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Will not forget both laughter and tears: Book launch

We enjoyed a wonderful, well-attended event on April 3 to celebrate the publication of Will not forget both laughter and tears, Yukari Meldrum’s translation of Tomoko Mitani’s Wasurenai, warai mo namida mo. Things went beautifully, due to contributions from many people.

East Asian Studies helped with the venue, publicity, and organization. The Prince Takamado Japan Centre supplied both financial and technical aid: it was due to their contributions that we had such fabulous catering. Yukari really appreciated all of Barbara’s support with our inaugural Skype connection, allowing Tomoko to join the conversation with the large crowd. Peter Midgley and Colleen Skidmore from the U of A Press sold books with flair.

The person who did the most, of course, was Yukari herself. She developed the program, ensured that the technical aspects were well covered, delivered a terrific presentation, and acted as Tomoko’s translator. Multi-talented!

The evening was particularly special to the U of A Press staff in attendance, as it was our first opportunity to interact with Tomoko Mitani, author of Will not forget both laughter and tears. As much as we have enjoyed publishing and promoting her book in translation, there is nothing like that personal connection.

Thank you, one and all, for your efforts and support.


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You Haven’t Changed a Bit Launch at Audreys

The You Haven’t Changed a Bit launch last night at Audreys Bookstore attracted more than 50 enthusiastic short story lovers. Friends, family, and colleagues came out in support of Astrid Blodgett, who read her award-winning story, “Ice Break,” that was chosen for the Journey Prize Stories in 2012.

As ever, the wonderful owners and staff at Audreys were gracious hosts, providing a space full of books, chairs, and even a microphone for Astrid to make sure that everybody would hear her softer voice. The fun continued after the reading, with people enjoying wine and cheese and chocolate while Astrid signed book after book after book.

Richard Van Camp wasn’t able to make it to the launch last night, but he has finished reading the book and sent some enthusiastic words our way:

“Astrid Blodgett explores lives in flashpoint and innocence meeting regret forever in “You Haven’t Changed a Bit” (University of Alberta Press).  My favourite stories are ‘New Summer Dresses’ and ‘Ice Break.’ What a read. Congratulations, Astrid, on a collection I’ll be thinking of for a very long time. :)”

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Game Plan Launch at City Hall

The launch of Karen Wall’s Game Plan: A Social History of Sport in Alberta during LitFest on October 22 in the grand foyer of Edmonton’s City Hall was a great success. The event, titled “From Hoop Skirts to Hoops,” attracted more than 70 curious participants eager to learn about the evolution of women’s sport in Alberta. Three members of the U of A’s Pandas—Anneka Bakker, Megan Wickstrom, and Kelly Lyons—were there to MC the event.

In addition to Karen Wall’s talk about women’s sport in Alberta, M. Ann Hall gave a presentation about the famous Edmonton Grads and their impact on the City of Champions. Her book, The Grads Are Playing Tonight! was also available for sale. Athlete Doreen Ryan—a track and field champion, basketball player, and speed skater—was on hand to share her experiences of how it was to compete back in the 1940s.

Both books are filled with interesting and important bits of information—we highly recommend them!

Thank you to all who made this event such a great success:

  • To Ann and Karen for saying “yes” to this event and bringing their knowledge and passion to the program.
  • To David Chereos for bringing his vision to LitFest and setting the groundwork for a very successful event.
  • To Pam Brierley, Cheryl Mahaffy and Theresa Agnew and all of the other wonderful LitFest volunteers for all their hard work.
  • To the Pandas and their coach, who brought elite athleticism and energy to the evening.
  • To Doreen Ryan, for attending and allowing us to salute her excellence and achievements.
  • To Donna Hateley and her colleagues from the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum for bringing a special display and adding so much to the discussion.
  • To the Provincial Archives of Alberta for supporting LitFest in general and this event in particular.
  • To the City of Edmonton for providing the glorious foyer as a backdrop as well as the expert staff and matériel.
  • To La Persaud Bistro for the beautiful and delicious trays of food.
  • To Audreys Books for organizing all of the books for LitFest and supporting Edmonton’s cultural life in so many ways.

