admin

Websites for Writers with Tim Covell

Oct 27, 7 – 9 pm >> 

This session is for writers who are considering making or updating a website. We’ll discuss domain names, options for hosting, and site management tools, including the three different types of WordPress. Marketing (SEO, social media, online sales), technical issues (including security), and costs will be considered.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR

Tim Covell writes poetry, and short fiction and non-fiction. His romance novel Ocean’s Lure will be available this fall. He’s a technical writer for a software company, operates websites for two writing groups, has assisted several authors update their websites, and has led sessions on using WordPress at WordCamp and Halifax Public Library.

Price: $30.00

Member Price: $20.00

Location: Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (online with Zoom)

Date: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 – 7:00pm to 9:00pm

2020 Paradise Writers’ Retreat at Oceanstone (Oct. 18-22)

We have held off promoting the Paradise Writers’ Retreat for this year because of the virus, but things seem to be improving here, so if anyone in the Atlantic bubble is thinking of attending, it is still on! Oceanstone has implemented very stringent COVID-19 protocols and the resort has been open throughout the pandemic. Accommodation is individual and registration is limited so the daily workshops and one-on-ones can be appropriately social-distanced and we will wear masks, if required at the time. It’s a crazy time for sure, but it might be just the thing you need – some solitary writing time right by the ocean, sharing and bonding with other writers and maybe some quiet contemplation to get re-juvenated after the stress of isolation. If you’re interested, more details can be found and the registration form can be downloaded here: https://www.ocpublishing.ca/workshops-retreats.html. Check in is at 3:00 p.m. on the 18th and check out is by 11:00 a.m. on Oct. 22.

Location: Oceanstone Seaside Resort -8650 Peggy’s Cove Rd. Indian Harbour, NS
Date: Sunday, October 18, 2020 – 3:00pm
Event Contact: Anne Louise O’Connell (anne@ocpublishing.ca)

2020 Poetry in Motion: Featured Poets

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) is thrilled to announce the names of the ten poets who will have their writing featured as part of this year’s Poetry in Motion. This year, we received over 120 submissions from emerging and established writers across the province. The theme for this year’s Poetry in Motion is journeys.

The ten poets selected for this year’s project are

  • Lorri Neilsen Glenn
  • Sue Goyette
  • Asha Jeffers
  • Nanci Lee
  • Vanessa Lent
  • Tiffany Morris
  • Nolan Natasha
  • Anna Quon
  • Samantha Sternberg
  • Evelyn C. White

The final selection of poems was made by a jury consisting of two Nova Scotian poets, Jaime Forsythe and Sylvia D. Hamilton, and Karen Dahl from Halifax Public Libraries.

The WFNS thanks the jury for contributing their time and expertise to this selection. We would also like to thank all the writers who took the time to submit their work to this year’s project.

A public poetry art project, Poetry in Motion displays short poems (and excerpts from longer poems) on transit ads in buses throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia is grateful to Arts Nova Scotia for their funding of Poetry in Motion and to the Halifax Regional Muncipality and Halifax Public Libraries for their partnership in realizing this project.

WFNS Statement of Solidarity and Support

The board and staff of the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia stand in solidarity with all people seeking justice in the face of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, police brutality, and white supremacy. 

As an organization, we are listening to Black, Indigenous, and other marginalized communities who continue to remind us the crucial and difficult work of both confronting and overcoming racism and injustice is ongoing and requires active engagement.

We grieve every life taken by white supremacy, racism, and police and community violence. We acknowledge that systemic and institutional racism continues to be responsible for the subjugation of Indigenous people, including those in Mi’kma’ki, the traditional and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. Systemic and institutional racism has also been responsible for the oppression and destruction of Black communities such as Africville. We acknowledge the writers in these communities whose artistic works and contributions to anti-oppressive practices continue to lay the ground for work to come. 

