Book marks: Essays on life in Western Canada, new works from Edmonton publisher

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Despite an awkward title, Cole Nowicki’s newest release has nothing to do with either smoking cessation or chiropractic adjustments.

Instead, Laser Quit Smoking Massage is his tribute to growing up on the prairies, a series of short essays about life in Western Canada and the eccentricities he has encountered over his lifetime. The book is being released by Edmonton publisher NeWest Press on April 1.

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It’s a collection of his writing that has been published in places like Vice and Maisonneuve over the last decade. But more than just a reflection of his writing style, it shows Nowicki growing up, from a childhood in Lac La Biche to his new home in Vancouver, reaching out to family back in Alberta.

Nowicki’s essays are short and to the point, devoid of the pontificating often found in collections like this where authors lay out exactly what readers should take from each piece. Instead, he weaves his tales with finesse, allowing the readers to think for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

From his childhood experiences in his home in Northern Alberta to talking to his dad about health scares, Nowick mines his life for entertainment and education.

“I am a child of the internet and have been blogging in some form or another since I was quite young,” says Nowicki. “It’s really just me trying to pull some sort of emotion out of the mundane. A lot of the time there’s not great lengths to go to, which is usually why those pieces are 2,000 words.”

Nowicki has been working on the book since before the pandemic, gathering personal essays published elsewhere into this collection. It’s a change from his other major subject, skateboarding. His last book was a look at the history and cultural impact of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater video games, titled Right, Down + Circle.

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Skateboarding is Nowicki’s bread and butter, the one subject he has gone back to over the years. He writes about the sport in a curated newsletter, called Simple Magic, and he wrote about it for Vice.

“Vice obviously had a lot of issues, a bit of a troubled history. But in the latter years of its life, it arguably produced a lot of amazing journalism and was a great foot in the door for so many writers and journalists. To not have that outlet anymore, it’s a big loss.”

Skateboarding also features in his next project, a book tracing the intricate dance between skateboarding and capitalism, the one thing skateboard culture rebelled against for a long time but has now been subsumed by. You can find out more about the author on his website.

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Edmonton author takes home award

Edmonton author Myrna Kostash is being recognized with a major literary award for her latest book. Ghosts in a Photograph, released in late 2022, won the KOBZAR Book Award. The book delves into the lives of her grandparents, who moved from Ukraine to Alberta at the turn of the 20th century. Her journey is kicked off by discovering a packet of family mementos, which makes her question what she knows about her family’s past.

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The KOBZAR Book Award is awarded every two years to an author with a connection to the Ukrainian Canadian Experience. The award comes with a $20,000 cash prize, for the author, while publisher NeWest Press will also take home $5,000. The award is handed out by the Shevchenko Foundation.

Kostash is an award-winning author based in the city with more than a dozen titles to her name. To find out more about the author visit her website.

Two new books from local publisher

Nowicki’s book isn’t the only release from Edmonton publisher NeWest Press this spring.

The first of two other books is Where We Live, by Karen Hofmann. The book is the capstone in the Lund sibling trilogy about four Vancouverites who were separated in childhood and are now reunited. Hofmann splits her time between Victoria and the B.C. interior.

The second is from Calgary doctor Ellen Anderson Penno called Counting Bones: Anatomy of Love Lost Found. At the age of 24, Penno lost her partner in a climbing accident. She revisits the tragedy and the life she built for herself afterwards, in this new memoir, out April 1.

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NeWest Press took home four awards at last year’s Alberta Book Publishing Awards, including wins for Mystery and Thriller Book of the Year and Speculative Fiction. To find out more about the books, and to see other upcoming titles from the publisher visit their website.

Taking on gendered bodies

A University of Alberta professor is exploring gender and sexuality in their newest book, released in late February.

Gender/F***ing: The Pleasure and Politics of Living in a Gendered Body, out Feb. 23 from CLASH Books, is part memoir, part critical essays and part erotica from an author known for their ability to flow between academic writing and a wider audience. Florence Ashley celebrates the messiness of sex and identity while asking what it means to focus on the sexual in a world with some negative views on sex and sexuality. They talk about recovering from surgery, about fetishizing trans bodies, about losing hope, about a wide range of topics and always with the keen eye of an expert in the field.

Ashley is a transfeminine professor of law and bioethics at the University of Alberta. Their first book didn’t have quite the same exhilarating title; Banning Transgender Conversion Practices: A Legal and Policy Analysis. You can find out more about the author on their website.

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A first book from promising writer

Memory and perception are major themes in a local author’s inaugural publication.

Hey, June is the first book from The Nomad Cree, the pen name of Britney Supernault. In the book, June wakes up confused and alone, unable to remember anything and stuck on the hill she woke up on. The 17-year-old is reintroduced to memories she’d lost by people from her life.

The book was self-published by Supernault and released Feb. 29. She is currently working on a webcomic, and graphic novel called Save Sage about a 20-something, two-spirit, Cree heritage consultant who is gifted powers by the Ancient One to rebalance the scales of creation. Save Sage should start to see releases this spring. To find out more about the author, visit her website.

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