Archives for category: Industry



After almost two years of planning, the inaugural Canadian Writers’ Summit finally had its debut at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, June 15 to 19. A collaboration between 14 national writing organizations, the super-conference represented many firsts: the pooling of resources to gain efficiencies and maximize ideas and the super-sized gathering of Canadian writers among them.

CWS_The organizers banners at CWS_c Katrina Afonso

Banners of the member organizations that put the conference together. Photographer Katrina Afonso.

In total, around 800 writers and publishing and literary arts professionals attended the conference, which included keynote addresses by Lawrence Hill, Nalo Hopkinson and Heather O’Neill, panels about the business of writing, craft of writing, government funding models, equity and diversity in the literary industry, and the annual one-day Book Summit publishing conference.

Now Trending panel at Book Summit at CWS 2016. Photographer Brian Medina.

I managed the communications on behalf of the conference, which included stops at The Candy Palmater Show and The National, and in the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail, as well as for the publishing trade press in Canada and the US.

CWS_Crowd at the Dayne Ogilvie Prize_c Katrina Afonso

Crowd at the presentation of the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers, part of CWS 2016. Photographer Katrina Afonso.

CWS is set to take place every second year, with the next event scheduled for June 2018, also at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.

In 2017, the organizing groups will host their own conferences and AGMs.


I’m hiring! Or, more specifically, I’m hiring a new intern to work with me 2.5 days a week through the fall. For the right person, this is a great opportunity (I’m biased, I know, but I’m not lying), BUT it’s an internship, meaning remuneration is in the form of an honorarium (plus attractive-to-employers skills; loads of contacts; a fun and fabulous time, etc.) and you ought to be a student to apply to qualify for exemption under ESA regulations.

If this is you (or if you know someone who fits this bill), read on:

Communications/Publishing Intern, Toronto


Becky Toyne |
Publicist, The Writers’ Trust of Canada | Books columnist, CBC Radio One | Contributing Editor, Open Book: Toronto | Event host & interviewer | Editorial Consultant

I am an independent books columnist, editor and publicist looking for an aspiring communications or publishing professional to work with me through the busy fall publishing season.


You will assist with the national publicity campaigns for: the Writers’ Trust Awards, including the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize; the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction; and the Writers’ Trust Gala, an annual black-tie fundraiser in support of Canadian writers and writing.

Additional responsibilities will include providing some research and admin support for my work as a print and broadcast books columnist and literary event host, and for the day-to-day running of my independent business.

This is a part-time position. Previous interns have used this as an opportunity to work a part-time job, or to work two concurrent part-time internships in the publishing industry. You would benefit from one-on-one mentoring while working on the national publicity campaigns for some of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards. My former interns all had a great time, learned a lot, and went on to get good permanent jobs in the book biz.

Responsibilities include:

  • Research mailing lists and media contacts
  • Compile and update media reports
  • Assist in preparation, coordination and execution of press conferences
  • Assist in preparation of press kits
  • Assist with researching and writing press materials, as necessary (including media releases and advisories, photo captions etc.)
  • Media outreach and follow-up, as necessary (with guidance)
  • Media advisory mailings
  • Assist with social media efforts
  • Other duties as assigned


  • Passion for books, reading, and to begin a career in arts communications or publishing
  • Confident communicator with an eye for detail
  • Excellent written communication skills
  • Energetic self-starter able to work under own initiative
  • Social media, HTML and WordPress savvy

Period of internship: 12 weeks. September 8 to November 26, 2015.

Hours: 2.5 days per week. This could be 5 half days every week, or 2 full days and 1 half day, or 2 days one week and 3 the next, etc. Schedule to be mutually agreed. Please note that in addition to the 2.5 days there would be some evening events (award ceremonies etc.).

Remuneration: $750

Tools of the trade: Bring your own laptop, please.

Send cover letter and resumé to Becky Toyne at by August 4, 2015.

Please write “Fall Intern” in the subject line.

Only those selected for interview will be contacted.




Alessandra Naccarato, winner of the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. Photo credit Katrina Afonso.


On a hot and humid May evening in Toronto, the Writers’ Trust of Canada handed out its “thing in the spring,” the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. The winner was  Alessandra Naccarato for her poetry collection “Re-Origin of Species.”