We understand that literature has long been privileged as the art form of ideology. It is partly through the pen and the press that racist and oppressive ideologies have been systematized, aggressively promoted, normalized, and subtly reinforced. We support literature as a tool for challenging and decentering such ideologies and for organizing communities around better ideals and actions. 

We support those who speak out and engage in action to bring an end to systemic racism and white supremacy. The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia has an active role to play in this critical process of creating a more equitable future. To this end, we have outlined some strategies for our organization to undertake now and in the near future. 

Right now, we will 

  • build and strengthen current relationships with Black and Indigenous writers and organizations (such as the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute, and more)
  • amplify the voices of BIPOC authors on our website, through our social media, and in our newsletters
  • continue to recruit writers from diverse communities to join our board of directors, to contribute to our award and program adjudication, and to lead our creative writing workshops and professional development sessions

Moving forward, we will

  • coordinate anti-oppression training opportunities for our staff and board members
  • review and update our policies and protocols to ensure they embody anti-oppressive and anti-racist practices within our organization
  • revise and finalize an inclusion statement for all WFNS programming
  • treat this statement as a working document to be developed and adapted for permanent inclusion on our website (alongside our publicly available mandate, mission statement, and core values) so that we might be held accountable in our commitment to learning more, doing more, and remaining transparent about our actions

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia is committed to being a catalyst for positive change in Nova Scotia’s arts community and the province as a whole, all the while acknowledging we have much to do in that regard. We will listen and we will learn. We will continue to work to amplify and celebrate marginalized voices.

Author spotlight: Allison Watson

Allison Watson believes in living every day to the fullest. Raised in Petitcodiac, New Brunswick, she had an active childhood despite daily treatment for cystic fibrosis. In 2014, she received new lungs in Toronto. As a side effect, she was diagnosed with post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder. After intensive chemotherapy, she is now cancer free and is again able to physically do the things she enjoys.

Allison Watson tells her cystic fibrosis double lung transplant story in the book Transplanted (Nimbus), nominated for the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award. She lives in Amherst, Nova Scotia.

First of all, congratulations on your Atlantic Book Award nomination, the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award. What was your reaction when you heard?

I’m thrilled to be nominated. The nominees and previous winners are outstanding books and it’s an honour to be part of the list.

Please tell me about your book Transplanted. Why did you decide to write it?

Transplanted tells the story of my growing up with cystic fibrosis and subsequent double lung transplant and cancer diagnosis. I wrote it initially for myself as a way to work through the anxiety and stress I had about the transplant and recovery. It was therapeutic to review my old blog posts and talk to my family about that time in my life. I added some context with stories from my life and cancer journey to make it more of a rounder book and then pitched it to publishers.

When were you diagnosed with cystic fibrosis? Can you describe what it was like to breathe before the transplant? And after?

I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth. My older sister, Amy, also has CF so I was tested immediately. 

I used oxygen for about a year and half before my surgery to help me breathe. The week before my surgery I was hospitalized and using a BiPap machine which helped me breathe at night. During the day I was on supplemental oxygen and even then, I was short of breath walking around my hospital room. 

Immediately after the transplant, I’m sad to say I didn’t have one of those viral moments where you watch a person taken off the ventilator and their first breath is a moment of joy. I struggled to breathe off the ventilator and it took me quite some time to adjust to my new lungs. Once I was comfortable breathing on my own, it was phenomenal. For the first time in years I could breathe comfortably in the cold air, and walk up a flight of stairs without getting short of breath.

When did it become necessary to have a double lung transplant?

My lung function had a fairly slow decline in my early 20s. My respiratory team started talking about the need for a transplant when I had several chest infections in one year that dropped my lung function below 30% (of what an average person my age would have). I was in denial at first but eventually, after a serious case of pneumonia, I agreed to start the work up process.

What is your hope for Transplanted?

