye' Newfies' and your history.
    A VERY big Yaaaawwwnnnn ...