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The Chat With 2016 Governor General's Award Winners Jon-Erik Lappano and Kellen Hatanaka

JELAPPANO HEADSHOT by Robert Scarborough_1

K_HATANAKA_HEADSHOT by Kiersten Hatanaka_1

The next chat with this year’s English-language Governor General’s Award winners is a conversation with Jon-Erik Lappano and Kellen Hatanaka. Jon-Erik and Kellen won this year’s award for Young People’s Literature (Illustrated Books) for their book Tokyo Digs a Garden.

Tokyo Digs a Garden marries text and illustration in a richly ornamented dream landscape that simultaneously suggests a digital and an organic world,” states the jury. “Kellen Hatanaka’s illustrations are inventive and groundbreaking and the hypnotic text by Jon-Erik Lappano conveys its message in a darkly humourous and elegant manner. A book for any age.”

Jon-Erik Lappano is an environmental educator, storyteller, and creative producer with curiosity and love of all things wild. He lives in Guelph, Canada, with his young and growing family. This is his first book.

Kellen Hatanaka is a designer and illustrator who lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife, Kiersten. He is also the author and illustrator of Work: An Occupational ABC and Drive: A Look at Roadside Opposites …

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The Chat With Governor General's Award Winner Lazer Lederhendler


We continue our conversation with this year’s English-language Governor General’s award winners with our chat with Lazer Lederhendler. Lazer won his second Governor General’s Award for his translation of Catherine Leroux’s novel The Party Wall.

“In The Party Wall, his masterly translation of Catherine Leroux’s Le mur mitoyen,” writes the jury, “Lazer Lederhendler deftly captures the spirit, meaning, and emotional punch of the French text. Writing with grace and imagination, he creates a compelling work of art while serving and respecting the original.”

Lazer Lederhendler is a full-time translator based in Montreal and specializing in contemporary Québécois fiction and nonfiction. His translations have earned him many distinctions including the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Cole Prize for Translation of the Quebec Writers’ Federation. His work has helped acquaint English-language readers with a new cohort of talented, innovative writers, such as Nicholas Dickner, Alain Farah, Perrine Leblanc, and Catherine Leroux.




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The Chat With 2016 Governor General's Award Winner Colleen Murphy


Next up in our special coverage of this year’s Governor General’s Awards is our chat with Colleen Murphy, winner of this year’s GG Award for Drama (English) for her play Pig Girl.

This year’s jury states, “Colleen Murphy weaves a masterfully structured examination of humanity within our most inhumane moments. Pig Girl forces us to relentlessly bear witness to a single night of horror that echoes the silenced ongoing violence against women. Difficult and harrowing, it asks us to acknowledge our collective responsibility. Arresting. Undeniable. Unforgettable.”

Colleen Murphy was born in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, and now divides her time between Toronto and Edmonton. Some of her other plays include The December Man (L’homme de décembre), which won the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama, the Carol Bolt Award, and the Alberta Theatre Projects Enbridge playRites Award; Armstrong’s War; and The Goodnight Bird. She is also librettist of Oksana G., which gets its world premiere at Tapestry Opera in May 2017, and an award-winning filmmaker whose distinct films have played in festivals around the world.



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The Chat With Governor General's Award Winner Steven Heighton

Heighton_Steven_portrait 2

Our next chat in this year’s Governor General’s Awards special is with Steven Heighton, who won his first GG Award for his poetry collection The Waking Comes Late.

According to the jury, “Steven Heighton’s The Waking Comes Late is a journey deepening as we read. He locates the complexities of the personal in a wide range of social issues, while playing masterfully with language, form and tone. His stunning political poems never descend to pedantry or the prosaic. A mature work: smart, moving, inventive, original.” 