I hope that people reading Transplanted understand how organ transplants save and transform people’s lives. I also hope that anyone who is going through the medical system can relate to my story and perhaps see themselves in parts of it. Overall, it’s a story of resilience told with humour that I think anyone can enjoy.

What has the reaction been from other people with cystic fibrosis?

I’ve been very supported by people from the cystic fibrosis community. While I’ve heard more from family and friends of those with CF, they say it has helped them greater understand what their loved one has or is going through.

What is your life like now? Is cystic fibrosis something that you can recover from? (Forgive my ignorance about this!)

I’m now five and half years post-transplant and four years post-chemo and my day to day is quite different than it was pre-transplant. Cystic fibrosis does not have a cure so while my transplanted lungs do not have CF, the rest of my body still has the disease. Apart from my digestive enzymes and vitamins, I take immunosuppressants to avoid organ rejection which makes me vulnerable to catching infections. I have to be more cautious than most about hand washing, disinfecting, and avoiding anyone with a cold. 

Although I’m immunosuppressed, physically, I’m healthier than I imagined was possible before my transplant. I’m able to work (pre-pandemic), go on long hikes, and generally have energy to do the things I want to do.

Do you see yourself writing in other genres besides non-fiction?

As someone who reads a lot of romance, I would love to write a modern romance but I’ve discovered that writing fiction is quite different than non-fiction.

What your favourite thing about living in your part of Nova Scotia? 

I love being close to both sides of the ocean. It’s a quick drive to the Strait if I want a relaxing beach day and is also close to the Bay where there are some great hikes and delicious clams. 

Where are your favourite places in the province to explore?

I love spending time in Halifax and camping in the Highlands of Cape Breton. I’ve also enjoyed backpacking around Cape Chignecto and hope to again this summer. 

– Questions by Marilyn Smulders

Author spotlight: Amy Spurway

Originally from Cape Breton and now based in Dartmouth, Amy Spurway is a writer, performer, and editor. She has worked with CBC Radio and published in Today’s ParentThe Toronto Star, and other venues. Her debut novel, Crow (Goose Lane Editions) was released a year ago and was recently shortlisted for two Atlantic Book Awards, the Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award (Fiction) and the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award. 

What was your reaction when you heard you’d been shortlisted?

The anticipatory anxiety around awards is always a bit of a struggle for me, so just seeing those announcements made is a huge relief either way. My reaction to actually being shortlisted involved a little happy dance in my backyard.

It’s little more than a year since your first book, Crow, came out. You’ve used the metaphor of giving birth to describe putting your book out in the world. Has this first year been akin to raising a toddler?

That metaphor still holds up pretty well. Toddlerhood is a time when the world really opens up — life gets bigger, more interesting, with so much learning and growth and exploring. This has certainly been a year of new places, new people, and new experiences for me and Crow. It has also been a very high-energy time — lots of movement, lots of chatting, lots of being ‘on’ and in performance mode for extended periods — which is also reminiscent of my days of raising toddlers. There may have even been the odd meltdown here and there and I definitely made a lot of funny faces, many of which have been immortalized in photos, so that tracks with raising toddlers too.

What have been some of the highlights for you during this year?

The Cape Breton launch at the Ross Ferry Firehall at the end of March, 2019, was not just a highlight of the year, but a highlight of my life. I have never felt so surrounded by love, and it was not just about me and the book: it was about an entire community coming together to pull off one helluva celebration. It was humbling, exhilarating, and a memory I’ll cherish forever.

Another major highlight of this year has been the people. So many people. Meeting other writers and connecting with booksellers, hearing from old friends and making new ones, talking with readers who relate to the story in so many different ways. There’s something about Crow that inspires other people to share little snippets of their own lives with me, and that’s something I deeply appreciate.

One more highlight was being part of the inaugural Briny Books lineup, and in conjunction with that, the release of a Crow-inspired jewellery collection featuring a funky ring, big honkin’ earrings and a bad ass bracelet. My husband got me the bracelet for our anniversary and it is wicked cool to have that as a memento.

