CanLit in a Yukon cabin and on the street
Canada Council has a long history of supporting Canadian writing.
This has its most visible expression in the form of grants to
writers and publishers. But it covers the full spectrum of the
writing art, from conception to publication. One recent example
of support to the act of creation is the Berton House Writers
Retreat in Dawson City, Yukon. The Retreat, established in 1996,
is a unique opportunity for writers to give concentrated time
to their writing, in a setting of unparalleled beauty. The retreat
is the childhood home of veteran Canadian writer Pierre Berton.
This past year the Council announced a three-year partnership
to support the writers' residency.
Berton House Retreat gives professional writers a living space
to concentrate on their fiction, non-fiction, plays, poetry or
journalism. Writers also give readings in both Whitehorse and
Dawson City. Participating writers have included Russell Smith,
Audrey Thomas, Suzanne Harnois and Steven Heighton. Vancouver
writer Luanne Armstrong said, For years I've had three jobs
- raising a family, writing and working at whatever part-time
job I had
. [Then] a kindly Providence provided me with three
months of peace, quiet and security. Or, in the words of
three-time Governor General's Award-winner Pierre Berton, the
most precious of assets, uninterrupted time.
providing important seed money to Canadian writers, the Council
also works to promote that writing to new and established audiences.
In the last several years, it has launched a number of innovative
programs to bring Canadian writing to wider audiences. The most
visible of these is its poetry-in-transit projects, now found
in over 15 cities across the country. This unique poetry 'publishing'
program, a joint undertaking with local arts boards and transit
authorities, brings poetry to millions of commuters daily. In
a partnership with CBC and Air Canada, the Council also launched
a national competition for writers of short stories, poems and
travel articles. Winning entries are broadcast on CBC Radio and
Radio-Canada, and published in Air Canada's en Route magazine.
The total combined audience is 1.3 million.
new initiatives complement the traditional assistance provided
to book festivals, salons des livres and other literary
events across the country among them Word on the Street,
Canadian Children's Book Week, Aboriginal Words on Wheels, Idélire
in B.C., Blue Metropolis and the Vancouver Island Children's Book
Festival. Each year, the Council supports some 4,000 readings
in communities big and small.
CanLit surfacing all over
literature's popularity internationally (Margaret Atwood's Booker
Prize, Alistair McLeod's IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, Nelly Arcan's
shortlisting for the Prix Femina and Nancy Huston's shortlisting
for the Prix Femina and the Prix Goncourt, etc.) is only part
of the success story of CanLit abroad. Export sales of Canadian
books have grown 300 per cent in five years. And the demand for
translations of Canadian books has never been higher. Last year,
the Council gave out nearly 100 grants, totaling $306,000, to
publishers of Canadian literature in translation. The program,
run jointly with the Department of Foreign Affairs, was most popular
last year in Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the Czech Republic,
Germany and Bulgaria, with Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Hungary,
Japan, Mexico and the Russian Federation also figuring on the
most wanted list.