November 25, 2010

Canada Reads 2011 Launch

Whew...what a crazy couple of days it's been. I'm still not quite caught up on sleep yet, but I thought I'd post a little behind the scenes slide show of the Canada Reads 2011 launch in Toronto. I'm still pinching myself over the fact that The Birth House was chosen by Debbie Travis for the CBC's 10th anniversary "battle of the books!"

Thanks so much to everyone who nominated and voted for my book. Wow, wow, and wow. I am grateful.

Congratulations to all the authors and best wishes to the panelists!

Canada Reads 2011 Launch on PhotoPeach

photos 9, 10, and 12 were taken by Nicola Makoway. photos 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 were courtesy of Ryan Couldrey of the CBC and Canada Reads.

November 15, 2010

"another day in the life of the arts"

The news came at 7:15 am - Gaspereau Press co-owner Andrew Steeves announced to Don Connolly on CBC Nova Scotia's Information Morning that a deal has been made to get more copies of the Sentimentalists on bookstore shelves. (You can read their official press release here.)

According to Steeves, plans for an alliance with BC publisher Douglas & McIntyre and Friesens in Manitoba began Wednesday morning, "as soon as I walked into the office." The partnership will begin with Douglas & McIntyre printing 30,000 copies of the Giller Prize winner to help meet initial demand. This will take place alongside Gaspereau Press continuing to print their original edition of the book at approximately 1000 copies per week.

When asked if the two editions will be different, Steeves answered, "Yes, it will be very different, but our partner has the same passion and commitment to the book as we do." He went on to speak of Douglas & McIntyre's track record of being consistently recognized by the Alcuin Society for their excellence in publishing and design. "Douglas & McIntyre are always right there."

"You have to pay attention to the exceptions."

Steeves also made it clear in the interview that he's learned much from the entire process, praising the Giller Prize for choosing judges who "looked at books more broadly" this year.

In a statement to this writer Steeves also said -
"My one regret is that "Toronto" gets uttered to mean bad, when that could never be the whole truth, and even that "Random House" gets used as a shorthand for all that is wrong with the world, when they do many good books, employ many bright people, and have a place in the ecosystem alongside Gaspereau. It just gets out of balance and celebrated as the one and only way, the main show, when even the people there, in their best moments, know that's not so. "
 Congratulations to Johanna, Gaspereau Press, Douglas and McIntyre and Friesens! 

November 12, 2010

books are the nearest to us

This keepsake was begun by Will Rueter at The Aliquando Press, Dundas Ontario, and completed at the Gaspereau Press Wayzgoose, Kentville, Nova Scotia on 21 October 2006. The wood engraving was inspired by a watercolour by David Milne. The typefaces are ATF Baskerville Roman and Antique Tuscan, printed on sunome tairei cream paper.

 I first met Johanna Skibsrud at the 2008 Gaspereau Press Wayzgoose in Kentville, NS. On the Friday evening, we read together - I read from my play, Jerome: The Historical Spectacle, and Johanna read from her poetry collection, Late Nights With Wild Cowboys. From her first line, I knew she had "it." 

This past summer I had the pleasure of accompanying the students in the Ross Creek Teen Writing Academy on a field trip to Gaspereau Press. Gary Dunfield and Andrew Steeves gave us a wonderful tour (you can view a slideshow below.) Near the end of the tour, I picked up a copy of Johanna's collection and read her beautiful, cheeky poem, I'd be a Hopper Painting to my students. Just before we left, Andrew gave us this advice, "If you want to be a writer, stay stubborn and curious." 
I've carried those words with me ever since.

As a writer, and a human being, I need days and moments like the ones I've shared with Andrew, Gary and Johnana. They remind me of why I write. They make it easier to get up in the morning, put my feet on the cold wood floor and begin again.

The past few days have been a nothing short of a tempest for everyone involved with Johanna's now Giller Prize winning novel, The Sentimentalists. I, for one, am elated with the jury's recognition of Johanna's work, and also very proud of my dear friends at Gaspereau Press. 

In my life I've had the great fortune to have been published by both Gaspereau Press and Knopf Canada - two Canadian houses very different in size and scope. Yet, when it came to honouring my words and humanity, they were very much the same. 

It has been three days - just - since the Giller Prize was awarded. In that time there has been much talk of getting what's due, foul vs. fair, striking hot iron, windows - open and shut. But the thing I can't help thinking through all of it is that I know these people - they are people who care, passionately, about the fine art of stringing words together into meaning, about crafting books to meet those words, and above all else, about giving a writer's humanity, curiosity, and stubborness a worthy home. I have no doubt that they have and will continue to give that to Johanna and her work. Trust. 