And of course to the wonderful people who came to celebrate sport and our authors.

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Sad News from Gail Greenwood

We are saddened to lose one of our most cherished independent booksellers, Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe. Here, owner Gail Greenwood says goodbye and thank you.


Hello Booklovers,

Today I’m deeply saddened to announce that our last day of business will be Saturday, October 6th, 10 AM – 4 PM. (I wanted to extend professional courtesy and respect to David Suzuki and Jeff Rubin while selling tickets for their event on Wednesday, October 3rd – now sold out!).

My decision to close was precipitated by the recent death of my brother and business partner, Brad. He skillfully managed all store affairs and guided me on so many occasions. He was my rock.

So many thanks:

  • To all the authors we hosted for so many varied events and signings – You helped put us on the map and kept us there.
  • To all my sales reps – You were our lifeline to publishers and your hard work gave us so many opportunities.
  • To all my booksellers past and present (Scott, Karen, Tania, Kirt, and Renee) – You have been the wind beneath my wings, especially through this difficult time for all of us.
  • MOST OF ALL, to Edmonton booklovers – It has been my pleasure and privilege to have built so many relationships and to have been your bookstore of choice.

Thank you. Thank you for 33 years of wonderful support. It was a great ride and I will cherish it always.


Alberta Book Awards, 2012 Edition

The 2012 Alberta Book Awards were better than ever, with over 200 people in attendance. What a tremendous showing from the literary community! Jackie Flanagan’s keynote speech was the perfect start to the evening, delivered with emphasis, empathy, and emotion. Her talk about F.M. Salter, father of Alberta letters, and her well-expressed views on the importance of culture and literacy received a warm reception.

It went on to be a particularly stellar night for Alberta’s university presses. The University of Alberta Press had a hand in four of the award-winning projects:

  • Alice Major won the Wilfrid Eggleston Award for her remarkable book, Intersecting Sets. It was doubly sweet, coming on the heels of a phone call telling her that one of her essays from the book had won a Gold award in the National Magazine Awards. “Ultraviolet Catastrophes” was published in a special joint issue of The New Quarterly and Arc Poetry Magazine.
  • Susan McCaslin came all the way from Victoria, BC to win the inaugural Robert Kroetsch Award for Poetry for her book, Demeter Goes Skydiving. And surely Robert was sitting beside Susan and Kath MacLean, who recently won WordFest’s Anne Green Award, cheering them on.
  • Ann Hall’s marvelous book, The Grads Are Playing Tonight!, won the Trade Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award. This was a tough award for us, as two other UAP titles were in the running. Our hearts were in our mouths and our hearts were on our sleeves, thrilled for the one author and bleeding for the other two.
  • It was heart-warming to hear the whoops and congratulatory susurration as Peter Midgley’s name was called. He took home the Lois Hole Award for Editorial Excellence for his work with Jalal Barzanji, on The Man in Blue Pyjamas. Jalal, his wife Sabah and daughter Niga were in the audience.

Sarah Carter and Patricia McCormack won the Scholarly and Academic Book Award for Recollecting: Lives of Aboriginal Women of the Canadian Northwest and Borderlands, published by Athabasca University Press. This is another remarkable book from topnotch scholars. (UAP and AUP co-published Sarah Carter’s award-winning book The Importance of Being Monogamous in 2008).

The University of Calgary Press was named Publisher of the Year. Our director, Linda Cameron, as President of the Book Publishers Association of Alberta (BPAA) and winner of the award last year, had the honour of handing the trophy to Donna Livingstone and her gifted team. NeWest Press, another crowd favourite, was runner-up for its consistently excellant work.

A highlight of the evening was seeing Wayne Arthurson take home $10,000 for the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award, sponsored by the Edmonton Public Library, for his book, Fall From Grace.