Have you been invited to book clubs? What’s the book club experience like from the perspective of a writer?

I’ve been invited to several book clubs, and they’ve been so much fun. They’ve been great opportunities to talk about the story, characters, themes, and the process of writing with people who really want to get more in-depth. Book clubs have also given me a really great perspective on what resonates with readers, and why.

Cape Breton seems to be a place that nurtures really great literary writers. What’s in the Cape Breton DNA that creates great writing?

Cape Breton just seems to have a culture of storytelling, and I’m sure there are many reasons for that. Every person, every place, everything has a story behind and around it, and many Cape Bretoners have a keen sense of that, and a knack for teasing those stories out. That cultural bent towards storytelling produces some great writing, but also some great music. Great art. Great connections, and great conversations around the kitchen table. There is also immense resourcefulness and resilience in Cape Breton, and storytelling is an expression of that.

Growing up in Cape Breton are there any creative sayings or metaphors that you heard all the time that worked their way into the novel? 

Most of the sayings in Crow are straight out of my Grandmother’s and/or my mother’s mouths, or are things I’ve absorbed by sitting and listening. My favourite one — and the one that people often ask about— is “You’ll wish your cake dough,” meaning that you’ll regret doing something and wish you could start over and make a different decision. I can’t tell you how many times my mother said that to me over the years. And getting called ‘Missy’… any time my mother said  ‘Listen, Missy’ I knew I was in big trouble.

With the success of Crow, can you see yourself becoming a full time novelist?

I don’t think it is easy for anyone to become a full-time novelist, regardless of how successful a book is. The economics of the publishing industry are often surprising to those outside of it, and while big literary prizes and arts grants can be a pathway to some financial stability, the resources are limited, the competition is stiff, and you can’t take anything for granted. So, being a full-time novelist seems more like a lovely dream than a tangible reality to me, at this point. There is also something deeply fulfilling for me in having one foot in the literary world, and one foot in other projects and pursuits. Right now, that approach not only helps pay the bills, but it lets me have other experiences and connections that help shape and inform my novel-writing in weird, tangential ways. 

How is the second book going? (In your first Author Spotlight you talked about writing a book about a group of women cast aside by society for various reasons.) When might it be coming out?

There’s still a second book in the works, but the original idea I started working on shortly after Crow was published has been shelved for the time being because it just wasn’t the right time for that particular story. After a few false starts, I feel like I’m finally finding a groove with a new story but I can’t even hazard a guess as to when it might see the light of day. 

What has the pandemic been like for you as a writer?

The first few months of the pandemic shoved my writing life onto the backburner because I found myself trying to crisis-homeschool three kids who all require different levels of educational support, even at the best of times, not to mention struggling to manage my own emotional response to our new reality. A bunch of trips and events I was looking forward to got cancelled, my kid-free writing days were gone, the part-time work I had been doing came to a halt, and pretty much everything in the world went sideways. I went into a kind of survival mode, which, on the surface, isn’t ideal for writing and creativity. But it did force a certain kind of clarity. A real roll-up-my-sleeves-and-just-get-‘er-done kind of attitude that I think will ultimately serve my writing well in the long term.   

See Amy Spurway read from Crow in an Atlantic Book Awards Spotlight. 

– Questions by Marilyn Smulders

Author spotlight: Ian Colford

Based in Halifax, Ian Colford writes short fiction, novels, and literary criticism. His first book, the short fiction collection Evidence (Porcupine’s Quill, 2008), won the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award and was a finalist for the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize, the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, and the ReLit Award. Since then, he has gone on to publish two novels.

His second book of short fiction, A Dark House and Other Stories (Nimbus Publishing) was released last fall and is nominated for the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction.

Congratulations on your nomination for the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction. It must feel good being nominated for an award named for Alistair MacLeod, a master of the short story genre. What was your reaction on hearing the news?

