PEI Literary Marketplace

There is more to a books than just authors. Vital to any literary scene are the publishers, writer’s groups, periodicals, and the role of self-publishing in the modern marketplace. As with any populated area that has a strong cultural industry, Prince Edward Island has its own book-related entrepreneurs, publishing houses, and literary zines.

PEI Publishers and Resources

This entry is especially relevant due to recent news regarding the cutting of a government grant for publishers in PEI, which comes after years of related controversy.

Acorn Press

The Acorn Press – located in Charlottetown, PEI – was founded in 1994 by editor, poet, and publisher Laurie Brinklow (it has since changed hands to a new owner in 2010.) It has since become the leading publisher of Island books.  Acorn Press has the goal and mandate of publishing work by Islanders and for Islanders. This attitude applies not only to the writers, but artists as well; Acorn Press employs PEI visual artists for book covers and children’s books illustrations.

Since Acorn’s first book back in 1994 – An Island Christmas Reader by David Weale – Acorn has published over fifty titles, including poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books. Acorn’s stable of authors includes Poets Laureate John Smith, Frank Ledwell, and Hugh MacDonald. It has a bit of a relaxed schedule for releasing books compared to some other publishers in the Maritime region, but it shows no signs of slowing down.

Island Studies Press

Island Studies Press is the publishing arm of the Institute of Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island. While Acorn Press published predominantly fiction, this is the premiere publisher of non-fiction in PEI, largely academic in nature. While the books are rigorously peer-reviewed, they are written for a popular audience and intended for the general marketplace.

Island Studies Press also produces research reports for the Institute of Island Studies, which focuses on the culture, environment and economy of small islands. The Institute of Island Studies is a research, education, and public policy institute based at the University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Canada.

Like the Acorn Press, Island Studies Press releases a limited amount of work throughout the year and updates the news section sparingly, but this is due to the specialized area of expertise and commitment to accuracy in the work.

PEI Poetry

There’s been a lot of talk on this blog about fiction, but we’ve never really mentioned poetry. If you’re talking poetry in PEI, sooner or later you’re going to come to the topic of the Poet Laureate: a program started by the government of PEI in 2002 for the purposes of electing a poet of stature to represent PEI, assist PEI poets, and be a general spokesperson for the entire PEI poetry scene, both locally and abroad.  The first Poet Laureate was St Peters Bay native Frank Ledwell. Poet Laureates only hold the position for a few years, with the list of representatives including Diane Hicks Morrow  , Hugh MacDonald,  and David Helwig.

A large number of poetry from and relating to PEI is funneled through a website run by the Poet Laureate, Poetry PEI.  This really is your best place to start if you’re looking to get into the PEI poetry scene, especially since it includes podcasts, event listings, and important poems from the history of PEI.

PEI Independent Publishing Scene

Island writers are following a much larger trend when it comes to self-publishing. With the limited amount of literary agents in Canada that accept unsolicited manuscripts, people across the country have been turning to self-publishing and independent zines. Small publishing houses can accomplish this for independent writers, or people can turn to sites like LuLu.com for a print-on-demand option. The more technologically-oriented authors master programs like Adobe InDesign.

In a recent article by the CBC, Laurie Brinklow points out how this growing trend is uniquely affecting PEI, and how it’s set up to accommodate independent authors:

“Laurie Brinklow of Charlottetown’s Acorn Press said while it is getting easier to self-publish, it is getting harder to find a publisher willing to take on new authors, partly due to funding restrictions. Brinklow said the Canada Council for the Arts, which funds publishers like Acorn Press, is looking for very specific content.[…] As in any business, marketing is key to success. Finding a space on bookstore shelves is not a challenge in Charlottetown — two large stores dedicate space to local offerings — but selling means doing more than just making the book available.”

Movements like this always intersect with community groups and other organizations, like the Prince Edward Island Writers’ Guild. Founded in 1989 by a group of writers from different literary programs, it is an organization dedicated to promoting the growth and quality of literary arts on PEI, designed to create a formal intersection for discussion and action, and to speak periodically as one voice for the Island’s literary community.

