Three Quick Reviews: The Women of the East Coast Literary Awards

Last week, the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia announced the winners of their annual East Coast Literary Awards for published works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

As always, a batch of fine contenders were shortlisted. As almost always in the publishing world, most of the shortlisted books and all of the winning titles were written by men.

Now, I’m sure the WFNS judged on merit alone. I’m not questioning their process or the literary skills of the winning authors. I would like to draw attention to still-prevalent trends in publishing, however: men publish more, are reviewed more, and win more awards.

Among the suggested reasons for this state of literary affairs:

  • Fewer women are published in literary magazines, which function as gateways to publishing contracts.
  • Women are less aggressive than men in resubmitting rejected work.
  • More women than men juggle careers, caregiving and housekeeping; writing remains a hobby, not a profession.
  • The publishing world is still male-dominated and inherently sexist.

While there is no pat explanation or quick antidote, we can—and must!—continue to read, encourage, mentor, support and celebrate women writers. More publishing deals and accolades for women will follow. This is part of our mission at Understorey Magazine.

And so, without further griping or ado, we celebrate the three fabulous women-authored books that were shortlisted for a 2014 East Coast Literary Award.

shapeFiction: The Family Took Shape by Shashi Bhat (Cormorant Books). Six-year-old Mira Acharya lives in Richmond Hill, Toronto, with her mother, older brother, Ravi, and a loose-knit community of “aunties” and “uncles.” We know Mira’s father is dead, that Ravi is in special ed, and that her mother is quietly unraveling. Throughout her childhood, and into her teens and early adulthood, Mira must reconcile chance and will, parts of life she can control and those she has been dealt. In doing so, Mira grapples with death, ethnic and immigrant identity, mental illness, sex, self image, and the bonds of family.

hookingPoetry: Hooking by Mary Dalton (Véhicule Press/Signal Editions). Hooking is a book of centos, a poetic form in which lines from other poems are woven—or hooked—into new literary works. In Hooking, her fifth collection, award-winning poet Mary Dalton honours both the traditional craft of rug hooking and the many writers whose poems form the strands of her own. Themes of handiwork and creativity run through the book: “Cloth,” “Brush-Stroke,” “Braid,” “Cross-Stitch.” And like a rug hooked from scraps of saved cloth, there is overall pattern and texture in Hooking—as well as sprigs of unexpected colour and curiosity.

SueGoyetteOcean[1]Poetry: Ocean by Sue Goyette (Gaspereau Press). Sue Goyette has won many literary prizes, including an East Coast Literary Award for poetry in 2012. Her latest collection, Ocean, is beautiful inside and out. The cover feels like handmade paper and a simple wave-like pattern carries readers into the book, and into the ocean. This is no ode to the sea but described instead as a biography. The fifty-six poems rock us back before ancestors salted the waters with tears, then thrust us forward to 3D ocean films and scratch-and-sniff coastal cards. As readers, as maritimers, we abide the ocean, alternately observing, acquiescing, sinking in.

A Day in My Life: Courtney Gerber

Greeted my toddler at 7:15am.

Nursed said toddler.

Nuzzled said toddler until 7:45am.

Ate breakfast.

Played, played, and played toddler-style.

Cleaned a poopy diaper.

Started to clean the shower (one tile down, quite a few damn many to go).

Rushed to the gym for a 45-minute workout. (Thank you partner for staying home with the kiddo.)

Made lunch for myself and my daughter.

Spent ten minutes trying to convince my daughter to eat.

Changed clothes.

Rode a trolley with the family.

Talked the little one off a cliff when we had to exit the trolley.

Disassembled the car seat. Washed the car seat. Vacuumed the car. Reassembled the car seat.

Registered for the neighborhood garage sale.

Wrote a gallery learning activity for a museum educator clinic I’m leading tomorrow.

Composed notes for a consulting gig I’ve got on Wednesday.

Reviewed blog pitches I submitted to a company that I’ll be speaking to on Wednesday.

Cleaned out the silverware drawer.

Finished cleaning the shower. (I’m really happy about this one!)

Went to the park with my family.

Gave my daughter hugs and kisses while her Dad readied her for dinner and bed.

Went to the grocery store.

Got my daughter’s daycare supplies together for the week.

Glanced at job openings.

Stressed about going to my current job.


Kissed my husband.

Read a few pages in a book.


Understorey Magazine at Word on the Street!

wots_halifax_logo_colourJoin Understorey Magazine on Saturday, September 21, 11-5, on the Halifax Waterfront for Word on the Street. We’ll have a table with copies of the magazine and exclusive (you won’t find them anywhere else) Understorey bookmarks and coasters to give away.

We are also hosting a panel of fantastic authors who will read from their new mother-centric books:

  • Elaine Lui, Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What’s a Daughter to Do? A Memoir (Sort Of).
  • Natalie Meisner, Double Pregnant: Two Lesbians Make a Family.
  • Vicky Murphy: MotherFumbler.
  • Natalie Corbett Sampson, Game Plan.

Hope to see you there!

A Day in My Life: Bethany Gladhill

Got up, had coffee, got a little girl going.

Drove across town to a friend’s to help her pack — and score some of her clothes (long story).

Came back, entertained said little girl and visiting 15-year-old Russian foreign exchange student staying with us.

Weeded parts of the back yard.

Attempted to put in a new bar top, found it slightly too big.

Spackled gouge in wall caused by said top.

Put in a load of laundry.

Obsessively checked email for responses to a few client questions.

Emailed out another question.

Posted a challenge on a neighborhood board.

Watched girls swim.

Ran dishwasher.

Delivered exchange student to her next place.

Picked up a few things at the other house (longer story).

Emailed a potential upholsterer.

Discovered a great new blog!

Now off to a circus show.

A Day in My Life: Annette Sawers

Husband away on business trip, seems my brain has turned to mush!

Not very sleepy tonight; must be the 13 hours sleep I had. (Sore hip, took two codeine instead of two aspirin. Mental note: must move bottles to two different locations.)

Found my keys, after looking everywhere, and the house is cleaner as I cleaned while I looked for them. Does seem I am the messy one in this marriage; keeping that to myself.

Found keys on my desk in my office, so maybe I am not going batty. But then again, found my cell that I dropped in the driveway on my journey from studio to house, less than a two-minute stroll, and my glasses that were missing for days on the lawn–must have been when I went to feed the fish. Talking of which, have not seen the fish for days. Bloody hell, don’t say I have lost them too….