I was very pleased and enormously humbled. Having my name associated with Alistair MacLeod in any capacity is a huge honour. I’m proud of A Dark House. I believe it contains some of my best work. But at the same time, when I think of all that Alistair accomplished and his stature as an icon in Canadian letters, my little book doesn’t seem to amount to much. I was also—I can’t say shocked because I do believe my book is good. But I keep an eye on the local literary scene and when I think of the amazing books of short stories that aren’t on the shortlist—books that were published around the same time as mine, that I read and greatly admire—my mind kind of boggles. I can’t imagine the jury members had an easy time of it.

Tell me about A Dark House.

Speaking generally, this is a collection of stories that depict people at times of crisis. The crisis can be moral or financial, or it might be a crisis of confidence or of identity. In each case the main character is faced with a decision, or perhaps many decisions. How is he or she going to approach the challenge they’re facing? How are they going to fix things, or find a path forward, or save themselves and those who matter to them? The story builds as the repercussions of the decision they’ve made are felt. One thing I’ll admit is that, dramatically speaking, I find failure more interesting than success. Readers will notice that some of my characters make very poor decisions and fail in spectacular fashion. They’re trying to do what they believe is the right thing, but through their actions they betray themselves and those they care about. Other characters push themselves forward into the unknown—either bravely or stupidly, who can tell? Regardless of the particulars, I’m always striving for dramatic urgency. I want to create situations that give the reader no choice but to keep turning the pages. And from the feedback I’ve received so far, I think I did a decent job of that in this book.

Writing short stories versus novels. Pros and cons?

The short story is all about short-term gratification. You can finish a story in a few days, give it some spit and polish, and end up with a tight, compact little drama. Then send it off somewhere and with luck and perseverance have a publication credit to add to your CV, all within two or three months. The novel is more about long-term pain. With a novel, you’re making a commitment to an idea and a group of characters that are going to occupy your mind and drain every ounce of creative energy for years to come. The physical and psychological toll is real. It can wear you down and strain relationships. So you really have to think long and hard about making that commitment and you have to ensure you’re up for the challenge. And before you start writing their story, you also have to know your characters inside and out, know them at least as well as you know yourself, and be sure you don’t mind spending a lot of time with them, because there’s nothing worse than getting a couple of hundred pages into a manuscript and discovering that a) you really don’t like these people very much, or b) you have no idea what they’re going to do next. However, if you can get past the self-doubt and teeth gnashing and mental anguish and make it to the end, you’ll find that there are very few artistic rewards that can compete with completing a novel manuscript. Shepherding it through the revision, submission, and editorial stages, and then seeing it published is another challenge altogether. But when you’re holding the finished book in your hand, all the pain will miraculously melt away. In that moment, you’ll forget about whatever misery it cost you and realize that you can’t wait to get started on the next one.

Why are awards like the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction important?

Maybe I’m biased, but I think most people would agree that we need to encourage people to read. But we also have to encourage writers and artists to create, give them as many publicity opportunities as possible, and reward them from time to time. Writers toil in the shadows and it’s common for even frequently published and widely admired writers to remain virtually unknown for their entire careers. So literary awards like this one represent a tiny pinprick of light to battle the darkness. These awards are also a way to highlight some of the best of what our society has to offer. Reading is an activity that has no downside. The more people read, the more imaginative, thoughtful, aware and empathetic our society becomes. Everyone is busy, everyone’s life is full, but if even one person who has never heard of me or my book sees it listed for this award and reads it as a result, then the Atlantic Book Awards has more than lived up to its mandate.

What are three short story collections you would recommend?