The Bronwen Wallace Award recognizes emerging writers under 35 who have yet to publish in book form. Past winners include many then-unknown but now-familiar names, such as Michael Crummey, Alissa York, Alison Pick and Jeramy Dodds.

Host Tanis Rideout (another past winner) set the perfect tone: fun, celebratory, reverential. The crowd schmoozed to classical renditions of Top 40 songs (we were in the Royal Conservatory of Music, after all) in a stunning all-glass room with views of Philosopher’s Walk and the Royal Ontario Museum. The atmosphere was fun, lively, and distinctly emerge-from-hibernationy. This was, said Tanis “our thing in the spring.”

Alessandra Naccarato won $5,000. Her fellow nominees each won $1,000. They were: Irfan Ali for “Who I Think About When I Think About You,” and Chuqiao Yang for “Roads Home.”

Find out more about the prize and this year’s nominees here.

Read stories from CBC Books, the Toronto Star and Quill and Quire here, here and here.

And check out a Facebook photo gallery from the event courtesy of the Writers’ Trust here.

Here are the three nominees chatting with me and (via the magic of Periscope) the world on the pre-ceremony “red-carpet.”

Chatting to award finalists Irfan Ali, Alessandro Naccarato and Chuqiao Yang before the ceremony. Photo credit Katrina Afonso.




From left: Tony Clement, Megan Leslie, Stephen Maher, Tom Power, Richard Madan and Lisa Raitt perform Sweet Caroline at the Politics & the Pen gala


On Wednesday night, at the Politics and the Pen Gala in Ottawa, Joseph Heath was named the winner of the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for his book Enlightenment 2.0: Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, Our Economy, and Our Lives.

The event, which is a fundraiser for the Writers’ Trust of Canada, was held at Ottawa’s Fairmont Chateau Laurier and attended by 500 guests from Canada’s political, literary and arts communities.

Highlights included a “Battle of the Bands,” which was kicked off by co-hosts Hon. Tony Clement and Tom Power and joined by MPs Lisa Raitt and Megan Leslie, journalist Stephen Maher, and broadcaster Richard Madan (pictured).

The event raised more than than $330,000 for the Writers’ Trust of Canada.

The five Shaughnessy Cohen Prize nominees were:

  • Joseph Heath for Enlightenment 2.0: Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, our Economy, and Our Lives (winner)
  • Chantal Hébert with Jean Lapierre for The Morning After: The 1995 Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was
  • Naomi Klein for This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs the Climate
  • John Ralston Saul for The Comeback: How Aboriginals Are Reclaiming Power and Influence
  • Graham Steele for What I Learned About Politics: Inside the Rise – and Collapse – of Nova Scotia’s NDP Government

View photos from the event and read party recaps at Globe & MailHELLO!, Hill TimesMaclean’s, Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Magazine.

Listen to Joseph Heath talk to CBC As it Happens about his book and winning the prize here and read his interview with the Globe & Mail here.


When Tattoos Get Serious Ink

This column originally appeared on Open Book: Toronto (now in January 2011.

As you’re probably aware, a feisty Swedish chick is rocking the charts at the minute. No, not Robyn – though come to think of it a duet of some kind would be…interesting – I’m talking about Lisbeth Salander: tattooed computer hacker and heroine of Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.

Crime fiction (and, more specifically, Scandinavian crime fiction, but more on that later) has always been big business, but with the success of the Larsson books something seems to have crossed over. Where there has always been a bit of a “them” and “us” mentality among “serious readers” (“they” read fluff, “we” read literature), the Larsson series has been embraced by both sides. As all three books continue to dominate bestseller lists, publishers everywhere are desperately seeking “The Next Stieg Larsson.” Indeed, it’s become so sexy to seem Scandinavian I was half expecting to find new novels by Linwöød Bårclay and Giles Blönt trumpeted in the spring catalogues.

