Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like "Crumbfest" . . .

"Crumbfest" is what the mice call Christmas in David Weale's classic story The True Meaning of Crumbfest. Recipient of the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children's Literature, Crumbfest is the tale of Ekhart, a young mouse, and his family. As winter approaches, the mice are forced to leave the bountiful natural world for the shelter of a farmhouse, where pickings are slim. The adult mice start talking about something called "Crumbfest," but Eckhart thinks it's all hooey. Until . . .

"The mystery of Crumbfest is the mystery of the Outside and the Inside. When the Outside comes in and the Inside comes out, it is a special time, for when the Outside and the Inside meet, Crumbfest happens."


Listen to an excerpt from Rattling Books' unabridged audio book version of The True Meaning of Crumbfest. Antonia Francis, who was five years old when she narrated Crumbfest, won an AudioFile Earphones Award for her performance. The True Meaning of Crumbfest is available as an audio book CD or an MP3 audio book download.

Canadian audiobooks produced by Rattling Books in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ron Hynes Documentary at Empire Theatres, St. John's, Newfoundland, December 2

The Man of a Thousand Songs, a documentary film about legendary Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Hynes, will be showing for one night this week at seven Empire Theatres across Atlantic Canada. If Hynes' songs make you want to know more about the man who wrote them, take a trip to the Avalon Mall in St. John's this Thursday to see William MacGillivray's intimate portrait of Hynes' rich and rocky life.

MacGillivray used something Hynes' calls a "limbo box" for the three-day interview that comprises the film's core. The result? "When Hynes opens up about his life to the camera with warm but haunted blue eyes, the film digs into an uncomfortable darkness that regular interviews can rarely reach." (National Post)

Read what The Toronto Star, Hynes and MacGillivray have to say about The Man of a Thousand Songs.


Everyone knows Ron Hynes can sing, but there's a strong and sensitive narrator in there too. If you'd like to hear that side of Hynes, click here to listen to a sample from Hard Light, in which the Man of a Thousand Songs, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings and Michael Crummey read thirty-two "little stories" by Crummey. Hard Light: 32 Little Stories is available from Rattling Books as an audio book CD or MP3 audio book download.

Death on the Ice, Cassie Brown's iconic book about the 1914 Newfoundland sealing disaster, also narrated by Ron Hynes, is currently in the Rattling Books works. Stay tuned . . .


The Man of a Thousand Songs also features Joel Thomas Hynes, Ron's literary nephew. Like his uncle, Hynes the Younger is multi-talented: follow this link for samples of Hynes' work for Rattling Books, which includes his own writing and also the skillful presentation of works by other fine authors, available as MP3 audio book downloads, audio book CDs and MP3 audio book CDs.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Best-selling Author Simon Winchester Live Interview, St. John's, Newfoundland, November 26

Simon Winchester, OBE, British journalist, broadcaster and author, will be talking about his latest book, Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, in St. John's, Newfoundland on November 26, during an onstage interview at the Johnson Geo Center Reception Hall with Angela Antle, host of CBC Radio's Weekend Arts Magazine. (The interview begins at seven o'clock; admission is free.)

Winchester, "one of those maddeningly gifted British writers who could probably write the history of mud and make it fascinating" according to a review by the Washington Post of his new book (click here to read the review), travelled the Atlantic Ocean from north to south and east to west in the process of writing Atlantic.

Having studied geology at Oxford University, Winchester likely could make mud fascinating; he made it rather fetching in his 2003 bestselling book about a volcano, Krakatoa.

Oceans are already fascinating, but Winchester's book reminds us just how fascinating, and how important the Atlantic Ocean in particular has been to the history of the West. Winchester, who fell in love with the Atlantic on his first trip across it as a young man, by ocean liner, bemoans what we are doing to it these days. "There has been a steady lessening, some would say an actual abandonment, of humankind's duty of care toward it," he says.

This video features Simon Winchester talking about his novel The Man Who Loved China. (If you want to know who invented the hysterectomy, listen up.)


