The 2017 East Coast Literary Awards will be presented on May 31st at 6:30 PM at the Halifax Central Library's Paul O'Regan Hall. 


The East Coast Literary Awards celebrate and promote excellence in writing from Atlantic Canada. The number of titles submitted each year are a testament to the diversity and quality of writing from all four Atlantic provinces. And although jurors have the unenviable task of selecting one winner for each Award, each year's shortlists introduce local, national, and international readers to a tremendous body of work and the vibrant culture of the region.    

- The Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, valued at $25,000 for the winning book;
- The JM Abraham Poetry Award, valued at $2,000 for the winning book; and  
- The Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award, valued at $2,000 for the winning book.  

Eligible titles are adjudicated by an independent jury recruited and facilitated by WFNS. Submissions are evaluated for their originality, creativity, and quality of writing. One prize will be awarded annually to a winner for each Award. 

2017 East Coast Literary Award Nominees

Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award 

Burnley "Rocky" Jones and James W. St.G. Walker (NS)

Burnley "Rocky" Jones: Revolutionary (Roseway Publishing)

Born and raised in Truro, Nova Scotia, Burnley “Rocky” Jones is one of Canada’s most important figures of social justice. Often referred to as Canada’s Stokely Carmichael, Jones was tirelessly dedicated to student movements, peace activism, Black Power, anti-racism, women’s liberation and human rights reform. He was a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, brought the Black Panthers to Canada, taught at Dalhousie and founded his own law firm.

This autobiography tells the story of Jones’s inimitable life and his accomplishments. But it also does more. It illuminates the Black experience in Nova Scotia, it explains the evolving nature of race relations and human rights in recent Canadian history, and it reveals the origins of the “remedial” approach to racial equality that is now practised by activists and governments. Finally, the story of Rocky Jones is a reminder that human rights are not a gift, but a prize that must be fought for.


James W. St.G. Walker is a professor of history at the University of Waterloo.

Burnley “Rocky” Jones was an internationally known political activist who focused on human rights, racism and poverty. He was a professor and lawyer in Nova Scotia.


Erin Wunker (NS)

Notes From a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on Everyday Life (BookThug)

Erin Wunker is a feminist killjoy, and she thinks you should be one, too.

Following in the tradition of Sara Ahmed (the originator of the concept “feminist killjoy”), Wunker brings memoir, theory, literary criticism, pop culture, and feminist thinking together in this collection of essays that take up Ahmed’s project as a multi-faceted lens through which to read the world from a feminist point of view.

Neither totemic nor complete, the non-fiction essays that make up Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on Everyday Life attempt to think publicly about why we need feminism, and especially why we need the figure of the feminist killjoy, now. From the complicated practices of being a mother and a feminist, to building friendship amongst women as a community-building and -sustaining project, to writing that addresses rape culture from the Canadian context and beyond, Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on Everyday Life invites the reader into a conversation about gender, feminism, and living in our inequitable world.


Erin Wunker is Chair of the Board of the national non-profit organization Canadian Women in the Literary Arts ( and co-founder, writer, and managing editor of the feminist academic blog Hook & Eye: Fast Feminism, Slow Academe. She teaches courses in Canadian literature and cultural production with a special focus on cultural production by women. She lives in Halifax with her partner, their daughter, and Marley the dog. Notes from a Feminist Killjoy is Wunker’s first book.

Jon Tattrie (NS)

Redemption Songs (Pottersfield Press)

Redemption Songs tells the extraordinary story of how one of Bob Marley’s greatest songs was born in Nova Scotia. It opens with Marley’s live acoustic performance of “Redemption Song” at the end of his life, and reveals that the core lyric comes from a speech Marcus Garvey delivered in Sydney, Nova Scotia, in 1937. 

The line “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery” springboards the reader into the book’s ambitions. The author explores why Marley so revered Garvey, and, in doing so, looks at the roots of Rastafarianism and ideas about race. 

