Project

Three new Unbound audiobook releases

We’re thrilled to announce three new releases in our Unbound audiobook series⁠—produced in partnership with Neptune Theatre and the Nova Scotia Creative Industries Fund⁠ for the Arts—which breathes new life into the works of foundational and exceptional Nova Scotian authors through performances by local actors.

  • Scotch River by Linda Little (performed by Matthew Lumley): Scotch River is a novel of powerful secrets. It tells the story of Cass Hutt, a bull rider living out West, who has nothing left to lose. With nothing and no one to hold him—his rodeo partner has been killed—Cass heads East, lured by the arrival of a mysterious land deed for property in Scotch River, Nova Scotia. Back in his boyhood hometown, Cass encounters people as eccentric and as lonely as himself. They may even be related to him. Scotch River won the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award and the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction in 2007.
  • Ocean by Sue Goyette (performed by Leah Pritchard): The ocean has never had a biographer quite like Sue Goyette, whose days are bounded by the substantial fact of the North Atlantic, both by its physical presence and by its metaphoric connotations. Goyette plunges in and swims well outside the buoys to craft a sort of alternate, apocryphal account of our relationship with the ocean. In these linked poems, Goyette’s offbeat cast of archetypes (fog merchants, lifeguards, poets, carpenters, mothers, daughters) pronounce absurd explanations to both common and uncommon occurrences in a tone that is part cautionary tale, part creation myth and part urban legend.
  • Song of Rita Joe: Autobiography of a Mi’kmaw Poet by Rita Joe (performed by Catherine Anne Martin): This honoured elder has left us her own story, a book of exceptional courage and insight. Born in poverty on a Cape Breton reserve, Rita Joe was a gentle woman who fought for family, justice, and her own independent voice. She faced intolerance, ignorance and abuse—searched her culture for strength—and wrote poems of clarity and encouragement that continue to inspire. Song of Rita Joe includes 75 of her poems. A winner of the Order of Canada, Rita Joe writes about her life’s journey, and the promise of hope and healing.
Unbound audiobooks are available for purchase either through the Neptune at Home streaming service (for new releases) or through the WFNS Gift Shop (for past releases). Browse all available Unbound titles from our central Unbound project page.

Remembering Maxine, a poem of sorts

Guest post by Ian Porter, producer on CBC Radio’s Information Morning from 1983-1988

“How Maxine Tynes came to Information Morning on CBC Radio in the mid-1980s”

We needed her but didn’t know it.

One morning, after the show, she came to Sackville Street* and, asking for the producer, made her splendid way to our cluttered corner, sat down, putting her cane to one side, and settled her smile on us.  That smile that seemed to reach to the horizon.

My memory is of being charmed, despite myself.
She wanted to read her poems on the show.
Just one, to begin with, but more could follow?

And if we didn’t think so,  then . . . what was Peoples’ Radio for?

Oh, yes, she knew what we needed better than ourselves.

New words, new images, new voices are oxygen for radio. Different voices. Accents and argot. Odd turns of phrase,  the speech of  streets and neighbourhoods.  The words of all those restless in their place.  

These are sounds of the times, for sure, of any times … but not much reflected in the confident, white, manly tones of the show back then.

So we needed her. And on radio her voice was unforgettable. Harmonious, clear, her words issuing from the
speakers with the urgent intensity of memories, images, feelings caught just so. The stuff of her poetry.

Do poems change anything?
Maxine came on the air in Ronald Reagan times, her voice filtered through an international screen of news and views of the push-back against the struggle for civil rights.

And so she spoke to those times, as a woman of African heritage, a Black woman who celebrated her legacy in poems about everything from hand-woven baskets at the market to the “cloud Afro” hair styles in Borrowed Beauty.  Her most marked loyalty, though, was to the “womanquest” and to – in her words – “the Saturday standing armies” of  Black  women working In Service to clean south-end mansions to sustain life and survival for their north-end families.

Maxine helped change the sound with which so many Nova Scotians start their days. Like  the school marm she also was, she reminded us of homework to be done, of debts overlooked, of respect to be paid.  But her tone, never harsh, remains an invitation to share her poet’s vision of a beauty come of age. 

* CBC Radio broadcast for many years from studios on Sackville street across from the Citadel Hill.

WFNS’s new Nova Scotia Poetry Award has been named in honour of Maxine Tynes. On May 13, 2021, the inaugural award was presented to Tammy Armstrong for her collection Year of the Metal Rabbit (Gaspereau Press) at the Atlantic Book Awards Gala.  Fundraising for the Maxine Tynes Nova Scotia Poetry Award endowment continues, and donations are welcome.

