The shortlist for the 2018 Atlantic Book Awards was announced on Monday at a press conference at city hall.
The Atlantic Book Awards, which are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, are annual awards given out to authors across Atlantic Canada. The categories encompass several genres, including fiction, narrative non-fiction, and children’s literature.
Joan Baxter topped the shortlist this year, receiving four nominations for her book The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest.
“That girl gets around,” joked author Donna Morrissey, who announced the nominations alongside co-host Alexander MacLeod.
Baxter said she feels “overwhelmed” at having been nominated for so many awards.
“I know some of the other books in those categories. I feel really honoured to be in the company of those books,” she said.
Stickers are put on the books that win an award, and provide a way for Atlantic Canadian authors to gain more attention for their work.
According to Baxter, it can be tricky for Atlantic Canadian authors to get national recognition. She was told there were four copies of The Mill, which takes place in Nova Scotia, in the Toronto library system—but 70 holds. And she doesn’t see big bookstores in that region carrying her book, either.
“I think it’s actually a story that’s relevant to all Canadians, because it’s a microcosm of what’s going on on the planet,” she said.
Quentin Casey, who was nominated for his book The Sea Was in Their Blood, also said that it can be hard for Atlantic Canadian writers to be noticed beyond the region they’re from, or writing about. But he also said that having a publisher who puts a lot into marketing helps. His publisher, Nimbus, took him and several other authors to a book conference in New York to promote their work.
At the New York event, they were “overshadowed” by bigger names, like Stephen King and Hilary Clinton.
“But just putting in that effort by a regional publisher I think shows a lot about how they’re trying really hard to get our stuff to a broader audience,” he said.
Three of the Atlantic Book Awards used to be given out solely by the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia but this year will fall under the umbrella of the Atlantic Book Awards. One of those is the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, one of the most prolific fiction awards in the Atlantic provinces, which comes with an award value of $25,000.
Carol Bruneau, who won the award in 2000 and is nominated for it again this year, says winning it gives authors “a wonderful boost.”
“People think of the Governor General’s Award, and the Giller Prize, which are Central Canada. And then we have ours, the Raddall award, and it’s enormous,” she said.
Bruneau added that winning the Thomas Raddall award can help appeal to those who won’t read a book if it hasn’t won something.
“It benefits the whole book community, it really does,” she said.
The Atlantic Book Awards are part of the Atlantic Book Festival, which takes place this year from May 2-10. The final gala, where the winners are announced, will be held in Paul O’Regan Hall at Halifax Central Library at 7 p.m. on May 10th.