Alan Brownoff was pleased to see two talented peers take home design awards: Natalie Olsen of Kisscut Design for House of Spells by Robert Pepper-Smith and our colleague Marvin Harder for Three-Persons and the Chokitapix by Allen Ronaghan.

As Jannie Edwards said in her moving acceptance speech for the James H. Gray Award for Short Nonfiction, “It takes a tribe to create a writer.” And the tribe was in full evidence to celebrate Fred Stenson for his work as he accepted the WGA’s Golden Pen Award, and founding board member of NeWest Press, Diane Bessai, who was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by the book publishing industry. That tribe will be out in force as its members ponder the sudden and deep cuts to the Literary Press Group (LPG), a not-for-profit association of Canadian literary book publishers, whose mandate is to foster the survival, growth and maintenance of Canadian owned and operated publishing houses through advocacy and group initiatives.

It takes several tribes to bring off such a fabulous event. Our thanks to:

We can’t begin to describe all the wonderful moments; if you weren’t able to come this year, be sure to plan on being part of the gathering in Edmonton next spring, when we come together once again to celebrate writers, creators, designers, and publishers.

Three American Association of University Presses (AAUP) Awards for Design

Family Day Weekend started with a bang with some terrific news. On Friday, we received news that three University of Alberta Press titles had won design awards from the prestigious AAUP Book, Journal & Jacket Show.

Of 281 books submitted, only 46 books and journals are included in this year’s show. For covers, there were 272 entries, with only 41 chosen.

This year, the jurors selected three books designed by our designer, Alan Brownoff. The first was for Book Design in the category of Poetry and Literature, for Rudy Wiebe: Collected Stories, 1955–2010. The Measure of Paris by Stephen Scobie and Too Bad by Robert Kroetsch both won for Jackets & Covers.

The work of the following three artists was used on these covers: Alejandro Magallanes, Brassaï, and Vivian Thierfelder. The University of Alberta Press is deeply appreciative of their work.

For the first time, almost all of the Canadian university presses are represented in the AAUP Book, Journal & Jacket Show. The University of Alberta Press believes design is one of the ways a publisher can add value to a book. Clearly, other Canadian university presses agree!

Alan is one of the judges for the Alcuin Awards for Book Design in Canada once again. Judging is in March, with winners announced in April on their website.

Congratulations to the authors of these marvelous books, and, of course, to Alan. Well done!

Indies. We love ‘em.

Gail Greenwood and Linda Cameron.

The University of Alberta Press relies upon its bookselling colleagues and comrades for events and handselling of our special books.

The U of A Bookstore has been tremendously supportive over the years, showcasing our authors’ works and even giving us some space for an office for our shipper/receiver.

In previous years, we’ve done many events with independent booksellers, particularly Audreys Books, Pages on Kensington, and McNally Robinson. One of my favourite events at Audreys was the launch of The Measure of Paris. Stephen Scobie was in Edmonton, from Victoria, and we made a splash with a wonderful reading and madeleines from the Duchess Bake Shop.

This spring, we did two poetry events at Greenwoods. We are looking forward to working with Gail again this fall, for the Edmonton launch of Rudy Wiebe’s forthcoming book, Rudy Wiebe: Collected Stories, 1955-2010. The Calgary launch will be at Pages on Thursday, November 4. What fun we will have!

Celebrating The Beginning of Print Culture in Athabasca Country

Thursday, June 24, 2010, Provincial Archives of Alberta:

And what a celebration!

Arok Wolvengrey, Naomi McIlwraith, Patricia Demers, and Dorothy Thunder

Arok Wolvengrey, Naomi McIlwraith, Patricia Demers, and Dorothy Thunder

The Beginning of Print Culture in Athabasca Country cover image

The Beginning of Print Culture in Athabasca Country

This book has been a long time in the making and never would have made it without the talent and devotion of many people. A book that brings together several traditions, talents, and texts really wanted a launch celebration just as diverse.