Steven Heighton’s most recent books are The Waking Comes Late and the Trillium Award finalist The Dead Are More Visible (stories). His novel Afterlands has appeared in six countries, was a New York Times Book Review editors’ choice, and was cited on best of year lists in ten publications in Canada, the US, and the UK. The novel is now in pre-production for film. His short fiction and poetry have received four gold National Magazine Awards and have appeared in London Review of Books, Best English Stories, Poetry, Best American Poetry, Tin House, TLR, Agni, Best American Mystery Stories, London Magazine, Zoetrope, Poetry London, and five editions of Best Canadian Stories. Heighton has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award and Brit …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum Interviews 2016 Governor General's Award Winner Bill Waiser


We start our special coverage of this year’s English-language Governor General’s Award winners with a conversation with Bill Waiser, author of A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905.

Of the book, the Governor General’s Award jury says, “From its first page, Bill Waiser’s A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905 surprises the reader with its reconsideration of Canada. In a sweeping blend of narrative, historical detail, and compelling images, Waiser refocuses the country’s story by putting Indigenous peoples and environmental concerns in the foreground.” 

Author and historian Bill Waiser specializes in western Canadian history. He has published over a dozen books—many of them recognized by various awards, including a shortlist nomination for the 1997 Governor General’s literary award for non-fiction. Bill is
 a frequent public speaker and contributor to radio, television, and print media. He has also served on a number of national, provincial, and local boards. Bill has been awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, named a distinguished university professor, and granted a D.Litt.


How did your Governor General Award-winning book come into being?

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The Chat With 2016 Giller Finalist Gary Barwin



For our final interview in this special Giller Prize edition of The Chat, I’m in conversation with Hamilton-based writer Gary Barwin. Set in the years around 1492, Barwin’s whimsical novel Yiddish for Pirates recounts the compelling story of Moishe, a Bar Mitzvah boy who leaves home to join a ship's crew, where he meets Aaron, the polyglot parrot who becomes his near-constant companion.

Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, and multimedia artist, and the author of 20 books of poetry, fiction and books for children. His recent books include the short fiction collection I, Dr Greenblatt, Orthodontist, 251–1457 and the poetry collections Moon Baboon Canoe and The Wild and Unfathomable Always. A PhD in music composition, Barwin has been Writer-in-Residence at Western University and Young Voices eWriter-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library and has taught creative writing at a number of colleges and universities. Born in Northern Ireland to South African parents of Ashkenazi descent, Barwin moved to Canada as a child. He is married with three adult children, and lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

Once you've enjoyed my chat with Gary, don't miss the rest of our 2016 Giller Prize special, featuring interviews with Madeleine Thien, Zoe Whittall, Emma Donoghue, Catherin …

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The Chat With 2016 Giller Finalist Zoe Whittall


Our next interview in this year’s Giller Prize special, generously sponsored by Publishing@SFU, is with Zoe Whittall, author of the shortlisted title The Best Kind of People. Her spellbinding novel bravely and lucidly explores the lives of the family members of a popular small-town teacher accused of sexual assault. 

Zoe Whittall's debut novel, Bottle Rocket Hearts, made the Globe and Mail Top 100 Books of the Year and CBC Canada Reads’ Top Ten Essential Novels of the Decade. Her second novel Holding Still for as Long as Possible won a Lambda Literary Award and was an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book. She was awarded the K.M. Hunter Artist Award for Literature in 2016.

Author photo credit: Vivek Shraya




How was The Best Kind of People born?

I was trying to write another book and was having a hard time of it, and I was listening to The Current. It was around the time of the Russell Williams case. There was a lot of talk about his wife and how could she not have known. They were interviewing a therapist who …

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The Chat With 2016 Giller Finalist Emma Donoghue


Next up in this year’s Giller Prize special, generously sponsored by Publishing@SFU, is Emma Donoghue, author of the haunting novel The Wonder. Donoghue’s book centres around the story of a young girl in the middle of nineteenth-century Ireland who refuses to eat, believing she is sustained by God’s will alone.