The Creeklings visit Gaspereau Press on PhotoPeach

My friend Michael Schellenberg, (one of the finest editors I know) sent this letter to the Globe and Mail the other day. It sums up a lot of how I feel as well.

As a reader who passionately fell in love with Johanna Skibsrud's novel The Sentimentalists, I have nothing but gratitude to Gaspereau Press. Imagine discovering a poet of such sensitive ability. And then having the faith to publish two gorgeous collections of that artist's poetry. And then imagine the excitement and trembling that must have ensued at the idea of publishing a novel of such urgency and enquiry and beauty.That is the beauty of old-fashioned publishing in which loyalty is rewarded. 

 Imagine that after having made the most beautiful act of faith that is getting a work of art into wider distribution, three incredibly passionate and smart people--two of the world's greatest writers and one of the country's most intelligent arts journalist-- choose that novel for a prize that honours one of our country's finest journalists and is itself a monument to passion and art. And then imagine that publisher being maligned in the national press--today's Globe and Mail says: "good books deserve a large audience, and that publishers that fail so spectacularly to seize the moment will soon be the last resort of promising new writers." 

I can't imagine an artist that wouldn't be thrilled by the triumph of art over commerce that is the awarding of the Giller to Gaspereau Press's publication of Johanna Skibsrud's The Sentimentalists. (And then imagine a "disappointed publisher" telling a journalist with your paper that, "I think that the jury inadvertently screwed the Giller by giving the prize to this purist little press.") In the meantime Gaspereau is producing the novel as quickly as possible to their impeccable standards--and I have to say that it is one of the more beautiful objects that has come into my life of late. For those who don't have the patience to wait for it, the novel is widely available as an e-book from Kobo (which your editors failed to mention).

That Gaspereau Press has been reviled for this incredibly beautiful act of faith is a stunning collective failing of our collective imagination--but it doesn't surprise me given how debased our relationship with art has become. I do have to agree with the final sentence of today's editorial: "The true measure of any book's success is not a prize but its ability to connect with readers." 

The Sentimentalists is a work of our time that will connect with readers for years to come. It is the perfect antidote to a culture in which the editors of our "national newspaper" attack a small cultural business for having the courage of its conviction. Perhaps a better ending to the story would be for the people who care about these things to pause and reflect on the miracle of what just happened. And for us all to marvel at the miracle that is The Sentimentalists--an incredibly brave novel by a young woman reckoning with the legacy of her father.

 And on that note, I'll leave you with this...(it's the quote from the broadsheet pictured above.)
"Of all the inanimate objects, of all of man's creations, books are the nearest to us, for they contain our very thought, our ambitions, our indignations, our illusions, our fidelity to truth, and our persistent leaning towards error. But most of all they resemble us in their precarious hold on life." - Joseph Conrad

November 05, 2010

a multitude of thank-yous

This letter was originally sent to the Occasional Knitters Society facebook group, Friday November 5, 2010.
the Birth House at night.

Hello from my little house by the Bay!

On this rainy, blustery November day, I thought I'd send you a long overdue note. Settled in the nook off my kitchen (once the birthing room in this old house) I've got a cup of hot tea, and my trusty, but sook of a yellow Lab, Ponyo by my side. Life is good.

I'm writing for a couple of reasons, but more than anything I wanted to take a minute to say "thank-you" - for your messages, your comments, your stories, your readership, your patience, and above all, your kindness.

I can't tell you how many times a slow, challenging day of writing, (or life) has been made better by your words. Writing The Virgin Cure has been an amazing journey, but it hasn't always been easy. Although the idea for the novel came long ago, (it's a story I always wanted to write for my mother,) bringing it to the page has felt frightening and freeing all at once.

This writing life constantly surprises me - bringing me to truths I'd found easier to ignore, showing me parts of myself I never knew existed.

I know that getting this tale to you has taken longer than expected and I'm sorry for that. (Creativity and publishing dates are both slippery little buggers ;-) I hope you'll stick with me and stay tuned for the duration...I promise there will be much more to share, soon.

In the meantime, I want you to know how grateful I am to all of you for passing The Birth House to friends and family, hand to hand. I never imagined that so many people would take my words to heart!

For those of you who don't know, The Birth House recently made CBC Radio's "Canada Reads" top 40 essential novels of the decade list. What an honour!

They are currently holding an online vote for the top 10, and readers (wherever you might live) can cast your vote for The Birth House at the Canada Reads website,

  Canada Reads Top 10 essential novels of the Decade

 The deadline for voting is midnight ET - Sunday, Nov. 7.

Thanks to all who have already voted and have been spreading the word via FaceBook, blogs and Twitter!!!

I hope you're having a glorious autumn (it's my favourite time of year) and that you're cozied up with many good books and cups of tea!

With gratitude and best wishes,
Ami (and Ponyo too ;-)