This isn’t the first flush of Scando-crime mania, however. Some of the “next” Stieg Larssons actually came long before him: the “first” Stieg Larssons, if you will. Back in 2003, Henning Mankell was described by the UK’s Observer as “the best Swedish export since flatpack furniture.”, and his books have borne the endorsement of none other than Michael Ondaatje, who called him “by far the best writer of police mysteries today.” Mankell’s are page-turning police procedurals relished by a Booker Prize-winning novelist of the most serious literary kind.

Mankell himself arrived on English-language bookshelves in the slipstream of a Dane named Peter Høeg, author of international bestseller Smilla’s Sense of Snow (published in English in 1993), and Høeg’s international success arrived a distant 25 years behind that of Swedish crime-writing duo Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Then, in the noughties, following the trail blazed by Mankell and his distinctive brand of crime with a conscience, came writers including Karin Fossum, Håkan Nesser, Åsa Larsson, Kjell Ola Dahl, and Jo Nesbø (more on him later, too).

In 2003, as a junior editor at The Harvill Press, I wrote an article for the UK’s Crime Time magazine in which I talked excitedly about our growing programme of crime in translation. The phenomenon was already alive and kicking then; it was perhaps just lacking a true poster boy. My boss at that time, by the way – a man later profiled in the Bookseller for his role in bringing books in translation to an anglophone readership, and, this year, appointed CBE for services to the publishing industry – was the inimitable Christopher MacLehose: publisher of…Stieg Larsson.

But back to the crossover. Type Books, where I can be found recommending reads two days a week, could be categorized as more on the more serious side in terms of its inventory and clientele. We have a crime section in both stores (and anyone who’s wandered in with a hankering for a good murder mystery has likely had a Mankell, Nesbø or Icelandic Indri?ason pressed into their paw by me), but never have we had a crime title shift like the Larssons. This is partly a matter of economics. Readers wanting Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol were more likely to look online or at Costco before going to a bookshop, and even then it would likely be Indigo where the piles are high and the discounts are deep. With Larsson though, we’ve been selling stacks, at full cover price, to readers who are happy to go to their local bookstore for a top-quality work of fiction. Some customers seem a little sheepish about it, apologizing for needing a “quick fix of junky reading.” Our response is usually, “Don’t feel guilty. They’re good!”

It’s this crossover formula, perhaps, in addition to squatting rights on the bestseller lists, that has publishers chomping at the bit. This type of crime fiction has busted way out of Margaret Cannon’s Globe and Mail column: it’s on the cover of the New Yorker (Jan 10, 2011, “The Stieg Larsson Mystery…why the books are so popular”), it’s the cover story of this month’s Quill and Quire (“The Boom in Crime Fiction”), and it’s been the subject of many a column and feature article. Martin Amis’s editors weren’t looking for the next James Patterson (despite top-notch sales, on a literary list that would be, y’know, lame), but they all have their eyes peeled for the next Stieg.

Closer to home, the crossover power of crime was evident in a crime-writing focus at last year’s International Festival of Authors, and it’s about to manifest itself in the form of a brand-spanking-new imprint. Adding crime and mystery to their stable of very good books, Anansi launches Spiderline [] in February. Of the two launch authors, one, Elena Forbes, has been published by Anansi before and now creeps into the Spiderline web. The second, whose debut novel will be the first to bear the new colophon, is Ian Hamilton, a Burlington native who came to them with four near-ready manuscripts in his drawer. This is a shrewd move on Anansi’s part. Crime fiction, for the most part, thrives in series format. Get someone hooked on lovable rogue Harry Hole (Nesbø) or crotchety, cardigan-wearing Kurt Wallander (Mankell) and they will want to join them on future cases. This is one advantage to publishing crime in translation, as we were doing at Harvill a decade ago: with translation you can buy into an existing series. Even if you can’t yet read them yourself (depending on how good your Swedish happens to be), you know you have four, five, six already written books with which to build your author, and you can plan your long-term publishing strategy accordingly. In signing someone with a readymade series, this is what Anansi/Spiderline has done.

As I was writing this column I received a text from a former colleague at Random House UK. The new Jo Nesbø hardback, The Leopard, would be going in at #1 on the coming weekend’s (London) Sunday Times bestseller list (by the time you read this, it will already be there). Stieg Larsson won’t be writing any more books (well, unless you count the one his girlfriend may or may not finish from his existing notes), but there are plenty more fish in the criminal sea. Expect to find them on a bestseller list and in a literary-leaning bookstore near you for a long time to come.