When it comes to the history and culture of the Atlantic, the North Atlantic anyway, Rattling Books is no slouch itself. Listen to excerpts from Sir Wilfred Grenfell's Adrift on an Ice Pan, George Allan England's Vikings of the Ice, Chris Brookes' Great Circle: The Viking Discovery of the Americas, Robin McGrath's Coasting Trade and Michael Crummey's Hard Light, available from Rattling Books as unabridged audio books (audio CD or MP3 CD format; also as MP3 downloads).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Joel Thomas Hynes Winner of Newfoundland's Cuffer Prize

Novelist, playwright and short-story writer Joel Thomas Hynes seems to be having a pretty good November. Earlier this month, the British and Irish press waxed enthusiastic about Down to the Dirt, his 2004 debut novel, which has just been released in the UK and Ireland. Last week, Hynes won the Cuffer Prize, a short story competition sponsored by St. John's newspaper The Telegram and Creative Book Publishing.

His winning entry, "Conflict of Interest," is an excerpt from a work in progress, which will be published by Beth Follett's Pedlar Press. To read Hynes' sharp glittery shard of Cuffer-awarded fiction, follow this link.

The Cuffer's second place award went to Michael Collins, also no mean hand at putting nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives exactly where they should go. Collins garnered second place for his short story "Mrs. Wakeham." Another of his stories, "The Last Islander," was shortlisted for the award.

Scene from the movie version of Down to the Dirt, with Hynes in the title role.


Cuffer judges Ramona Dearing, Joan Sullivan and Russell Wangersky thought they might have been dealing with a Hynes wannabe when they read his story. Hynes' said (tongue glued to cheek), "That was because I watched my language and peeled back some of the darkness." If you'd like to hear Hynes when he's not being shy, listen to an excerpt from Rattling Books' MP3 download of God Help Thee: A Manifesto, first published in Riddle Fence and read live by Hynes.

Rattling Books is pleased to have Michael Collins on offer as well. Listen to an excerpt from his short story "Slip," narrated by Joel Thomas Hynes. "Slip" is available as a single MP3 download, and is also featured on the MP3 audio book CD EarLit Shorts 4.


Click here to listen to Helen Porter's interview with Angela Antle on last week's Weekend Arts Magazine about Rattling Books' new audio version of her 1970s memoir Below the Bridge. Below the Bridge is the story of Porter's childhood in the 1930s and '40s on the South Side of St. John's. It is also a rich memorial to a community that disappeared: the homes and places of work of the South Side were demolished in the late '50s and early '60s to permit harbour development. In the process, the grave of Shawnadithit, the last known survivor of Newfoundland's indigenous Beothuk, was lost.

Below the Bridge, narrated by Mary Barry, is available from Rattling Books as an unabridged audio book MP3 CD or MP3 download.

Robert Chafe Wins 2010 Governor General's Award For Drama

In 2004, Newfoundland playwright Robert Chafe's Tempting Providence and Butler's Marsh were shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Drama (English). Last week, Chafe won the prestigious literary award for his stage adaptation of noted Canadian poet, short story writer and novelist Michael Crummey's short story Afterimage.

Chafe says Afterimage is an "amazing kind of spare, sad, beautiful, story about this family of outcasts who have, at their core, a little boy who is . . . not an outcast." The mother of the family, Lise Lacoeur, a nurse, has psychic powers, for which her community shuns her. The father is a burn victim, who fell in love his fortune-telling nurse. Two of their three children are also psychic. One can predict the weather and the other can see the future. One child has no powers.

Read the Montreal Gazette's interview with Robert Chafe about his GG win.

Watch this video of Artistic Fraud's performance of Afterimage, in which the actors are all wired. (For electricity, that is.)