On top of all the classic books of stories produced by masters like James Joyce, John Cheever, William Trevor, Katherine Mansfield, Eudora Welty, and countless others, there are talented short story writers working right now, writing wonderful story collections. For this question I’ll limit myself to three recent books that blew me away. The Sign for Migrant Soul by Richard Cumyn is worth hunting down. The stories are boisterous, engaging and playful. Richard’s prose is filled with cunning metaphors, unexpected wordplay and droll observations on contemporary life. Another recent collection that knocked me flat is Zolitude by Paige Cooper. This collection is, frankly, very strange and disturbing, and all of the stories are weirdly cryptic, eerie and challenging, but in a good way. And then there’s The View from the Lane by Deborah-Anne Tunney, a collection of linked stories that follows the lives of a group of people over several generations. It’s a book that creeps up on you because all the characters seem so ordinary. It’s only when you get to the end that you realize that you’ve just read something extraordinary.

Now that we’re coming out of the pandemic and tight restrictions are being relaxed, what things do you think will stay with you?

The pandemic leaves behind a double-edged story: one of cooperation and teamwork countered with another of defiance and recklessness. I think we’ve done well in Nova Scotia, taming the virus and diminishing its destructive power. It could have been better, but our health officials have generally made sensible decisions and kept things real. But you can’t avoid the reports coming out of other places, particularly the US, where the wearing of masks has been politicized and people regard the health restrictions as an infringement on their rights. Yesterday a headline came across my twitter feed, this guy who used to be a pro baseball player saying that he’d rather die of the virus than wear a mask. It’s absolutely insane. Those sorts of stories will stick with me for a while. And, of course, the complete story of the virus has yet to be written. 

– Questions by Marilyn Smulders

Author spotlight: Marq de Villiers

Marq de Villiers is a journalist and the author of more than a dozen books. His vision and skill have been recognized with prestigious literary awards both in Canada and in his native South Africa, including a Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction for his book Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource and South Africa’s Alan Paton Award for White Tribe Dreaming.

A resident of Port Medway, Nova Scotia, he’s been nominated for the Evelyn Richardson Creative Non-Fiction Award seven times and received it twice:  in 2005 for A Dune Adrift: The Strange Origins of Sable Island and 2008 for The Witch in the Wind: The True Story of the Legendary Bluenose

Looking at your other books, it seems to me that Hell and Damnation is quite different, not concerned with the environment or a tangible thing from history such as the Bluenose, but with an idea – the idea being hell. What attracted you to the topic?

Well yes, Hell and Damnation is pretty different. Most of my previous books have been either on environmental issues (I count the Witch in the Wind book among those), or about Africa, plus one or two oddities: a book about wine, for example, and a travelogue on Russia. Why Hell? It started when I was reading a biography of Galileo, and came across a curious episode in the great scientist’s life: he calculated backwards from the presumed size of Satan, and the notion of Dante’s that Satan’s navel marked the exact centre of the earth, and told an audience of clerics in Florence that hell must be somewhere around 650 kilometers beneath the surface of the earth – or, if you read his calculations another way, that the Dome of Hell must have a roof at least 640 kilometers thick to support it. This fascinated me – he was a great scientist, with all that implies, but this was surely not one of his signature achievements! In any case, that got me going. It also told me that the idea of Hell was going to be difficult to take seriously, and so it proved.

What religious background did you grow up with? What was your idea of hell as a child?

Religion played no role in our family life. My parents for some reason went to church regularly once a year on Christmas morning, but otherwise religion, heaven and hell were entirely absent from my childhood. As a consequence, I cannot recall any time in my life when I believed in anything supernatural. I grew up in South Africa. We had more seriously issues to deal with than mulling the afterlife.

It looks like writing the book might have been fun. In fact, one of the blurbs on the back calls it “a sly and madcap romp,” which is really unexpected for a book about hell. Was writing the book “fun”?

