Hold Fast – the movie – has been making waves at film festivals from Berlin to Seoul, Halifax to right here in St. John’s, where it closed out the Women’s International Film Festival on October 26. The theatre at the Arts and Culture Centre was filled to its 1100-seat capacity. With a standing ovation the second the credits started to roll. What a memorable night! A great prelude to the film’s public release – DECEMBER 6th – ST. JOHN’S & HALIFAX.
I haven’t seen any footage as yet, but the word is it is looking very good. I spent a good deal of time on set during the shooting, and I’m certainly excited by what unfolded! Look for the movie’s release in 2013.
I’ve just returned from a week in Ghana, West Africa, leading workshops for Ghanaian writers and editors to encourage the publication of more culturally-relevant, local fiction aimed at young people. I was volunteering on behalf of CODE (Canadian Organization for Development through Education) and the Ghana Book Trust. While there I also attended the ceremony for Ghana’s second annual Burt Awards. William Burt, Canadian philanthropist, has made a ten-year, generous commitment to four African countries, in the form of three book prizes each year for the best in local young adult literature.
A memorable experience indeed! The generosity and kindness of everyone has thoroughly endeared me to the country. A terrific first visit to Africa.
Hold Fast, my first novel, is being made into a movie! Shooting began this week, and will see Rock Island Productions moving about to various locations across the province. On Friday I ventured to the set in Tors Cove, where cameras have been rolling for a few days. Got to stand behind an interior scene being filmed. Got to hang out with the crew, with producers Rosemary House (who also write the screenplay) and Judy Holm, director Justin Simms, and host of cast members, including Molly Parker, Adian Flynn, Des Walsh, Jane Dingle, and the two young fellows whose characters are at the core of the story – Avery Ash and Douglas Sullivan.
That’s Avery, who plays Michael, in the centre. He’s from Hant’s Harbour. And Douglas, to the left, from St. John’s, plays his cousin Curtis. I am thrilled the movie is all being shot on the Island, with so many of the cast and crew from this place we call home.
Check it out on Facebook: “Hold Fast – the feature film”.
New Under the Sun has been shortlisted for an Atlantic Book Award, in the category of Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for Fiction, which covers books by NL writers published over a two-year period, in this case 2010 and 2011. I’m thrilled. Congratulations to the other nominees, Gerard and Patrick. We’re all thrilled!
Here’s the shortlist. The Atlantic Book Awards ceremony will take place this year for the first time in NL, at the LSPU Hall on May 17th. And plans are for an evening of readings on May 15th from the three nominated books, together with those in the children’s literature category. If you live in the city, watch for the announcement of time and place.
For a complete list of nominations in all categories, go to www.atlanticbookawards.ca
Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for Fiction
Gerard Collins, Moonlight Sketches (Creative Book Publishing)
Kevin Major, New Under the Sun (Cormorant Books)
Patrick Warner, double talk (Breakwater Books)
Update: And the winner is…Moonlight Sketches. Congratulations, Gerard!
There’s a small stack of reviews of New Under the Sun.
You likely don’t have time to read them all. How about I do the author/editor thing and combine parts of several of them into the review-of-all-reviews?
New Under the Sun, the new novel by Kevin Major, offers book lovers three bonuses. First, the cover is beautiful — greens, browns, and blues of land, sea and sky — reminiscent of a Group of Seven painting. Second, the typeface is clean, elegant and a pleasure to read (no small consideration for people who read a lot). Third, this is a novel that insists you settle in to enjoy the story, no matter what else you should be doing (“only 10 more minutes”; “only five more pages” are chants quickly abandoned).
One of the central issues Kevin Major explores in New Under the Sun is a question poet John Newlove posed many years ago: “Whose land this is, and is to be.” It’s a question that concerns all of us: Newfoundlanders, aboriginal people and subsequent immigrants, including the recently arrived boatload of Tamil refugees.