Lonny Potts of Thundering Spirit Cultural Society leads us through  the smudge ceremony.

Lonny Potts of Thundering Spirit Cultural Society leads us through the smudge ceremony.

After a brief welcome, our Master of Ceremonies, Vice Provost Jonathan Schaeffer, wasted no time in ushering us outdoors for the smudge ceremony. Sadly, Elder Bob Cardinal could not make it. So with humility and a light heart, Lonny Potts of the Thundering Spirit Cultural Society adroitly led the smudge ceremony. Father Jim Holland from Sacred Heart Parish of the First Nations led a prayer before we headed back inside. The Thundering Spirit Cultural Society then performed a bracing Honour Song.

Thundering Spirit Cultural Society performs an Honour Song

Honour Song performed by Thundering Spirit Cultural Society--Dalton Potts, Leo Paskemin, Rocky Morin, Lonny Potts, and Cec Thunder

Dr. Schaeffer thanked Linda Tsang, Director of the Living Communities division of the Royal Alberta Museum, for allowing us to display Father Grouard’s press and Samantha Kelly at the Museum for clearing the path for all arrangements. He also thanked the Provincial Archives, the superb assistance of Jessica King, and the support at every turn of the Oblate Archivist, Diane Lamoureux.

Master of Ceremonies Jonathan Schaeffer

Master of Ceremonies Jonathan Schaeffer

Acting Dean of Native Studies Gurston Dacks

Acting Dean of Native Studies Gurston Dacks

He acknowledged Lewis Cardinal, Federal NDP Candidate for Edmonton Centre, and Arok Wolvengrey, Professor of Linguistics at the First Nations University in Regina. Professor Wolvengrey, co-author of the invaluable dictionary Cree: Words, supplied the foreword to the text. He also contributed expert and generous guidance for the translating team.

Arok Wolvengrey

Arok Wolvengrey

Dr. Schaeffer then congratulated The University of Alberta Press, under the direction of Linda Cameron, for championing this innovative study of the emergence of print culture and the bonds between the Cree people and the Oblate missionary project in Northern Alberta.

Dorothy Thunder

Dorothy Thunder

Naomi McIlwraith

Naomi McIlwraith

The translation of this text has been a collaborative effort, involving a Cree-language specialist from the Faculty of Native Studies, Dorothy Thunder, a poet who writes in both Cree and English, Naomi McIlwraith, and a professor of English, Patricia Demers. Dr. Schaeffer invited the contributors to say a few words.

Patricia Demers

Patricia Demers

Thanks were lavished on friends, family, and colleagues near and far. Special thanks was extended to designer Jason Dewinetz who laid out this rare trilingual text with facility and style.

The formal proceedings ended with a Closing Song by the Thundering Spirit Cultural Society and a prayer by Father Holland. We adjourned to the gallery to view Father Grouard’s press, buy books, have them signed, eat, drink, and visit.

Special thanks go to UAP author and Professor Emeritus, Douglas Barbour, for inventing the doug—a little almond cookie slathered in maple syrup butter. We had terrific fun salvaging this decadent “dip” from a disappointing batch of bannock. Thundering Spirit Cultural Society and our hosts from the archive even partook! Many dougs were enjoyed, even after their primogenitor headed for home.

The doug

Drummers from Thundering Spirit and friends enjoying a tasty doug.

Thanks too to Earle Waugh, who will bring display copies of The Beginning of Print Culture in Athabasca Country to Lac La Biche in time for their centennial celebrations July 2–4.

Paul Hjartarson introduces Robert Kroetsch

Paul Hjartarson’s apt words welcome a master wordsmith and narrator at Grant MacEwan’s The Future of Story Conference, February 6, 2010:

What a fascinating conference this has proved! As Peter mentioned, I am a professor in English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. The Future of the Story conference combines two of my abiding interests: storytelling and remediation, that is, the interaction of old and new media.  A colleague, Kristine Smitka, and I put together a panel on remediation for a book history conference held in Toronto last June, so I have listened here with considerable interest to presentations and discussions about how new media are reshaping storytelling. My congratulations to Scot Morrison and Sherrell Steele on a most successful conference.