Listen to an excerpt from Rattling Books' audio version of Michael Crummey's Hard Light: 32 Little Stories, a selection of poems based on stories told to Crummey by his father and other family members. Narrated by Crummey, Ron Hynes and Deidre Gillard-Rowlings, Hard Light is available as an audio book CD or an MP3 audio book download.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Journal Of Arts and Culture "Riddle Fence" Looking For Submissions

With about-to-be-hot-off-the-presses issue number seven, Newfoundland and Labrador's Riddle Fence celebrates its second birthday. As one of its editors notes, "We, the editors of this labour-of-love journal, have endured sleepless nights and teeth-cutting, and with jubilation witnessed a distinctive personality emerging, one that is multi-faceted and perhaps shifts issue to issue as we try to pinpoint it."

Young Riddle Fence is definitely a prodigy: although it doesn't sing and dance, its talent for literature and the visual arts are doubtlessly the envy of many older journals. (And even singing and dancing may be found in its pages, in the form of articles about musicians and votaries of Terpsichore.)

The journal's latest deadline for submissions of previously unpublished poetry, prose, creative non-fiction and artwork is December 10, 2010. For submission guidelines, click on the Riddle Fence image.

Riddle Fence interview with authors Bernice Morgan and Joan Clark.


Mark Callanan, a Riddle Fence editor, is also a talented poet, critic, novelist and narrator. Listen to an excerpt from Rattling Books' audio version of Kathleen Winter's short story "Sleep, Little Baby," narrated by Callanan. "Sleep, Little Baby" is available as an MP3 download, and it's also featured on the audio book MP3 CD, EarLit Shorts 1, which also contains short fiction by Carmelita McGrath and Joel Hynes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Don McKay, Songs for the Song of Creation

Two-time winner of a Governor General's Literary Award, winner of the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize, Member of the Order of Canada and co-founder (with Stan Dragland) of Brick Books, Don McKay has been writing and publishing some of the best eco-poetry in Canada for nearly forty years. He used to do this in places such as Ontario and British Columbia, but these days McKay is praising the natural world from Newfoundland and Labrador.

McKay has been quoted as saying his poetry is “nature poetry in a time of environmental crisis.” Here is one of McKay's superlative hymns to all things bright and beautiful:

Song for the Song of the Loon

If that’s the word:
the song’s already gone
before it’s uttered so the ear is left
full of its emptiness,
It seems the loon
opens its throat to some old
elemental wind, it seems that time
has finally found its syrinx and for a moment
lets itself be voice.
what perilous music!
Surely, like Odysseus, we ought
to stop our ears against this feral
MRI with its dreadful
diagnostic reverb?
But no, we would rather
be stricken, rather suspect
that the spirit also is a migratory species,
that it is right now flying to star river —
as the ancients called the Milky Way — that in
fact it is already there,
yodelling for no one and
ignoring us, the collectors,
with our heads full of closets,
our hearts full of ovens,
and our sad feet.


Listen to Don McKay read a poem from Songs for the Songs of Birds, which contains poems selected for Rattling Books and read by the author on the theme of birds, birding and flight. Songs for the Songs of Birds is available as an MP3 download or an audio CD.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rick Boland, CornerBoy

For many of us, the sound of Rick Boland's distinctive Townie drawl conjures up the early, heady days of theatre and film in Newfoundland. If Boland didn't make at least a cameo appearance on the boards or the celluloid, chances are whatever you were watching wasn't a local product.

A founding member of Rising Tide, Boland was also involved with the Newfoundland Travelling Theatre Company and the Mummer's Troupe. He and Mary Walsh developed the RCA Theatre Company, an early supporter of Canadian actors such as Walsh, Cathy Jones, Rick Mercer and Gordon Pinsent. Boland played the role of a revolutionary cabinet minister in Newfoundland's first full-length feature film, The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood, nominated for three Genie awards.

More than three decades later, Boland is still one of the prominent faces of Newfoundland theatre and cinema. He and Mary Walsh are currently involved in CornerBoys, a company that presents interactive theatre at historic sites in St. John's. Boland's poker face and impeccable timing, comic and otherwise, can be seen recent films and sitcoms such as The Breadmaker, The Bingo Robbers, Young Triffie’s Been Made Away With, The Republic of Doyle ("A Horse Divided") and Diverted, a made-for-TV movie about Gander's role in 9/11.