These days, the “next big thing” is might come from a renowned publisher that has been at it for decades, or it can be from someone selling books out of the trunk of their car. As long as they have the support from retailers and the curiosity of the people, movements like self-publishing are bound to grow.

Starters Guide to PEI Authors

Who are some of Prince Edward Island’s most popular authors? If you’re new to the region or if you’re an avid reader who wants to get a feel for what Prince Edward Island literature has to say, this is the post for you.

The writing scene in PEI is relatively small, but this isn’t necessarily a drawback. What we lack in size we make up for in flavour; as limited as the scene might be, there’s a strong independent voice to it; this is what you get when you establish a scene away from the constraints of the larger publishing houses.

The first thing you need to know that the literary scene is dominated heavily by historical and cultural books (non-fiction) and has a limited, but rich, fiction resource. It should be said that due to this strong focus on cultural history in non-fiction, it bleeds into fiction as well.

If you’re new to the world of Prince Edward Island writing, here are some popular authors to check out with some links to get you reading.

David Weale

With David Weale, the popular and the eccentric meet like the ocean meeting the land.

Dr. David Weale – author of both fiction and non-fiction – is a retired professor of Canadian and Prince Edward Island history at the University of Prince Edward Island. His work focuses primarily on the history and folk tales of Prince Edward Island.

Taking the craft of storytelling to the air, he operated an award-winning CBC Radio show titled “Them Times” in the 1980’s, and has made additional appearances on the CBC shows “Tapestry” and The Gabereau Show,” both as a storyteller and a guest.

He is a member of the Shorewalkers, which can be investigated more here (shorewalkers.ca.) The group – a collective of likeminded creative – summarizes its namesake as: “The shore is a ‘thin place’ where the thick veil of ordinary consciousness, that limits our vision, becomes less opaque; a place of liberation from the constraints of ego consciousness, and of deep and joyous connectedness with others, and with all that is, or ever has been. It is, in a word, an awakening to our own depth.”

Selection of Writing:

Julie V. Watson

For a taste of the mainly non-fiction, let’s talk Julie Watson. You’ve gotta have respect for the writer who takes the business side of their craft into their own hands.

A resident of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, she is the author of more than 30 books and hundreds of articles covering a wide range of topics, most notably in the world of business and PEI history. Aside from her books on shipwrecks and ghost stories, the majority of her work can be described as positive and inspirational.

She currently owns and operates Seacroft (http://www.seacroftpei.com/), a small, independently-owned publishing house where she creates, markets, and distributes her own books. On top of that, she has hosted a number of writing workshops across Canada

“I have a strong belief in people taking control of their lives, being loyal and caring to family and friends, and finding  way to blend those things.  Part of the nurturing process for ourselves and those we love, comes down to savouring small pleasures such as food, travel, nature, exploring history.”

Selection of Writing:

Patti Larsen

Not all PEI authors need to focus their writing around a strong Prince Edward Island cultural examination or historical context. Sometimes you just want a good novel that dabbles in genre themes. Patti Larsen, like many successful writers in this day and age, is someone who grew up loving stories and got into it later in life with a lot of time to make up.

This Charlottetown, PEI author has racked up an impressive amount of work in a relatively short amount of time, so if you’re looking for a real mythology to sink your teeth into – clones, magic, and paranormal intrigue – this is where you need to go.

Also, if you’re interested in video workshops related to the craft, Patti hosts a series of Vlogs on her G+ account (https://plus.google.com/114562063418546732391/posts)

“When I turned twelve, I got my hands on my very first young adult novel, a Nancy Drew adventure. I read it rapidly, devoured it in a few short hours, my mind used to material far older and probably inappropriate for someone of my age and overactive imagination.”

Selection of Writing:

Deirdre Kessler

Based out of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Deirdre is an English teacher at University of Prince Edward Island and writer of children’s books that carry a strong maritime theme. She currently has roughly a dozen books published for children and youth which have been translated into multiple languages.

In this same vein, and following a theme in this post, she has hosted a show on CBC Radio titled “The Story Show,” directed mainly at children.

CBC and PEI writers go together pretty well, don’t they?

