While writing Pluck I was drawn to the stories of others struggling through pandemonium and learning to quieten its crazed babel. We all have a have memoir in us, we talk it out every time we sit with family, friends or shrinks, trying to make sense of whatever the hell just happened back there, and why’s it still happening.
We find patterns of behaviour in all of us, and in our relationships and workplaces and the towns we live in. We are all living out the stories of our ancestors going back thousands of years. Which is why I varied my reading to include more objective works as well as personal memoir. God knows, we need all the help we can in navigating this terrible wonderful life bestowed upon us.
These are only some of the books from which I learned of new questions to ask, and found answers to those I hadn’t thought of asking.
Care Of: Letters, Connections, and Cures, by Ivan Coyote
As deep as it is poignant, Care Of is a co …
We, Jane is the debut novel from Aimee Wall, a writer and translator from Newfoundland who now lives in Montreal. In the novel she tells the story of a young woman who, inspired by "the Jane Collective" that helped women find abortion access in 1960s' Chicago, returns to rural Newfoundland with the intention of being part of a similar movement.
Aimee Wall spoke to us about abortion activism, the narrative challenges of writing abortion, how being a translator influences her writing, and more!
49th Shelf: A part of We, Jane that fascinated me, and which I could relate to so personally, was Marthe’s yearning to be part of a larger story, in particular in regard to her own abortion and the story of abortion in general. “She went looking for a fleet,” you write. Can you talk more about that impulse?
Aimee Wall: Something I was struck by when I was first reading about the Jane collective in Chicago was that some of the women in the group joined after having an abortion through the service. A lot of them weren’t coming from any kind of activist background, they were ordinary women who were kind of radicalized by this experience, and empowered in a new way, and it’s like they wanted to turn that feeli …
When I left Canada in 2000, I had to make hard choices about the books I took with me. It wasn’t only the stories contained within the covers that impacted my choice, but the circumstances surrounding their reading—the memories associated with the books or the emotions they conjured. Two years into my new life in England I was chatting about books with a woman I met at a baby group. She mentioned short stories, I mentioned Alice Munro and the next week I loaned her my three Munro hardbacks. I never saw my books again. I was bereft, as though a piece of me was lost.
The longer I’m gone, the more I cherish Canadian literature, perhaps even more so during this pandemic. I can’t travel back home, but I can revisit my past in the company of a good book. I have many favourite Canadian books; here are just a few pieces of me. And while I absolutely recommend them, I’m no longer sure I would ever lend them…
Le chandail de hockey, by Roch …
This week we’re in conversation with author Eva Crocker. Her debut novel, All I Ask, (House of Anansi Press) was published to rave reviews last year and was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The Star calls the novel “wickedly funny, sexy joyous ... with heart.”
Eva Crocker (she/her) is a writer and a PhD student at Concordia University where she is researching visual art in Newfoundland and Labrador. Her short story collection, Barrelling Forward, won the Alistair MacLeod Award for Short Fiction and the CAA Emerging Author’s Award.
Trevor Corkum: From what I understand, All I Ask was partly inspired by an event that happened to you personally. Can you talk more about that, and how the novel progressed from there?
Eva Crocker: I began working on this story in 2017 after a group of about ten police officers, all heavily armed men, forced entry into my home in St. John’s early one morning. They told me I was under arrest for transmission of child pornography and began searching the house.
I was home alone and terrified, I asked several times to use a phone and was told I wasn’t allowed. I wasn’t given a chance to get dressed and had to go alone to my bedroom with a young man wearing a gun. They wanted to collect all my electronics to comb …
Easy. Healthy. DELICIOUS.
Marian Frances White's recipe for banana ice cream—from award-winning cookbook Island Vegan—checks all the boxes, and is just the treat for summer.
4 ripe (speckled) bananas
1 tbsp of carob
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp pure maple syrup.
Peel the bananas and place in an air-tight plastic bag. Stick a straw in the corner of the open end of the bag and draw out the air before sealing the bag. Place in freezer for at least 8 hours.
Remove from freezer bags and funnel each banana through a juicer (be sure the blade is set for smooth extraction) into cones. One banana per cone.
Serve as is or dipped in carob sauce.
Hand mix the carob with the water until smooth. Add the maple syrup and whisk.
Hint: My old-fashioned Champion juicer makes the best banana ice cream.
**WINNER: 2020 GOURMAND WORLD COOKBOOK AWARD, LOCAL REGION - CANADA**
In Island Vegan, Newfoundland’s original trailblazing vegan chef, Marian Frances White, returns with over 100 beautiful and utterly mouth-watering, plant-base …
My latest poetry collection, Gaptoothed, is about my own bashful, lusty Wife of Bath smile. Yet it is also about gaps in identity, memory, history—flaws, holes, spaces and absences, that when looked at from a certain angle, become powerful instruments of poetic expression. The collection, released by Gaspereau Press this past spring, is also about gender, girlhood, and the unconventional and vulnerable girls who too often fall through the cracks—or gaps—in a system that was never built to help the likes of them. The collection is dedicated to my late grandmother; she was supposed to be one of forgotten, cast-aside girls, but her tremendous wit, her razor-sharp tongue, her vitality made her unforgettable. The book is about the beauty of the one-of-a-kind that tells you off for not noticing sooner.
The books listed below have filled in the gaps for me over the years on a literary landscape that so often seemed full of holes—that still seems to be short so many vibrant and vital stories and poems and voices.