In 2008, Boland was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council's Hall of Honour for his distinguished lifetime contribution to the province's culture.

Watch this clip to see some of what's on offer by Walsh and Boland's CornerBoys Productions.


Listen to an excerpt from Rattling Books' unabridged audio edition of Robin McGrath's Coasting Trade, featuring the voice of Rick Boland. Coasting Trade, narrated by Boland, Robert Joy and Anita Best, is available as an MP3 download or an audio CD.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Canadian Author Richard Cumyn Publishes New Collection of Short Fiction

In 1991, former researcher for Canadian prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, uranium prospector, short-order cook and able seaman Richard Cumyn decided to take up writing full time. What was undoubtedly a loss to his other professions became a boon to Canadian literature: Cumyn's critically acclaimed fiction has been nominated for the Journey Prize and the ReLit Award, his nonfiction shortlisted for a National Magazine Award.

“He is one of our finest story writers,” says author Steven Heighton, “exacting, surprising, deftly attuned both to language and to character, tough-minded and large-hearted at the same time—often within the same sentence.”

Cumyn's latest collection of short fiction, The Young in Their Country (Enfield & Wizenty, 2010), was a finalist for the inaugural Colophon prize. Besides being a prolific producer of short fiction, Cumyn is also the author of an elegant jewel of a novella, The View from Tamischeira, the story of a turn-of-the-twentieth-century quest in the Caucasus Mountains, "fabled land of Argonauts, Amazons, and Cossacks." Click here to read an interview with Cumyn, in which he discusses the origins of his novella, and his own origins as a writer.

Follow this link to view Cumyn's favourite rejection letter.


Listen to an excerpt from Rattling Books' audio version of Richard Cumyn's short story "My Future in Insurance," read by Charlie Tomlinson. This story is available as a single MP3 download, and it's also featured on EarLit Shorts 3 (MP3 CD).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Anita Best At The Ottawa International Storytelling Festival, November 18-21

Newfoundland musician, singer and storyteller Anita Best will be one of the headline acts at this week's Ottawa International Storytelling Festival, along with some of the best raconteurs in Canada, Europe and the US. Best has made a career out of collecting and relating the traditional stories of Newfoundland and Labrador and singing its songs, and she will be doing both at the festival.

Watch this video of vintage Best caressing an old Irish folksong, along with former Figgy Duff band mate Pamela Morgan.

Listen to an excerpt of Anita Best reading from Rattling Books' unabridged audio version of poet Mary Dalton's award-winning Merrybegot. Click here for other Rattling Books' MP3 downloads and audio or MP3 CDs featuring Anita Best.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Andy Jones, Jack and Jesus, November 16, St. John's, Newfoundland

On Tuesday, November 16, Running the Goat Books & Broadsides will launch Andy Jones' Jack and the Manger at the LSPU Hall in St. John's. Illustrated by Darka Erdelji, who collaborated with Jones on Running the Goat's internationally acclaimed The Queen of Paradise's Garden, this Christmas "Jack tale" is both funny and poignant.

The Jack tales were originally Germanic oral stories, used for "the edification of princes." Jack is an archetypal Everyman, but in this case he is also a particular individual: Andy Jones comes through loud and clear, while maintaining the integrity of the Jack tradition. Even if you're not a prince, or a princess, there's no doubt you'll be edified by Jones' unique retelling of the Nativity story.

The launch features music by Sandy Morris and Graham Wells, and a cash bar too.