Announced this morning on behalf of  the National Reading Campaign, the results of a report into the personal, cultural and societal benefits of reading for pleasure.

Avid readers make more empathetic, more civic-minded, better educated citizens. Pleasure in reading begins with community and choice.

Here’s the release.

And a link to download the report in full.

The Book and Periodical Council and Raconteurs Present: Censored – Bruce Walsh from NOW Magazine on Vimeo.

On Feb. 28 a massive crowd gathered at The Garrison in Toronto for The Book and Periodical Council and Raconteurs Present: CENSORED, an evening of storytelling and performance around issues of censorship and free expression, part of Freedom to Read Week. Six storytellers shared their very different personal experiences. There were many laughs, but all underscoring a very serious message.

Above, Bruce Walsh tells “How I Got Here,” an adapted version of his TED Talk, “How the Holocaust Saved My Life.”

Below, Ken Setterington torpedoes any notion you might have of stuffy librarians with his story, “Yes, I Am a Librarian.”

Thanks to NOW Tube for posting all six stories in their entirety, here.

The Book and Periodical Council and Raconteurs Present: Censored – Ken Setterington from NOW Magazine on Vimeo.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) talked to the Book and Periodical Council, Toronto Public Library,  and me, about Freedom to Read Week 2013, and a Type Books window display that has been generating a lot of chatter.

VIDEO: Freedom to Read Week 2013

The 29th annual Freedom to Read Week kicks off February 24 and runs to March 2 with events across the country to celebrate our freedom to read and highlight censorship issues in Canada.


Four Toronto highlights:

  • Feb 25, 2pm, Toronto Reference Library: Forbidden Reading. Documentary screening and director Q&A. FREE
  • Feb 28, 7pm, The Garrison. CENSORED. Presented by the Book & Periodical Council and the Raconteurs. Six storytellers share personal tales of censorship. $10 at the door.
  • March 1, 5:30pm, Hart House Library. Celebrate Our Freedom to Read. With novelist Katherine Govier, University of Toronto Writer-in-Residence Joy Kogawa, Toronto’s Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke and writer and broadcaster Marian Botsford Fraser. FREE
  • March 1, 7pm. Toronto Reference Library. Beyond Book Burning: Disappearing Books in the Digital Age. Presented by PEN Canada. FREE
More info about all the above is available at


As we prepare to ring in 2013, here, in no particular order, is my top 5 for 2012.


Londoners by Craig Taylor
These oral testimonials create a living, breathing portrait of a city. I was happy to see the book turn up on two out of three National Post critics’ lists on the last Saturday of the year, proving my love for it isn’t too too swayed by my personal love of London.

You Aren’t What You Eat by Steven Poole
This smart and hilarious rant about foodie culture caught my eye in an advance edition  in the UK this past spring. I read most of it in a gastropub  and giggled away over my pint and wild boar sausages. Available only as an eBook in Canada, it’s a steal at $1.99.

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
Listen to Andrew Solomon talk about his book in this episode of CBC’s The Sunday Edition and see if you can resist picking it up. Solmon’s book about children, parenting and identity is both sad and hopeful, and holds relevance for us all.


The Faster I Walk the Smaller I Am by Kjersti A. Skomsvold
This short novel about an old woman approaching death has echoes of Will Self and Alan Bennett. A terrific debut from a young Norwegian author that I was delighted to discover at this year’s International Festival of Authors in Toronto.

Siege 13 by Tamas Dobozy
Dobozy emerged as the literary darling of awards season, with a Writers’ Trust win and a GG nomination topping off a collection of absolute rave reviews. Linked short stories  about the lasting effects of Siege of Budapest, this collection stood out by a mile and deserved every word of praise.

Honourable Mentions

Straphanger by Taras Grescoe — an important and eminently readable book about urban transit. Watch out for the paperback in the spring.
The Measure of a Man by JJ Lee — a 2012 paperback (I came to it late). I was reading passages to people out loud I enjoyed it so much.
In One Person by John Irving — his best novel since A Widow for One Year. Too bad about the horrendous cover.