Announcing the Atlantic Book Award finalists

The Atlantic Book Awards Society has announced the shortlists for the 13 different book prizes that make up the 2020 Atlantic Book Awards. The nominated titles represent a wide range of books from Atlantic Canada—everything from poetry to illustrated children’s books to adult fiction and non-fiction. 

There are five double award nominees on this year’s shortlist, including writer Terry Doyle for his debut novel DIG (Breakwater Books); activist/author Gemma Hickey for Almost Feral (Breakwater Books); acclaimed author Ami McKay for her non-fiction work Daughter of Family G:  A Memoir of Cancer Genes, Love and Fate (Knopf Canada); first-time novelist Amy Spurway for Crow (Goose Lane Editions); and former Halifax Poet Laureate Rebecca Thomas for the children’s book, I’m Finding My Talk (Nimbus Publishing).

The 2020 Atlantic Book Awards includes one of Canada’s biggest book prizes, the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, valued at $25,000. This year’s Raddall Award nominees are Halifax lawyer Jaime Burnet for her debut novel,  Crocuses Hatch from Snow (Vagrant Press – a Nimbus imprint); Newfoundland’s Michael Crummey for The Innocents (Doubleday Canada); and Nova Scotia author and filmmaker Shandi Mitchell for The Waiting Hours (Viking Canada).

Twenty-five of the 39 nominations are for books published by Atlantic publishers. Nova Scotia’s Nimbus Publishing/Vagrant Press leads with eight shortlisted titles, while Newfoundland’s Breakwater Books has five, including two of the three nominated titles for the APMA Best Atlantic-Published Book Award. Other regional publishers are:  Running the Goat Books and ISER Books (NL); Gaspereau Press, Nevermore Press, Fernwood Publishing (NS); Island Studies Press (PEI); and Goose Lane Editions and Bouton D’or Acadie (NB).

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, the 2020 Atlantic Book Festival and awards gala, initially planned for this month, is now taking place online through the month of June, with the winners announced on June 30.   Details will be posted shortly at and through social media as they become available. 

The 2020 Pioneer Award, which will go to someone from Nova Scotia who has made a substantial contribution to the literary life of the region will be postponed until 2021, when it will be awarded in person. The 2021 awards gala is currently slated to take place on May 13 at Halifax Central Library.

The board of the non-profit Atlantic Book Awards Society is made up of representatives of the Atlantic Canadian book and writing community. The 2020 Atlantic Book Awards and Festival gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Book Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage, Halifax Public Libraries and the sponsorship of Alliance Française Halifax and Chapters/Indigo/Coles.


1.  Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction

  • A Dark House and Other Stories by Ian Colford (Vagrant Press – a Nimbus imprint)
  • DIG by Terry Doyle(Breakwater Books)
  • Nosy White Woman by Martha Wilson(Biblioasis)

2.  Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children’s Literature

  • EveryBody’s Different on EveryBody Street by Sheree Fitch(Nimbus Publishing)
  • A World Below by Wesley King(Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books)
  • I’m Finding My Talk by Rebecca Thomas(Nimbus Publishing)

3.  Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association Best Atlantic-Published Book Award Sponsored by Friesens Corporation

  • Almost Feral by Gemma Hickey (Breakwater Books)
  • I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe and I’m Finding My Talk by Rebecca Thomas (companion books), illustrated by Pauline Young(Nimbus Publishing)
  • Land Beyond the Sea by Kevin Major(Breakwater Books)

4.  Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing, Sponsored by Marquis Book Printing

  • Shaped by Silence:  Stories from Inmates of the Good Shepherd Laundries and Reformatories by Rie Croll (ISER Books)
  • The Wake:  The Deadly Legacy of a Newfoundland Tsunami by Linden MacIntyre (HarperCollins Canada)
  • Truth and Conviction:  Donald Marshall Jr. and the Mi’kmaw Quest for Justice by L. Jane McMillan (UBC Press)

5.  Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing

  • Listening for the Dead Bells by Marian Bruce (Island Studies Press)
  • As British as the King:  Lunenburg County During the First World War by Gerald Hallowell(Nimbus Publishing)
  • Dangerous Enemy Sympathizers:  Canadian Internment Camp B, 1940-1945 by Andrew Theobald (Goose Lane Editions)

