Perennial headline-maker Esi Edugyan is back in the news this week with word that she’s now on the shortlist for Britain’s Orange Prize, the prestigious writing prize for fiction by women. One of only six finalists—down from 20 on the longlist—Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues is proving to have real staying power, given its recent nomination for the UK’s Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction as well.The Orange Prize comes with a £30,000 purse, while the Scott nets a sweet £25,000.
For the Orange Prize, Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues is up against Cynthia Ozick’s Foreign Bodies, Madeleine Miller’s The Song of Achilles, Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz, Georgina Harding’s Painter of Silence and Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. (Patchett won the prize in 2002 for Bel Canto.)
For the Scott Prize, Edugyan is once again up against Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, who was earlier among her competition for the Man Booker Prize (won by Julian Barnes), the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award (both won by, deWitt) and the Giller (which Edugyan took home). Other competitors include Sebastian Barry’s On Canaan’s Side, Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child, Andrew Miller’s Pure and Barry Unsworth’s The Quality of Mercy.
The Orange Prize winner is announced May 30, while the Walter Scott Prize winner will be announced June 16.
In other related Department of Writing news, poetry professor Lorna Crozier will be the featured guest at a special Canadian Club evening celebrating arts and culture on April 18, as a way of honouring National Poetry Month. Rightly dubbed a national treasure, the much-lauded and much-published Distinguished Professor will be speaking and reading at this special event, which will also feature music by singer Tim Kyle and pianist Bob LeBlanc. Socializing starts at 5:30pm on April 18, with dinner at 6pm. Tickets are $35, and you can call to register at 250-370-1837.
In other National Poetry Month news, Crozier and Tim Lilburn (as well as sessional instructor Patrick Friesen and Malahat Review editor John Barton) were mentioned in this Vancouver Sun piece about the state of Canadian poetry. And noted alum Billeh Nickerson was profiled in the Sun for his new (and timely) collection of poetry, Impact: The Titanic Poems.
Associate Dean and busy editor Lynne Van Luven will be launching her latest creation, In the Flesh: Twenty Writers Explore the Body (Brindle & Glass, $24.95). Co-edited by Van Luven and Kathy Page, In the Flesh features contributions by the likes of Taiaiake Alfred, Dede Crane, Candace Fertile, Julian Gunn, Margaret Thompson, Brian Brett, Lorna Crozier plus Van Luven and Page themselves (among others).
Described as “an intelligent, witty, and provocative look at how we think about—and live within—our bodies,” In the Flesh offers a series of candid essays that allows each author to focus on one part of the body, and explores its function, its meanings, and the role it has played in his or her life.
The local launch happens at 2:30pm Sunday, April 29, at (appropriately enough) the Fernwood Yoga Den, 1311 Gladstone. Van Luven, Page and Gunn will be on CBC Radio One’s North By Northwest arts & culture show on the weekend of April 28-29 (show airs 6-9am Saturday & Sunday), and will also be on CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter with Sheilagh Rogers on May 21, with a repeat on May 26.
Writing alum Yasuko Thanh is getting good attention for her debut collection of short stories, Floating Like The Dead. She also appeared on North by Northwest—you can listen to the podcast of that interview here—and was profiled by Adrian Chamberlain in the April 22 issue of the Times Colonist, which you can read here.
Finally, the rumour mill confirms that Giller-nominated sessional instructor and short fiction writer John Gould is involved in creating a new Victoria Writers Festival. Details are slim at the moment, but it’s being organized by Gould and local writers Sara Cassidy and Julie Paul, who describe themselves as “a collective of writers who deeply miss the International Literary Arts Festival that was the highlight of spring in Victoria for many years.” The debut fest is slated for October 12-13 at . . . Camosun College, whose English department is sponsoring it.