Emma Donoghue was born in Dublin in 1969 and lived in England for many years before moving to Canada. She writes in many genres, including theatre, radio drama, and literary history, but is best known for her fiction, both historical (Slammerkin, The Sealed Letter, Astray, Frog Music) and contemporary (Stir-fry, Hood, Landing, Touchy Subjects). Her seventh novel, Room, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Canada and Caribbean region) and was shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange Prizes. It sold over two million copies. Donoghue scripted the film adaptation by Lenny Abrahamson, starring Brie Larson, which won the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival Grolsch People’s Choice Award.


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The Chat With 2016 Giller Finalist Catherine Leroux


We continue our 2016 Giller Prize coverage this week—generously sponsored by Publishing@SFU—by checking in with finalist Catherine Leroux. Leroux’s novel The Party Wall brims with exquisite storytelling. She weaves four distinct storylines into a complex work that questions what we believe about our emotional and physical memories.

The Giller jury’s citation reads, in part, “Intriguing, wise and strange, the novel reveals layers of love and tension that hold mystery yet keep a crystalline clarity. Leroux’s prose, beautifully translated by Lazer Lederhendler, never abandons aesthetic precision. Her story is always assured, yet remains open. Its architecture holds a centre pulsing with life.”

Catherine Leroux was born in 1979 in the northern suburbs of Montreal. After holding various jobs she became a journalist and devoted herself to writing. Her first novel, Marche en forêt, was published in 2011 by Éditions Alto, and her newest novel is Madame Victoria (Éditions Alto, 2015). The Party Wall, her English-language debut published with Biblioasis in 2016, was selected for Indies Introduce for Summer/Fall 2016.

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The Chat With 2016 Giller Prize Finalist Mona Awad

Next up in our special 2016 Giller Prize coverage, which is generously sponsored by Publishing@SFU, is our conversation with finalist Mona Awad. She’s the author of the acclaimed debut novel 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl.

The Globe and Mail says the book is “beautifully told, with a profoundly sensitive understanding of the subject matter.” The Literary Review of Canada, meanwhile, hails Awad’s debut as “a brilliant and disturbing first novel.”

Mona Awad was born in Montreal and received her MFA in fiction from Brown University. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Walrus, Joyland, Post Road, St. Petersburg Review, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing a PhD in creative writing and English literature at the University of Denver.




How did 13 Ways of Looking At a Fat Girl find life as a book?

Awad, Mona

I first started with the image of a young woman in a dressing room staring at a piece of clothing she already knew wouldn’t fit while her mother and a saleswoman waited outside. She actually sort of appeared to me duri …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum Interviews Katherena Vermette

Katherena Vermette © Lisa Delorme Meiler


This week, I’m chatting with Katherena Vermette, author of the extraordinary debut novel The Break. The book was recently shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Award and has been receiving rave reviews across the country.

The Globe and Mail calls The Break “an incredible feat of storytelling.The National Post says “Vermette puts a human face to issues that are too-often misunderstood, and in so doing, she has written a book that is both one of the most important of the year and one of the best.”

Katherena Vermette is a Métis writer of poetry, fiction, and children’s literature. In addition to winning the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, her first book, North End Love Songs, is the 2015 selection for Manitoba’s provincial book club, On the Same Page. Vermette has recently been shortlisted for the inaugural Beatrice Mosionier Aboriginal Writer of the Year Award. Her work has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies across the globe. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum Interviews Jael Ealey Richardson



It's back to school this month, so on this week’s Chat, we’re talking children’s literature. I’m pleased to be in conversation with Jael Ealey Richardson, who co-wrote The Stone Thrower with illustrator Matt James. The book recounts the story of her father, renowned CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey, and the meteoric rise of his football career against a backdrop of racism and inequity.

CanLit for Little Canadians called The Stone Thrower “a story of grit, visual and inspirational, in its truest form while Quill & Quire said the book is " ... an inspirational true-life tale that will resonate with dreamers big and small."

Author photo credit: Trayc Dudgeon



Trevor Corkum: The Stone Thrower is an adaptation of a memoir you wrote about your father called The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lesson, a Fat …

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