Studhorse Men Robert Kroetsch & Paul Hjartarson

Studhorse Men Robert Kroetsch & Paul Hjartarson

When I first heard about the MacEwan conference on storytelling, I was intrigued by the apparent premise. I knew that newspaper and book publishing were in trouble; and last year, like many of you, I watched stock markets tumble as bank after bank in the U.S. came up empty.  This year, closer to home, again like many of you, I witnessed the collapse of the Oilers (and given the presence here of Aretha and others Calgarians, one might add the Flames). But I had no idea story itself was in trouble. February is mid-season break month in the NHL, a time when sports casters and columnists, like some politicians, recalibrate—when they worry team and player stats, when talk show hosts feast on injury reports and trade rumors, when complaints about the Oilers or the Flames leaves little room in day-to-day discourse for either politics or, heaven help us, the weather.

But how does one fashion a rescue package for the story, put together a trade big and smart enough to get Team Story out of the league basement? The U.S. banking crisis needed its Ben Bernanke, recently reappointed for a second term as Chair of the Federal Reserve; and the Oilers, as most fans will tell you, needed a change of coaching staff and turned to Pat Quinn and Tom Renney. For those intent on fashioning a game-changing trade for Team Story, a trade certain to propel it to story’s equivalent of the Stanley Cup final, a trade that might leave even Don Cherry speechless, I have just two words: Robert Kroetsch. You’ve got to like this fellow. He has forty-five years in the league, for the majority of which he has worn the captain’s jersey. As a storyteller, he is light on his feet and well-known as a play maker, appearing out of nowhere to make the breakout pass:

the gone stranger
the mysterious text
the necessary
transfer (“The Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof”)

Kroetsch stickhandles words with more skill than Gretzky handles the puck—and that’s saying something. He’s been named to the all-star team countless times, has represented Canada at international events more often than hockey’s “Mr. Canada,” Ryan Smyth, and he has the hardware to prove it: he is a Governor-General’s Award winner, a member of the Royal Society and an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Stats. Okay, okay, I know you need stats. (“Talk’s cheap,” my grandpa reminded me on more than one occasion, “whiskey costs money.”) Stats I’ll give you, but you need to know upfront that stats alone won’t tell the whole story. What you need to know is this: whether Kroetsch is on the ice or behind the bench, he invariably proves a game changer, whether he’s co-founding boundary 2: a journal of postmodern literature (1972) with Bill Spanos or elaborating the “elegant grammar of delay,” the gap between language in narrative, in Field Notes. Some critics have opined that Kroetsch doesn’t always finish his checks or make the obvious play. His stats sheet, though, tells another story.  “Hearing the silence of the world, the failure of the world to announce meaning,” he remarked in an essay some years ago, “we tell stories” (“Beyond Nationalism: A Prologue”). And tell stories, including tall tales, he has—not only in award-winning novels and in innovative books of poetry but in ground-breaking essays and in any number of interviews. Kroetsch has published no less than nine novels, from But We Are Exiles (1965), The Words of My Roaring (1966) and The Studhorse Man (1969)—widely recognized as a game changer—to The Puppeteer (1992) and The Man From the Creeks (1998). He is also the author of thirteen books of poetry, from The Stone Hammer Poems (1976) and Seed Catalogue (1977)—another game changer, surely—to The Snowbird Poems (2004) and the book launched here today, Too Bad: Sketches Toward a Self Portrait. In the off- season he has published at least eight other books, from Alberta (1968) and The Crow Journals (1980) to The Lovely Treachery of Words (1989), A Likely Story (1995), and Abundance: The Mackie House Conversations about the Writing Life (2007).

