This year, the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia joins with the Atlantic Book Awards Society in celebrating and promoting Atlantic Canadian writing. The three awards administered and managed by the WFNS will be given at this year's Atlantic Book Awards Gala.
Those awards comprise:
- 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.
The 2018 Atlantic Book Awards & Festival takes place May 2 to 10 with shortlisted authors and illustrators featured in events throughout the Atlantic Provinces. The festival culminates on May 10 in the awards gala at Paul O’Regan Hall at Halifax Central Library. The recipients of 13 different book awards (and The Pioneer Award) will be revealed at this special celebration.
The number of titles submitted each year for the WFNS's three awards 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.
Eligible titles are adjudicated by an independent jury recruited and facilitated by WFNS. Submissions are evaluated for their originality, creativity, and quality of writing.
Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award
Joan Baxter for The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest (Pottersfield Press, 2017)
Pauline Dakin for Run Hide Repeat: a Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood (Viking, 2017)
John DeMont, The Long Way Home, a Personal History of Nova Scotia (McClelland & Stewart, 2017)
From the jury:
This is a very personal approach to the story of our province, based on the author’s explorations of its different regions against the background of his own family history. DeMont has deep roots in Nova Scotia, and an understanding of what has shaped it, for better or for worse, over the years. Taking his example from Joseph Howe’s peregrinations, he journeyed around his home province searching, in his words, for “the human narrative that explains this place and its people far better than mere events – its biography rather than its history.” From a childhood excursion to Camp Hill Cemetery to his more recent visits to a former mining community in Cape Breton, DeMont carries the reader along with him to graveyards, museums, pubs and churches. In this way, he links the people whose stories represent pivotal moments in Nova Scotia’s history with the present day.
Although this is a well-researched and well-documented book, it is no dry, textbook history but rather a lively, fascinating account encapsulating Nova Scotia’s past, showing how it got to be the way it is today, and considering its future.
JM Abraham Poetry Award
Allan Cooper for Everything We've Loved Comes Back to Find Us (Gaspereau Press, 2017)
Alison Dyer for I'd Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game (Killick Press, 2017)
Julia McCarthy for All the Names Between (Brick Books, 2017)
The deft poems in All the Names Between move between details of the natural world to the grand and nebulous but never vague imagery of the universe, from “the ditch of a crow’s heart” to "the infinite soliloquies” of the stars. Informed by astronomy, botany, and a vivid inner life, articulated through surprising images, playful diction, nimble connections, and flashes of humour, these poems creep in close to a huge and sometimes dark energy, to “the warp and weft of being and nonbeing.” Julia McCarthy listens to the world, always aware of mortality and the dead—“the weight of the space their absence has made.” Aware, too, of the inadequacy of words and the limitations of text, she spins poems, “because I know no other way/ every elegy has an ode at its centre.” By the end of this nuanced and richly textured book, the world feels huge, our lives more lyrical and connected to the unseen, thanks to a poet who dares to consider big questions.
Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award
Carol Bruneau for A Bird on Every Tree (Nimbus Publishing, 2017)
Sarah Faber for All is Beauty Now (McClelland and Stewart, 2017)
Oisin Curran for Blood Fable (Book*hug, 2017)
From the jury:
Blood Fable is a fascinating exploration of how imagination can sustain our lives. Based upon the memories of a sensitive 11-year-old boy, enhanced by an adult perspective, the novel takes place in the 1980s as a disaffected generation searches for an alternative reality—in this case within a Zen commune in Maine. When his cat dies and his mother is diagnosed with cancer, the boy creates a fantasy world which his parents view as a vision from a former life and eagerly transcribe to counterbalance the dissolution of their real existence.
Curran’s innovative style is replete with vivid insights, great characterization, humorous detail, and deep thought. He bears witness to a time after the devastation of the Vietnam War when many alternative societies began with such hopeful energy, to be swept away by the Reagan years when everyone would “cut their feathered hair, taper their bell-bottoms, narrow their collars and buy new stuff.” There are no Lost Cities to be found, nothing can protect one from the vagaries of life, yet people will always continue to search for an ideal world as new generations of children “come flaming through the atmosphere to be born.”