Listen to an excerpt from Rattling Books' unabridged audio edition of Andy Jones' Letters from Uncle Val. An outharbour gentleman, Uncle Val is having a difficult time adjusting to his new home in the 'burbs of St. John's. You can hear the entire story of his trials and tribulations by purchasing an MP3 download of Uncle Val, or the audio CD.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Canadian Poet John Steffler Reads The Plumber Poem

Canadian poet and novelist John Steffler, a native of Ontario, lived in Newfoundland for thirty years. The Grey Islands, Steffler’s collection of poetry written after a sojourn on an uninhabited island off the coast of Newfoundland, has been hailed as a masterpiece of Canadian wilderness writing.
Listen to an excerpt from Rattling Books' unabridged audio edition of The Grey Islands, read by the author, Frank Holden, Janis Spence, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings and Darryl Hopkins. The Grey Islands is available from Rattling Books as an MP3 download and an audio CD.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Christina Smith and Jean Hewson Play MUN's Petro-Canada Hall, November 12 and 13

This weekend, Newfoundland musicians Christina Smith and Jean Hewson are celebrating 25 years of making music together with two concerts at Memorial University's Petro-Canada Hall.

Christina Smith (left) is a classical cellist, but she's best known as a fiddler. Smith has played all over, including Japan, England, Ireland, Mexico, and the U.S. She's backed up some of the province's best musicians, including Emile Benoit, Buddy Wassisname, the Irish Descendants, Fergus O'Byrne, Jim Payne and Ron Hynes. For the past ten years, Smith has taught more than a hundred young people the music of Rufus Guinchard and Emile Benoit.

Jean Hewson (right), talented balladeer and guitar player, was a member of the now defunct folk group Barkin Kettle. Other bands Hewson has been involved in include Tuckamore, the Sub-Sisters, Strings Attached, Saddle Sorority, This Side Up and Sweet Absalone. She and Smith co-produced and arranged a critically acclaimed instrumental album, Fiddle Me This (1995).

Click here to watch a video of Smith and Hewson performing at the 2009 Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival.


Christina Smith provided the haunting music for Rattling Books' audio edition of Sir Wilfred Grenfell's Adrift on an Ice Pan. Listen to a sample from this famous saga of the missionary doctor's harrowing near escape from death in the pitiless North, narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence. Adrift on an Ice Pan is available from Rattling Books as an MP3 download and an MP3 CD.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Joel Thomas Hynes Interviewed By "The Irish Times"

The fact that schools no longer teach geography is beginning to tell. The Irish Times published an interview with Newfoundland writer Joel Thomas Hynes in its November 6 edition under the heading "Labrador Unleashed." No, that's not the title of a new Hynes' novel or play, or even a nod to his prose's Churchill Fallsian kilowatt power. For some reason, the Times reporter thought Calvert, Hynes' home town, was in Labrador.

It's a good read all the same, vintage Hynesight. Click here to go to the Times' interview.


According to The Irish Times, Joel Thomas Hynes' favourite piece of his own work is the play Say Nothing, Saw Wood. "It's about a murder that happened in my home town in 1971, and it's told through the eyes of the murderer. Now that was a really controversial thing that I did. Down to the Dirt was one thing. But dragging up that old wound was another thing altogether."

Listen to an excerpt from Rattling Books' unabridged version of Say Nothing, Saw Wood, narrated by the author. Say Nothing, Saw Wood can be purchased from the Rattling Books' web site as a single MP3 download. Follow this link to buy the MP3 CD version, featured on EarLit Shorts 1 (along with fiction from Newfoundland writers Carmelita McGrath and Kathleen Winter).

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Rebecca Rosenblum In Fall Edition Of "The New Quarterly"

Canada, which has produced two of the world's best writers of short fiction, Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant, is still serving them up hot. Toronto's Rebecca Rosenblum, whose short fiction is featured in the current issue of The New Quarterly, won the 2008 Metcalf-Rooke Award for her short story collection Once. Named one of Quill & Quire’s 2008 15 Books That Mattered, Once also got Rosenblum dubbed "Canlit Rookie of the Year" by Maclean's. Rosenblum's fiction has been short-listed for the Journey Prize, the National Magazine Awards and the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, and long-listed for the Relit Award.

For more Rebecca Rosenblum, follow this link.