6.  Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award

  • Daughter of Family G:  A Memoir of Cancer Genes, Love and Fate by Ami McKay(Knopf Canada)
  • Mayann Francis: An Honourable Life by The Honourable Dr. Mayann Francis(Nimbus Publishing)
  • Hell and Damnation:  A Sinner’s Guide to Eternal Torment by Marq de Villiers(University of Regina Press)

7.  Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award (Fiction), presented by Boyne Clarke LLP

  • The Difference by Marina Endicott(Knopf Canada)
  • Broken Symmetry by Rosalie Osmond(Nevermore Press)
  • Crow by Amy Spurway(Goose Lane Editions)

8.  J.M. Abraham Poetry Award

  • Year of the Metal Rabbit by Tammy Armstrong(Gaspereau Press)
  • Smallholding by Anne Compton(Fitzhenry and Whiteside)
  • Belated Bris of the Brainsick by Lucas Crawford(Nightwood Editions)

9.  Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration

  • Denise Gallagher, illustrator for Peg Bearskin:  A Traditional Newfoundland Tale, written by adapted by Andy Jones and Philip Dinn from a story told by Mrs. Elizabeth Brewer (Running the Goat Books)
  • Danielle Loranger, illustrator for Un géant dans la tête, written by Danielle Loranger (Bouton D’or Acadie)
  • Sydney Smith, illustrator, for Small in the City, written by Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books)

10.  Margaret and John Savage First Book Award – Non-Fiction, sponsored by Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission, Weed Man Maritimes, Heritage House Law Office, I Love Renovations and Simply Sage Solutions

  • Almost Feral by Gemma Hickey (Breakwater Books)
  • Wounded Hearts:  Memories of the Halifax Protestant Orphans’ Home by Lois Legge(Nimbus Publishing)
  • Transplanted:  My Cystic Fibrosis Double-Lung Transplant Story by Allison Watson(Nimbus Publishing)

11.  Margaret and John Savage First Book Award – Fiction, sponsored by the family of John and Margaret Savage and Royden Trainor

  • DIG by Terry Doyle (Breakwater Books)
  • Going Dutch:  A Novel by James Gregor(Simon & Schuster)
  • Crow by Amy Spurway (Goose Lane Editions)

12.  Robbie Robertson Dartmouth Book Award (Non-fiction), presented by the Kiwanis Club of Dartmouth

  • Grandfather’s House:  Returning to Cape Breton by Clive Doucet(Nimbus Publishing)
  • Daughter of Family G:  A Memoir of Cancer Genes, Love and Fate by Ami McKay (Knopf Canada)
  • Ghosts Within:  Journeying Through PTSD by Garry Leech(Fernwood Publishing)

13.  Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award

  • Crocuses Hatch from Snow by Jaime Burnet(Vagrant Press – a Nimbus imprint)
  • The Innocents by Michael Crummey(Doubleday Canada)
  • The Waiting Hours by Shandi Mitchell(Viking Canada)
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Recommended Experience Levels

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) recommends that participants in any given workshop have similar levels of creative writing and / or publication experience. This ensures that each participant gets value from the workshop⁠ and is presented with information, strategies, and skills that suit their career stage. The “Recommended experience level” section of each workshop description refers to the following definitions used by WFNS.

  • New writers: those with less than two years’ creative writing experience and/or no short-form publications (e.g., short stories, personal essays, or poems in literary magazines, journals, anthologies, or chapbooks).
  • Emerging writers: those with more than two years’ creative writing experience and/or numerous short-form publications.
  • Early-career authors: those with 1 or 2 book-length publications or the equivalent in book-length and short-form publications.
  • Established authors: those with 3 or 4 book-length publications.
  • Professional authors: those with 5 or more book-length publications.

Please keep in mind that each form of creative writing (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and writing for children and young adults) provides you with a unique set of experiences and skills, so you might consider yourself an ‘established author’ in one form but a ‘new writer’ in another.

For “intensive” and “masterclass” creative writing workshops, which provide more opportunities for peer-to-peer feedback, the recommended experience level should be followed closely.

For all other workshops, the recommended experience level is just that—a recommendation—and we encourage potential participants to follow their own judgment when registering.

If you’re uncertain of your experience level with regard to any particular workshop, please feel free to contact us at