On Octavia Butler

Guest post by Evelyn C. White (Halifax), author Alice Walker: A Life

Born in 1947, Octavia Butler was a contemporary of the late Charles Saunders. As groundbreaking Black writers of science fiction/fantasy, they were rightly hailed as “griots” who continued the spellbinding storytelling traditions of West Africa.

The shy, only child of a devout, widowed mother in California, Butler achieved international acclaim for works such as Kindred (1979) and The Parable of the Sower (1993) that feature Black women protagonists. Indeed, a major critic declared the latter novel “unmatched” in its prescient portrait of the mayhem unleashed by Donald Trump. In 1995, Butler became the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur “Genius” Prize, among the most coveted awards in the US.

In A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler (2020), Lynell George delivers a poignant tribute to the author in a book crafted from documents she discovered in Butler’s vast archives (bus passes, shop-ping lists, diaries, utility bills, a receipt from “Tall Girl” Shoes). The statuesque author died unexpectedly, in 2006, after a fall outside of her Seattle-area home. She was 58.

The handsome volume is “not a biography, nor is it a study of [Butler’s] literary legacy,” writes George, a veteran Los Angeles journalist. “It is an examination of [her] … life path, her influences, her rituals, her quirks, and obsessions, and mostly her labor…. Butler made her own rules and stuck to them.”

An early proponent of self-help practices, Butler peppered her journals with affirmations to counter the dismissive response to her literary ambition. “Can’t you write anything normal?” a teacher once asked. In her staunch belief in her voice and vision, she blazed a trail for Afrofuturists such as Jamaican-born Canadian author Nalo Hopkinson, whose powerful works include Brown Girl in The Ring (1998).

In a 1970 journal entry, Butler pledged to secure “free and clear” $100,000 in earnings by January 1, 1975. Her strategy? “Will always write, no matter what,” she declared. “This is a fact of my life. Thus I must always leave time in my day for writing. Four hours at least.”

Among other menial jobs, Butler toiled as a potato chip inspector before her ascent to bestseller lists. She also sacrificed personal relationships. “I am lonely, I need other people now: friends and lovers,” she noted in a diary.

“It [was] a supreme act of self-love,” George writes about Butler’s hard-won success. Meditating on the stellar work of Charles Saunders and Octavia Butler, a time-honoured gospel song comes immediately to mind: “How Excellent is Thy Name.”

On May 19, 2021, as part of WFNS’s recurring Nova Reads series, remembrances of the late Charles Saunders and passages from his fiction and non-fiction works will be shared by David Woods (multidisciplinary artist and arts organization leader), George Elliott Clarke (Canada’s 7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate), Judy Kavanagh (editor and Saunders’s Daily News colleague), Bill Turpin (managing editor of The Daily News), Milton Davis (author of 19 books of Black fantastic fiction), and Taaq Kirksey (television producer and developer of Saunders’s Imaro novel series for screen). Hosted by journalist Jon Tattrie (author of Peace by Chocolate), this edition of Nova Reads is co-presented by Halifax Public Libraries and the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute.

This virtual event is free to attend, but pre-registration is required.

Charles Saunders (1946 – 2020) was an African-American author and journalist who moved to Ontario in 1969 and then Nova Scotia in 1985. While a copyeditor and writer at Halifax’s The Daily News, where he worked for nearly two decades, Saunders penned numerous columns grappling with difficult racial issues, contributed to The Spirit of Africville (1992), and authored the book-length community profile Black and Bluenose (1999). Saunders also pioneered the “sword and soul” literary genre through his Imaro series of fantasy novels, begun in 1981. His fiction was groundbreaking not merely for its anti-colonial reimagining of figures like Tarzan and Conan the Barbarian but also for its worldbuilding centered on Black characters and cultures.

Learn more about Charles Saunders in the feature stories “The extraordinary inner world of Charles R. Saunders, father of Black sword and soul” (Jon Tattrie, CBC Nova Scotia) and “A Black Literary Trailblazer’s Solitary Death: Charles Saunders” (The New York Times).

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Recommended Experience Levels

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) recommends that each workshop’s participants share a level or range of writing / publication experience. This is to ensure each participant gets value from the workshop⁠ and is presented with information, strategies, and skills that suit their current writing priorities.

To this end, the “Recommended experience level” section of each workshop description refers to the following definitions developed by WFNS:

  • New writers: those who have been writing creatively for less than two years and/or have not yet been published in any form.
  • Emerging writers: those who have been writing creatively for less than five years and/or have some short publications (poems, stories, or essays) in literary magazines, journals, or anthologies.
  • Established writers/authors: those with numerous publications in magazines, journals, or anthologies and/or a full-length book publication.
  • Professional authors: those with two or more full-length book publications.

For “intensive” and “masterclass” workshops, which provide more opportunities for peer-to-peer (that is, participant-to-participant) feedback, the recommended experience level should be followed.

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 communications@writers.ns.ca