Thus yes, free from having to actually worry about the torments of hell, this was a purely fun book to write. I was fascinated to find that “our” hell, the Judeo Christian one, was far from the only afterlife invented by people across history. I particularly liked some of the eastern Buddhist traditions, which generally have a separate hell for each sin. The Burmese, for example, had no fewer than 40,040 different hells. They included hells for people who keep other people’s books, pretending to have lost them, people who lie about their ages when they get married, people who throw broken pottery over fences, those who write anonymous placards, those who allow their mules to be a nuisance and people who complain about the weather. How could you really take those seriously?

What has the response been like from readers?

The response from readers has generally been in the spirit in which I wrote the book, enjoying it for its folklore and not for its theological content (which is pretty small in any case). A few people were offended by it, not having known it wasn’t a serious examination of eternal torment. But the book has sold well – first printing sold out pretty quickly, so some of them must like it.

Many of your books are related to Nova Scotia in some way. What about this one?

I’d be hard put to find a Nova Scotia connection to this one. Now, if I were to write a book about paradise, it might be different.

I see from your website that Hell and Damnation is under option for TV. Tell me about that. Would you be involved in the adaptation for TV? 

The only book of mine that has so far actually been made into a miniseries was Water, written  in 1999. In retrospect, the producers gave me too much of a role in the filming, which didn’t really improve things much. If this one gets made, I plan to stay out of the filmmakers’ way as much as possible.

Your books seem to have long titles. What’s the secret to a good book title?

Yes, many of my books seem to have long titles, or at least subtitles. I think long subtitles are something of a fad, one to which I am unfortunately prone. Many book don’t need subtitles at all. Sometimes the publishers write mine. I am not necessarily very good at titles, and will take whatever help I can get.

What is the role of awards? Is being nominated important to you?

The role of awards is complicated. These days when the number of reviewing options is so small, awards play a really valuable role in bringing new books to the attention of readers who might otherwise not have come across them. And they do work for marketing. My only Governor General’s award was for Water, and there is no doubt that it sold well because of that. I think the Evelyn Richardson award is similarly valuable. It may not have the same reach as a GG, but it is recognized as credible, and I think readers trust it. In past years (before 2000, I think) only the winner was announced, and not a shortlist. I think that was a good change to make. There is even a case to be made for publishing a short list and NOT announcing a winner – fairer to all. (Though who gets the cheque, then?)

What’s next on the horizon for you?

I’m still writing. It’s all I know how to do! This wretched pandemic has in a peculiar way made it easier – fewer distractions. I’m closing in on a first draft of a new book whose deadline is this fall. Back to environmental issues: this will be a history of the human use of, and interactions with, wood. Forest, tree, wood, the whole progression.

– Questions by Marilyn Smulders

Author spotlight: Anne C. Kelly

Anne Kelly’s first published novel is Jacques’ Escape, released by Trap Door Books in 2019. But she has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember. She got her first taste of sharing her writing in Grade 4, when she wrote a class newspaper with a friend. Anne is an avid reader, and especially enjoys reading historical fiction, crime novels and stories from Atlantic Canada.

As well as being a writer, Anne is an English teacher at heart. She taught English-as-an-Additional-Language (EAL) to adult newcomers to Canada for more than 20 years, and loves learning about different cultures and traditions. She currently works as a English Language Coordinator at the Bedford Public Library. When not reading, writing or working, you’ll find Anne walking, doing yoga, playing piano, or singing with her community choir.

In this Author Spotlight, Anne talks about her first book, which was originally submitted to the Atlantic Writing Competition (now Nova Writes), theWriters’ Fed of Nova Scotia’s competition for unpublished manuscripts, and getting published.

Congratulations! It’s exciting to see that your debut book Jacques’ Escape was shortlisted for the Hackamatack Children’s Choice Award (See the Hackmatack Shortlist 2020-21 here.) What was your reaction when you heard that news?

The nomination came out of the blue for me, so I was surprised.  That’s one of the things about having a published book that I didn’t anticipate—that it would take on a life of its own! Jacques’ Escape is being read, discussed, reviewed and nominated for awards without my knowledge—like a child who has headed off to school and a life away from his parents! I am of course thrilled to be nominated, especially since it means so many more children will be encouraged to read it!