As Kroetsch’s essays and interviews attest, he is, like Montreal Canadiens’ goalie Ken Dryden, not only an all-star player but a gifted analyst of the game of storytelling. Kroetsch’s writing ranks among the most sustained, the most profound and the most layered excavations—an archaeology, one might say—of story, its relation to myth, to narrative, and to audience (among other things) produced in Canada, indeed, anywhere in the English-speaking world in the past century. That’s not a small claim and certainly not a claim I make lightly: it is truly a remarkable body of work. As an epigraph to the poem “Mile Zero” Kroetsch includes the following passage from Ken Dryden’s book-length analysis of hockey titled simple The Game. Kroetsch includes the passage because it applies no less to storytelling than to hockey. “Hockey,” Dryden remarks,

is a transition game: offence to defence, defence to offence, one team to another. Hundreds of tiny fragments of action, some leading somewhere, most going nowhere. Only one thing is clear. Grand designs don’t work.

Oilers head coach Pat Quinn knows that practitioners of his game need to be light on their feet. Playful. Storytelling is no different. If the Oilers’ top two lines could match Kroetsch step for step, could stickhandle the puck with the skill he brings to words, the Edmonton Oilers would be a high-speed train to the Stanley Cup final.

You know, I am sure, the story of the Oilers’ biggest hockey trade and of Gretzky’s tears. Student of the game that he is, Kroetsch reminds us of another, all but forgotten story: that Montreal Canadiens’ goalie-turned-forward Howie Morenz proposed to the painter Emily Carr in the midst of scoring a goal. (Now that’s a story we must never forget.)

Morenz makes a breakaway down the ice.
He fakes to the left; he draws out the goalie.
He stops. He blushes and says, to all
of the Montreal Forum: Emily Carr, I love you. (“Advice to My Friends”)

(The veteran storyteller here playing off Foster Hewitt’s trademark, “He shoots, he scooooooresss.”) Kroetsch also recounts the story of the subsequent wedding. Among the guests is poet bp nichol, who has this advice for the hockey star and groom Howie Morenz:

Work on your line, bp quip (he is wearing
his Buddha shirt) when introduced to the
famous hockey player by Miss Carr (who will retain
her maiden name). Keep it edgy.

Certainly this latest book, Too Bad: Sketches Toward a Self Portrait, demonstrates that Kroetsch himself continues to work on his line, to keep it edgy, to practice what in this poem bp preaches, and thus to live up to the nickname fellow storytellers long ago gave him. Please join me in welcoming to the face-off circle Robert Kroetsch.

Thank-you Paul for this exhilarating speech!

The Annual Inventory Count at UAP

We recently survived another formal inventory count at the U of A warehouse (SMS). We go over once a year and make our colleagues’ lives miserable. So we thought we’d take a cake with us.

The cake had the cover of Too Bad on it, because some of the guys enjoyed the fact that here was a book with a picture of a guy looking down his pants. We thought it was all too appropriate, given that it is “too bad” that we had to get all of our books down off of many racks.

Our colleagues at SMS, Paul and Joe, were absolutely marvelous. They practically drove the forklifts out of juice (one is the Cadillac of forklifts – the red one).

They were made particularly miserable by our penchant for amalgamating boxes onto pallets that were almost empty. Paul was very concerned, but I swore that I had kept perfect notes and would email them to him right away. Of course, it’s more paperwork for him: mea culpa!

The whole team turned up for the morning to help count. Always an exercise in team-building, and once again was a major change from our usual routine.

Sharon, Mike, Mary Lou, and Jeff were the "early birds."

UAP staff in action.

There were some fun moments: Drew suggested we learn how to make campfires from a 9-volt battery and steel wool. Jeff took a relaxation break on another pallet, which didn’t look particularly comfortable!

The staff of the University of Alberta Press would like to thank all of our colleagues for their support and hard work. We couldn’t do it without you.

Hope you enjoyed the cake!


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