Local writers shone at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre during the Atlantic Book Awards held on April 27 and attended by about 200 people.
This was the first-ever New Brunswick Book Awards, awards to recognize specifically NB writers in three categories: poetry, fiction and non-fiction. The prizes are the fruit of a collaboration between The Fiddlehead literary magazine, run out of UNB for the past 70 years, and the NB Writers’ Federation. The event was also the first time the Atlantic Book Awards were held in New Brunswick.
The Gala Event opened with a magical trilingual reading of Ta’n Tel-kisi-siskuapua’qsepp Petikotiak Sipu/Comment la rivière Petitcodiac devint boueuse/How the Petitcodiac River Became Muddy, in Mi’kmaw, French and English, illustrated with superb projections based on the book’s illustrations by talented Moncton artist Raymond Martin. The Acadian children’s Publishing House, Bouton d’Or Acadie, published this trilingual book.
Bouton d’Or Acadie’s founder, Marguerite Maillet, received the Atlantic Book Award Pioneer Award, is a lifetime achievement award in appreciation for her outstanding contribution to the literary arts in Atlantic Canada. A former professor from the University of Moncton, Maillet, now in her ninetieth decade, gave a very gracious bilingual speech of acceptance about the importance of inclusion and understanding between New Brunswick’s various communities.
M. Travis Lane, one of New Brunswick’s finest poets, was awarded the Westminster Book Award for Poetry for her fifteenth collection of poetry, Crossover, published by Cormorant Books. As Lane was not able to be at the ceremony, Ross Leckie, Director of Creative Writing at UNB, remarked on the wonderful role that the poet has played as a mentor for local poets throughout the years. Lane was also nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry for the same collection in October of 2015.
In her category, Lane won over Fredericton-based poet Philip Crymble, nominated for his first full-length book of poetry, Not Even Laughter, and Michael Pacy’s second collection, titled Electric Affinities.
Political Scientist Donald Savoie, from Université de Moncton, was awarded the Writers Federation of New Brunswick Book Award for Non-fiction for his book, What is Government Good At?: A Canadian Answer, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press. Savoie was present at the event through a video where he explained his absence because of the Donner Prize ceremony in Toronto. Savoie also won that award, worth $50,000, for his book that is critical of government processes.
Also in the non-fiction category, UNB Fredericton’s Political Science professor, Thom Workman, was awarded the Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing for the book, The Servant State: Overseeing Capital Accumulation in Canada, co-authored with Geoffrey McCormack and published by Fernwood Publishing. McCormack and Workman’s book is an analysis of capitalism in Canada. The authors will be presenting their book during the Mayworks event in Fredericton on Sunday, May 1, 2016 at 7pm at Conserver House, 180 St. John St.
NB-based author Beth Powning received the New Brunswick Book Award for Fiction for her novel, A Measure of Light (Knopf), a historical novel about a Puritan woman fleeing persecution. Powning’s son Jake gave her acceptance speech in her absence.
The biggest success of the night was for Nova Scotia writer Sarah Mian for her first novel, When the Saints (Harpercollins Publishers). Mian won both the Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction and the Margaret & John Savage First Book Award.
Sharing her time between Granada in the West Indies and Antigonish, artist and author Maureen St. Clair won the Beacon Award for Social Justice Literature for her unpublished book titled, Judith and Sola, to be available soon.
Other New Brunswick nominees were Fredericton-based short-story specialist Mark Anthony Jarman for his book, Knife Party at the Hotel Europa (Goose Lane Editions), with two nominations –the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction and the NB Book Award for Fiction- and Robert W. Gray for his short story collection, Entropic (NeWest Press) in the NB Book Award for Fiction category.
David Sullivan, from St. Andrews, was nominated in the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick Book Award for Non-fiction for his self-published book, Boss Gibson: Lumber King of New Brunswick. Photographer and author Nicholas Guitard was chosen for The Lost Wilderness: Rediscovering W.F. Ganong’s New Brunswick (Goose Lane Editions) in the same category.
The bilingual gala evening was hosted by Rayanne Brennan of the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick and Philippe Beaulieu, co-founder of the Théâtre de l’Escaouette, and a member of the Federation of Professional Acadian Artists of New Brunswick (AAAPNB). The talented Moncton 5-piece band, Les Improbables, punctuated the numerous speeches with jazzy musical interludes.