Tattrie examines who Marcus Garvey was, and how his career fell from the pinnacle of a Harlem parade as President of Africa to a series of poorly attended public lectures in Nova Scotia. While on this reduced stage, he still delivered the most important message of his life. Why did he come to this province? Perhaps the answer is rooted in history beginning with the arrival here of Mathieu Da Costa, a talented fixer from Ghana who became the first African Canadian when he came ashore in 1604 with Samuel Champlain. And then there was the slave who freed himself, Boston King, as well as the preacher, Richard Preston, and the most unlikely forced migration of the Jamaican Maroons to this cold colony in the north.

Tattrie argues that to end racism, we must first understand it. He turns to the latest scientific advances in genetics to discover the startling truth that we are all descended from Africans who lived 60,000 years ago, proving that our ideas about race are mostly psychological illusions. 

The unusual structure of the book challenges ideas about race – and about deep human history – and uses the words of Garvey and Marley to show how we can emancipate ourselves from the mental slavery that is racism. 


Jon Tattrie lives in Halifax with his wife Giselle, son Xavier, and daughter Roslyn. He works as a freelance journalist and is the author of several books, including The Hermit of Africville, Cornwallis: the Violent Birth of Halifax, and the novel Limerence

JM Abraham Poetry Award 



Patrick Woodcock (NS)

You Can't Bury Them All (ECW Press)

Poet Patrick Woodcock has spent the past seven years engaging with and being shaped by the people, politics, and landscapes of the Kurdish north of Iraq, Fort Good Hope in the Northwest Territories, and Azerbaijan. His powerful new collection, You can’t bury them all offers a poetry that simultaneously explores hope and horror while documenting the transformative processes of coping. In Woodcock’s poetry, how we deal with what resurfaces is the key. What do those who suffer really mean to those who have abandoned them to small, conscience-soothing charitable donations or the occasional tweet? How can the poet, or anyone else, sleep at night knowing homosexuals are being thrown off building tops, after one steps into a hole and finds an abandoned corpse in an Azeri cemetery, or after the elders of an Aboriginal community are left helpless against those who only want to exploit them? Still, You can’t bury them all demonstrates that the world is not just the horrific place the media often portrays. In each of the worlds he touches, Woodcock discovers spirit and strength to celebrate.


Patrick Woodcock is the author of nine books of poetry and countless reviews. His work has been translated and published in 14 languages. Woodcock has lived and worked in such diverse countries as Iceland, Poland, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the Kurdish north of Iraq, and most recently Azerbaijan. Within Canada he has travelled from the west to east coasts as well as volunteered for almost a year with the elders of Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories, just 20 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle.

Margo Wheaton (NS)

The Unlit Path Behind the House (McGill-Queens University Press)

Sensuous, atmospheric, and spare, The Unlit Path Behind the House collects poems that seek light in difficult places. In lines filled with an intense music, Margo Wheaton listens for the lyricism inside the day’s blessings and catastrophes.

Wheaton’s poems sing at the intersections where public and private worlds collide: the steady cadence of a boy carrying an unconscious girl in his arms, the afternoon journey of a woman taking books to prisoners, the rhythmic breathing of a homeless man asleep in a parking lot. In these works, fireflies pulse in the dark, lovers clasp and unclasp, and street signs sing like Blake’s angels. Deeply informed by the natural world, Wheaton’s writing is marked by great meditative depth; while passionately engaged, these poems evoke a field of mystery and stillness.

Whether exploring themes of isolation, spiritual dispossession, desire, or the sanctity of daily rituals, The Unlit Path Behind the House conveys our longing for home and the different ways we try to find it.


Margo Wheaton was born and raised in Moncton, New Brunswick and currently lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She studied at Mount Allison and Dalhousie Universities and holds a Master’s degree in English. Margo’s work has received the Alfred G. Bailey Prize from the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick and been shortlisted for numerous awards including the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award from the League of Canadian Poets. She is currently serving as a Mentor in the Alistair MacLeod Mentoring Program (WFNS).  