Monkey Beach, by Eden Robinson
This is …
Michael Crummey was recently longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel The Innocents, a haunting story of two siblings orphaned in a remote cove in Newfoundland.
Michael Crummey is the author of a memoir, Newfoundland: Journey into a Lost Nation; three books of poetry including Arguments with Gravity, winner of the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for Poetry; and a book of short stories, Flesh & Blood. His first novel, River Thieves was a finalist for the 2001 Scotiabank Giller Prize; and his second novel, The Wreckage, was a finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. His third novel, Galore, won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Canada and the Caribbean) and was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award. His most recent novel, Sweetland, was also a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award. He lives in St. John's, Newfoundland.
Trevor Corkum: The Innocents is a dark and richly imagined story of a brother and sister living alone in a secluded cove in historical Newfoun …
Update! Megan Gail Coles' Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club is a Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist so we're rerunning this interview from earlier this year. Don't forget to enter (on the left) for a chance to win the whole shortlist!
Today we're in conversation with Megan Gail Coles, whose debut novel Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club (Anansi) packs a powerful punch. The book explores the lives of a cast of characters whose lives intersect during a Valentine’s Day blizzard at a trendy St. John’s restaurant.
The St. John’s Telegram says “Coles' writing is agile, precise, muscular, vernacular. She invests in voice and perspective and the payoff inscribes the page. It’s poetry of a frank, rough kind: some of it is hard to read.”
Megan Gail Coles is a graduate of Memorial University of Newfoundland and the National Theatre School of Canada, and she has recently completed a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia. She has written and produced numerous plays. Her first fiction collection, Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome, won the BMO Winterset Award, the ReLit Award, and the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award, and it earned her the one-time Writers’ Trust 5x5 prize. Small Game Hunting at the …
Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, by Megan Gail Coles, begins with a warning: "This might hurt a little. Be Brave." But oh, the rewards for the reader who dares to venture forth: Coles' fresh and vibrant storytelling is stirring and unforgettable, and this novel that's set over the course of a single day proves to be so much more expansive in terms of time and place. It's a literary tour de force, and one of the most powerful books you'll read this season.
We're pleased to feature Coles' recommended reading list, "Writing Through Risk."
The books on this list challenge literary expectations and community norms while demanding artistic honesty and human compassion. This is fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama from the whole of our country written by individuals taking creative risks. Some of these are small linguistic risks, forcing the structure of a sentence into a new shape. Others are grand demonstrative risks, urging the industry to move beyond traditional gatekeeping. Still others are risking more, risking everything, even safety and wellbeing, to speak their truth rather than sit silent and unseen. These books, to varying degrees, have given me courage to write as I do about things I feel are important to the place and people I love. I am …
Some Good reimagines Newfoundland cuisine, with Jessica Mitton fusing traditional fare with healthy eating practices. Her roast chicken and vegetable recipes are just the thing for cool autumn nights, and might seem especially tempting for those still nursing Thanksgiving food hangovers.
Garlic Savoury Roast Chicken
Roast chicken or turkey is always a hit in Newfoundland homes and is generally the star dish in what we call a ‘Sunday Dinner.’ The downside, for anyone trying to eliminate gluten, is that the bird is often filled with a dressing made with bread. To get away from the gluten, but maintain that amazing flavour, stuff your chicken or turkey with just the herbs and spices, and hold off on the bread. Served with roast veggies, the succulent taste and texture will be so satisfying, you won’t miss that inflammatory dressing.
Yields: 1 roast chicken (4 servings)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
1 (2½ -3 lbs) whole chicken
½ tsp sea salt
2 tsp dried savoury
1 bulb of garlic, peel removed
1 small onion, diced
Today we chat with Joel Thomas Hynes, author of the novel We’ll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night. It’s this year’s English-language Governor General’s Award winner for Fiction.
From the jury citation: “Hynes’s portrait of Johnny Keough is an act of full-throttle imagination and narrative invention. Johnny is a startlingly original creation. His hilarious yet disturbing journey from St. John’s to Vancouver is unforgettable, tragic and ultimately transcendent.”
Joel Thomas Hynes—who divides his time between Toronto and St. John's, Newfoundland—has published numerous books and stage plays, including the novels Down to the Dirt, Right Away Monday, and Straight Razor Days. His screen adaptation of his novella Say Nothing Saw Wood was nominated for four Canadian Screen Awards and won numerous awards on the festival circuit. He has worked in the Canadian film and TV industry for 20 years, and has written and directed two award-winning short films, Clipper Gold and Little Man. He has had leading roles in productions such as Down to the Dirt, Book of Negroes, Hatching Matching and Dispatching, Rookie Blue, Mary Kills People, and Orphan Black and currently can be seen on the Netflix Original drama Frontier. The new comedy series Little Dog, created b …
In this month's illustrator gallery, we're pleased to feature the work of Newfoundland artist Dawn Baker, whose gorgeous images put the spotlight on her home province.
Dawn Baker has been a full-time visual artist and children’s writer since 1992. She grew up in Glenwood, Newfoundland, and has lived in Gander since she was a teenager. Dawn has a bachelor of education (post-secondary) and a certificate in library studies, both from Memorial University, and has served on the board of directors of The Rooms Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador since 2006. Her work has been shortlisted twice for the Writers Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage and History Book Awards, and she was invited to participate in TD Children's Week in 2014.
From A Newfoundland Christmas, written and illustrated by Dawn Baker.
From Saltwater Joys, written by Wayne Chaulk, illustrated by Dawn Baker