“Poetry is the first language. It’s closest to what is at the heart of language. To write poetry is to strip away all but what’s essential. It’s close to the bone, close to the heart, close to the core of what’s being human and what’s using language.”

Selection of Writing:

  • Afternoon Horses
  • Dreamtime
  • Exploring the Island

 

There are names that didn’t make it on this list, but rest assured we will be getting to them eventually.

Follow some of the links posted in this article and look into some of the writing selections and you’ll be well on your way to fully explore what the writing scene in Prince Edward Island has to offer.

Top 5 Essential PEI Books

Nothing reveals more about a place than its literature. Whether filled with fact or fiction, the words written about places like Prince Edward Island tell you more about the land, its people, its culture, and its values than any other means of research.

What would you recommend for visitors to Prince Edward Island?  If you had a new friend coming to visit the Island for the first time, and they wanted to read all about the Island before arriving, what would you suggest?

Certainly, the first suggestion would be about a certain red-haired girl that we all know about.  But what then?  Here are five books that we suggest would be a great place to start.  Agree or disagree, write a comment and let us know.  What would you add to the list?

It’s An Island Thing: Quips and Witticisms by David Weale

it's an island thingDavid Weale is one of the most prolific writers on PEI culture and history, and is also the editor of the very popular Red magazine.  His series of books capture the little things about Island life that make the people of Prince Edward Island a special breed, and sets them apart from everywhere else.  This book – It’s an Island Thing: Quips and Witticisms – invites the reader into a self-description of Prince Edward Island through its people.  Clever language, turns of phrase, double meanings, and witty humour are all prized aspects of Island conversation and storytelling.  This book captures some of the best lines heard around the Island, demonstrating how Islanders relate to each other.

Prince Edward Island: An Illustrated History

Prince Edward Island: An Illustrated History 1Understanding a place requires an understanding of its history, and how it arrived at where it is today.  From the Mi’kmaq pre-history through modern times, the separation of Prince Edward Island from the rest of the continent has shaped the Island’s geography and people.  A former teacher at the University of Prince Edward Island, Douglas Baldwin has captured the historic events that have shaped Prince Edward Island.  Through early Mi’kmaq settlement, European colonization, land ownership, Confederation Conference and debates, and through the opening of the Confederation Bridge, this book shows how the past of Prince Edward Island has shaped its present.

Right Place, Right Time: Sidney, Heather, Boomer, and Me

Right Place, Right Time: Sidney, Heather, Boomer, and Me 1Moving from the past to the present, it would be hard to find anyplace else in Canada that has as close a relationship with our national broadcaster than Prince Edward Island.  The faces on CBC’s nightly news program are Island celebrities.  As the main anchor, Bruce Rainnie has become a modern Island institution himself.  His nightly partnership with Kevin “Boomer” Gallant provides a cultural cornerstone for the Island that is rarely ever served by television.  Whether visiting friends or at community gatherings, don’t be surprised if you hear the question “did you see Bruce and Boomer last night?”  This collection of stories, although somewhat personal in nature, are the stories that Islanders share every day, gathered around television sets, and serve as the basis for tomorrow’s conversations.

I Am An Islander

I Am an Islander 1Patrick Ledwell has emerged in recent years as one of the top comic performers in Prince Edward Island.  Whether through his on-stage performances every summer in venues around the Island, or with his now-regular appearances on CBC radio, he introduces Island culture to the world through his dry and witty humour.  I Am An Islander, partially taken from his stand-up performances, lays out the pride, the insecurities, and the world-view of Prince Edward Islanders, all while delivering up laughs to the reader.

Shipwrecks and Seafaring Tales

Shipwrecks & Seafaring Tales of Prince Edward Island 1As a relatively small Island surrounded by the sea, it is not surprising that so much of the history and identity of PEI is taken up by water.  Up until the last few years when a fixed bridge to the mainland was finally built, shipping was the lifeline for the Island.  So, it’s not surprising that much of the Island’s lore is centered around its shipping and seafaring tales.  Julie V Watson, one of the Island’s prolific authors, has collected a number of these tales into her book on Shipwrecks and Seafaring Tales of Prince Edward Island.