Tell me about the book. What’s it about?

Jacques’ Escape is the story of a 14-year-old Acadian boy from Grand Pre. During the Expulsion, Jacques and his family are deported to the British colony of Massachusetts.  Jacques longs to escape and join his older brother in fighting with the French. Through his experiences, Jacques comes to know the true meaning of family and home, as well as what it means to be Acadian.

As a first-time author, what was the experience like to get your book published?

Amazing! As I said at my book launch, when I hold a copy of Jacques’ Escape, I’m holding a dream in my hand!

The process of writing this book and having it published was a long and slow one, with multiple rewrites and many rejections. I often felt frustrated and wanted to give up on the whole project. But I loved my characters and believed the story was worth telling. So, I kept rewriting and sending it out again and again. 

My publishers at Trap Door Books are wonderful—always supportive and respectful of my story. They truly helped my dream to come true.

I understand that you originally submitted the manuscript for Jacques’ Escape to the Writers’ Fed’s Atlantic Writing Competition (now called Nova Writes) and that you won the category you submitted in, back in 2001. Why is this program important to writers such as yourself?

I find that I lose the ability to look at my writing objectively, especially once I’ve begun the editing and rewriting stage. Programs such as Nova Writes give developing authors clear, written feedback, practical suggestions, and lots of encouragement!

The book is fictional, but obviously grounded in fact. Why did you decide to take this approach?

I personally love historical fiction. It brings history alive for me. I was never as interested in facts and dates as I was in the what life was like in the past—what did people eat and wear? Why did they do what they did? How did they feel about what was happening around them?  I first learned about the Deportation of the Acadians when I was in Grade four, and for many years I wondered what life was like for the families once they were driven out of Acadia.  What happened? Where did they go? How did they feel? So, I set out to answer those questions.

How did you do the research for your book? What was involved?

I started out by reading everything I could get my hands on about the Acadians, and I read until the books all began to say the same things! I took many, many notes, which I referred to as I wrote. I visited Grand Pre and some of the other Acadian sites in Nova Scotia, then went to Boston to access the Massachusetts Archives. That was really exciting for me—holding and reading original documents that dated back to the 1700’s.

Much of my research was done before the internet became so fast and easy to use. Although the internet may make some of the material easier to find and access, I don’t think it would change my style very much. Holding books in my hand and being where the events took place gives me a sense of the history in a more powerful way than reading an online article ever could.

Your book is quite beautiful to hold, with illustrations by Helah Cooper. Did you work with the illustrator? What was the process like?

I didn’t actually see the illustrations until they were almost finished, when they were sent to me to preview. And I didn’t meet Helah until the book launch. But I was amazed at how she took my words and turned them into pictures!

Like everyone else at Trap Door Books, Helah was respectful of my story and my opinion. There was one illustration that I felt wasn’t dramatic enough for the scene it was portraying. I hesitated before expressing my opinion, but Helah willingly made the changes for me.  

I love the way the book looks, the cover, the pictures, the blue and red text. As one of my daughters commented, it looks like a real book!

When you were a young reader, what books did you love? Was there a book that made you say to yourself, “I’m going to be a writer one day too”?

My two favourite books as a child were Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery and  A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The main characters in both these books—Anne and Sara—are storytellers. I don’t think that’s a coincidence! I don’t remember consciously deciding that I wanted to be a writer. I’ve just loved books and stories—reading and writing them—well, forever!

What are you working on these days? Will you be revisiting the time period?

The novel I am working on now is vastly different from Jacques’ Escape. It is for a slightly older age group and is a mystery of sorts, set in modern day. I don’t have any plans at this time to revisit the Acadians, although many people have asked me whether I am going to write a sequel, so I suppose the possibility is there.

– Questions by Marilyn Smulders

Scroll to Top