Listen to excerpts from two of Rebecca Rosenblum's short stories: Christmas with My Mother, narrated by Janet Russell and The Weatherboy, narrated by Gerard Whalen. These stories can be purchased individually as downloads, and are also included on Rattling Books' EarLit Shorts 4 CD, which features a selection of stories by talented Canadian writers.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Joel Thomas Hynes' "Down to the Dirt" Given Thumbs Up By The "Guardian"

Canadian writer Joel Thomas Hynes' 2004 debut novel, Down to the Dirt, came out the clear winner in this week's review by the Guardian of three debut novels, beating out the recently released and heavily publicized Mr. Chartwell by Rebbecca Hunt.

Being published in the U.K. and coming out on top in the Guardian is the latest in a long line of successes for Down to the Dirt, which apparently has more lives than your average cat. It won the Percy Janes First Novel Award, was shortlisted for the Winterset Award and nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Award, became a play and then an award-winning film. To read what the Guardian has to say about the grunge rocker of Can Lit's initial offering, click here.


Listen to an excerpt from Rattling Books' unabridged audio version of Down to the Dirt.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Agnes Walsh Reading in Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland, November 6

Agnes Walsh, award-winning Canadian actor, poet, playwright and storyteller, will be reading in Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland, on November 6, courtesy of the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Walsh's poems have been translated into the French and Portuguese, and she has toured Canada, the eastern U.S., Portugal and Ireland, reading from her work. She is the founder of the Tramore Theatre Troupe of the Cape Shore of Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, which is dedicated to preserving and presenting the oral history of that area. In 2006, Agnes Walsh became the inaugural poet laureate of St. John's, capital city of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Walsh's latest collection of poetry is
Going Around with Bachelors, which was short-listed for the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage and History Award and the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, and long-listed for the ReLit Award.

"Going Around with Bachelors is soft-spoken, affecting, empathetic storytelling from Newfoundland, Canada's Ireland." (The Globe and Mail)


Listen to an excerpt from Rattling Books' unabridged audio version of Going Around with Bachelors, read by Agnes Walsh.

"The tone and timbre of . . . Walsh's voice seem to emanate from the heart of North America from the most ancient parts of the continent." (AudioFile magazine)

Canadian audiobooks produced by Rattling Books in Newfoundland and Labrador

Helen Fogwill Porter's "Below the Bridge"

In the war years of the last century, a young girl growing up on the South Side of St. John's, Newfoundland, said to her mother, "Wouldn't it be nice if someone wrote about the South Side?" The girl was Helen Fogwill Porter, voracious reader and aspiring author. She would become the person who "wrote about the South Side," in the Newfoundland classic Below the Bridge.

The South Side of St. John's, or "below the bridge," was a tightly knit community of families which had its own identity apart from that of the the capital city across the harbour. In the 1950s, that community was razed so the harbour could be extended. In the process, the grave of Shawnadithit, the last known survivor of Newfoundland's indigenous Beothuks, was lost. The South Side became a grave itself, of the homes and culture of the people who had lived there. But unlike Shawnadithit, the longshoremen, midwives, fortune tellers, shopkeepers, "fallen women," sailors, and housewives of the 1930s and '40s who lived on the South Side have a memorial. In Porter's Below the Bridge, you can smell the "tarry ropes," the sweat of the black horses who drew funeral processions, the Jeyes Fluid and the inevitable Sunday roast. Porter has rebuilt the demolished houses of the South Side, and she takes the reader into them, and into the rich and sometimes fantastical lives of their inhabitants.

"When Helen Porter writes of resettlement and the harbor, of war and the Dardanelles, of dream figures and death, of the Salvation Army and yeast cakes, of rowing to Fort Amherst and glowing at Fort Pepperell, her characters do not resemble those in Chatelaine or in People magazine; they are not over-painted models, pigments of the imagination; they are us. And even if their experiences are not the stuff of epics, by dissecting them free from a worldly background she portrays the fabric of a congregation, a community, a culture; the which, to define operatively, is near-genius." (Dr. William Pryse-Phillips)

Listen to an excerpt from Rattling Books' new unabridged audio version of Helen Fogwill Porter's memoir of growing up on the South Side of St. John's in the 1940s and '50s.