Jennifer Houle (NB)

The Back Channels (Signature Editions)

Jennifer Houle's debut collection, The Back Channels, reflects the effort to build a meaningful life in a rapidly changing culture, in a region afflicted, as many are, with outmigration and an economy of anxiety and hard choices. Here, the past is "almost all there is," becoming "our only source of light" as she takes us to the backwoods where a discouraged woman walks, the shore beyond the fairgrounds, "the tire swings, car lots and empty lodges ranged /in crude half-circles like small handfuls of thrown bones," and the parking lots where smokers gather to talk about layoffs or pay cuts. Her poems invite the reader to listen in on these moments and pause among these landscapes, never mistaking its often rural settings for places of retreat or escape. The largely Acadian culture depicted in these poems may still be influenced by the past, caught in its own reflected image, but it moves, as do the poems, to a steady, if moody, rhythm determined to find meaning and purpose in spite of difficulties, flux, and a seemingly pervasive cynicism. Reminiscent of Karen Solie's early work, Houle's brilliance as a poet is her mastery of language and keen sense of observation with which she draws the reader in. These poems come from a place of grappling, an attempt to find meaning, beauty, and connection in the day-to-day, without being confined by it.


Jennifer Houle’s poems have appeared in numerous literary journals over the past ten years. Her work has won several awards, including The Writer’s Federation of New Brunswick’s Alfred G. Bailey Prize for best poetry manuscript award, for The Back Channels, which has also been shortlisted for League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. A lifelong East Coaster, Jennifer grew up in Shediac, New Brunswick and now lives in Hanwell, just outside of Fredericton, with her husband and two sons.


Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award 

Darren Greer (NS)

Advocate (Cormorant Books)

When Jacob is called back to Advocate, he is not only returning home again, something he knows he cannot really do; he is going to face his dying grandmother and the people of the town who turned on one of their own.

Twenty years earlier, when his uncle David came home, it was to die. The response in Advocate was typical of most towns, large and small, in 1984: when his disease became known, Jacob, his grandmother, his mother, and his aunt, were shunned, turned out from school and their jobs, out of fear of an until-then unknown virus.

Like To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel beloved of one of the main characters, Advocate is elegiac, written by a first-rate author, about overcoming ignorance and prejudice. With wit and emotional depth, Greer describes the formation of one boy’s social conscience and takes us to a resolution that is truly satisfying.

Darren Greer grew up in several towns in Nova Scotia, including Greenfield and Liverpool. He studied literature at the University of King’s College, Halifax, as well as Carleton University, Ottawa. His first novel, Tyler’s Cape, was published in March 2001 to critical acclaim and was on the bestseller list of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. Still Life with June (2003) and Just Beneath My Skin (2014) were honoured with awards and nominations across Canada. In addition to fiction, Greer published Strange Ghosts, a collection of essays, in 2007. 


Donna Morrissey (NS)

The Fortunate Brother (Viking)

After being uprooted from their fishing outport, the Now family is further devastated by the tragic loss of their eldest son, Chris, who died working on an Alberta oil rig. Kyle Now is still mourning his older brother when the murder of a local bully changes everything. The victim's blood is found on the family's pier, and suspicion falls first on an alienated wife, and then finally on the troubled Now family. But behind this new turmoil, Chris's death continues to plague the family. Father Sylvanus Now drowns his sorrow in a bottle, while mother Addie is facing breast cancer. And the children fight their own battles as the tension persists between Kyle and his sister, Sylvie, over her role in their brother's death.

A cast of vivid characters surrounds the Now family, some intriguing, others comical--all masterfully crafted. As the murder mystery unfolds, other deeper secrets are revealed. Wise in the ways of the heart, The Fortunate Brother is a moving family drama from beloved storyteller Donna Morrissey.

Donna Morrissey has written six nationally bestselling novels. She has received awards in Canada, the U.S., and England. Her novel Sylvanus Now was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and she was nominated for a Gemini for best writing for the film Clothesline Patch. Her fiction has been translated into several different languages. Born and raised in Newfoundland, she now lives in Halifax.

Ami McKay (NS)

The Witches of New York (Knopf Canada)

The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (Moth from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it's finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and gardien de sorts (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan's high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions--and in guarding the secrets of their clients. All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment.

Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor's apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind? Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches' tug-of-war over what's best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force. 

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they're confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

Ami McKay's debut novel, The Birth House was a # 1 bestseller in Canada, winner of three CBA Libris Awards, nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and a book club favourite around the world. While writing her new novel, The Witches of New York, she discovered several women in her family tree who were accused and tried for witchcraft. Born and raised in Indiana, Ami now lives in Nova Scotia.