Major’s fascinating exploration of this matter begins with the return of Shannon to the Rock. She’s a Newfoundlander who went as far west as possible to escape her family history, but Vancouver’s employment and romantic options sour and she accepts a job with Parks Canada to reassess the Viking site at L’Anse aux Meadows and the 7,500-year-old archaic burial site at L’Anse Amour in Labrador. The “return” is also a chance to rediscover her roots. Shannon will eventually meet and become involved with Simon, a teacher of mixed blood who wants the Viking sites reinterpreted to reflect the presence of and contact with the various indigenous peoples.
Before Shannon’s awkward re-entry has progressed very far, a new narrative unfolds, that of Nonosa, leader of the Kanawashish tribe in Labrador, who first discovers the coast and its marine riches. Nonosa’s good fortune, which he is willing to share with kindred tribes, angers his cousin and rival clan leader, Remesh. The story of Nonosa and his daughter lays the groundwork for an eventual migration of one of the tribes across the waters to Newfoundland.
The third narrative concerns vain, ambitious and pompous prig William Cormack, born in Newfoundland to a Scots family. Believing he is doing her, himself and history a favour, Cormack has Shawnadithit, the last surviving Beothuk, removed from the welcoming family home of the Peytons into his own care so he can extract information about her doomed tribe.
Their stories are equal parts historical fact and flights of fancy, and the writing … paints a bleak, beautiful picture of a land where a person can resemble “a fish washed up on rock” and houses are painted “fog-burning yellow.”
Each narrative is compelling in its own way: Nonosa’s story is unashamedly florid, for example, while Shanawdithit’s, as told through the eyes of Cormack, is a stark history of genocide.
Major’s research seems thorough, and its use supple, as he constructs the various formats of these texts, which animate the novel — as does the fact that the characters sometimes dismiss them as unrealistic. It is fun to see Major play with this structure of books-within-books.
This novel, engaging both Major’s narrative skill and his interest in provincial history, makes for his strongest work in years — which is saying something.
Buying for a book lover this holiday season? Check out our gift guide to the 10 best books for the CanLit fan on your list.
I’ve just returned from Newfoundland’s two August literary festivals — Winterset in Summer, in Eastport, Bonavista Bay and Writers at Woody Point, in Bonne Bay. They made for an exciting ten days of readings, book talks, music, food and wine. Lots to cheers about. There’s no decline in interest in the printed word, if these gatherings are any indication.
On the evening of August 13 I shared the Winterset stage with Bernice Morgan and Annamarie Beckel, for a session titled “Lost Voices”, focussing on the fictional portrayals of Shanawdithit (the last of the Beothuks, the extinct aboriginal tribe of Newfoundland).
Two days later we launched New Under the Sun, with 80+ people filling Vicky’s Café. Not bad for 10 am on a Sunday morning! Sharing in the event were my editor and publisher Marc Côté of Cormorant Books, and the publisher’s co-owner John Pugsley. The nervy part of a launch for me is always the book signing that follows, specifically remembering the names of old friends I haven’t seen in years. (Sorry about that, Alice!)
Special thanks to Richard Gwyn and the Winterset Committee for including the book launch in this year’s program. It was a great celebration. What awaits the novel only time will tell.
The Friday that followed found me on the west coast of Newfoundland, sharing the Heritage Theatre stage in Woody Point with the cheery (and very funny) Alexander McCall Smith. It was opportunity to read from four different sections of New Under the Sun, showing a range of characters and historical detail. Thanks to all who attended for your enthusiastic support.
The next morning an intrepid gang of festival goers showed up at the more intimate setting of Galliott Studios on Water Street, with readings interspersed with cappuccino and conversation.
It wasn’t all readings and literary celebration. Music is a big part of the festival in Woody Point, both as part of the formal sessions and around town in the late night hours. Here the Legion comes alive with Montreal bluesman Shane Murphy. Would that be multi-award winning Canadian author Joseph Boyden joining him on harmonica?