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Angel Catbirds and human dogs: A year of Canadian literature in review

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2015 brought Canada many things: a new sex-ed curriculum in Ontario schools, a new prime minister, and a new agreement at the Paris Climate Conference. But what about the world of literature? If you're a few chapters behind in your CanLit news here's an overview to help catch you up.

Increased funding for Canada's Council for the arts

During the election Justin Trudeau raised the hopes of artists across Canada by promising to double investment in the Canada council of the Arts. This means $360 million annually for the council and the question remains: what might this do for the Canadian literary scene? Could it mean an increase in grant money going towards Canadian writers and publishers?

Trudeau also promised to reverse the cuts to the CBC by the Harper government and pledged $150 million in annual funding. This is great news for the literary scene in Canada because the CBC produces programs like Writers and Company, The Next Chapter, and of course the annual CBC Canada Reads debates. Love them or hate them these programs reach a wide audience, drum up interest in the CanLit scene, and provide writers with a platform to talk about their work.

Hopefully Trudeau's promises inject new life into Canadian literature.

Big wins for small presses

This year books published by independent Canadian publishing houses received quite a few prestigious awards and made it onto high profile shortlists.

Robyn Sarah's My Shoes Are Killing Me, published by Biblioasis, won the Governor General's award for poetry. Crossover by M. Travis Lane, published by Cormorant books also made it the GG shortlist for poetry.

The Giller shortlist was flooded with selections from various Canadian independent presses including Anakana Schofield's Martin John and Samuel Archibald's Arvida, both published by Biblioasis, and Andre Alexis' 15 Dogs, published by Coach House books.

Alexis emerged victorious with his unusual fable. The premise: Hermes and Apollo decide to grant 15 dogs with human consciousness, the result of a bet. If the dogs are happier this way Apollo must be a servant to Hermes for a year. If human consciousness proves to be nothing but a terrible burden then Hermes will serve Apollo for a year. Who wins this bet? You'll have to read to find out.

Fall on your knees for the Breadwinner: CanLit makes it to the screen

In August it was announced that Angelina Jolie would produce an animated version of Deborah Ellis's 2000 children's book The Bread Winner. The novels tell the story of Parvana, an 11-year old girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to support her family in Taliban occupied Afghanistan. The film is the project of Cartoon Saloon, the studio which gave us The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. The film will be directed by Nora Twomey who previously worked as co-director on The Secret of Kells.

Recently CBC announced that playwright and novelist Anne Marie MacDonald's sprawling 1996 novel Fall on Your Knees would be made into a four-part miniseries. Flashpoint producer Sharon Mustos is onboard with the project as is screenwriter Adriana Maggs.

Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue is in the spotlight right now for the film adaptation of her 2010 novel Room. A psychological thriller about a young mother and son held captive for years, the film premiered this year at the Telluride Film Festival and received critical acclaim. Currently it's nominated for three Golden Globes -- Donoghue herself is nominated for best screenplay.

Margaret Atwood wrote a new book and then buried it in a Norwegian forest

In an act of surprising optimism Margaret Atwood wrote an entire book, called Scribbler Moon, only to bury it in a forest in Norway for future generations to uncover. It's part of a project by Scottish artist Katie Patterson call "The Future Library."

Provided that humans are still around and interested in 100 years, texts by various prominent authors will be buried there, ready to be dug up and read in 2114. Atwood herself seems pretty enchanted by this Rip Van Winkle type scenario. "How strange it is to think of my own voice -- silent by then for a long time -- suddenly being awakened, after 100 years," she told the Guardian.

It's been a busy year for the CanLit icon. She published a new novel, The Heart Goes Last and recently announced a new graphic novel project she's currently working on with Dark Horse Comics. The series will be about a genetically mutated super hero named Angel Catbird, and will be released next September.

That's something to look forward to in 2016, as is the upcoming selection of the Canada Reads 2016 book -- the longlist was released yesterday

What book news inspired you to turn the pages this year? What are you excited for in 2016? Let us know in the comments. 

 

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