News & Events

Join Sheilla Jones for the launch of her book Let the People Speak – September 19

McNally Robinson Booksellers & J. Gordon Shillingford
are pleased to present

Sheilla Jones and Sheila North
Let the People Speak: Oppression in a Time of Reconciliation

Thursday September 19, 7:00 pm
Grant Park in the Atrium, Winnipeg, MB

Over the past fifty years, Canada’s Indigenous Affairs department (now two departments with more than 30 federal co-delivery partners) has mushroomed into a “super-province” delivering birth-to-death programs and services to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. This vast entity has jurisdictional reach over 90% of Canada’s landscape, and an annual budget of some $20 billion. Yet Indigenous people have no means to hold this “super-province” accountable to them. Not a single person in this entity has been elected by Indigenous people to represent their interests. Not one. When it comes to federal Indigenous policy, ordinary Indigenous people in Canada are voiceless and powerless.

In Let the People Speak, author and journalist Sheilla Jones raises an important question: are the well-documented social inequities in Indigenous communities—high levels of poverty, suicide, incarceration, children in care, family violence—the symptoms of this long-standing, institutionalized powerlessness? If so, the solution lies in empowerment. And the means of empowerment is already embedded in the historic treaties. Jones argues that there can be meaningful reconciliation only when ordinary Indigenous Canadians are finally empowered to make their voices heard, and ordinary non-Indigenous Canadians can join with them to advance a shared future.

The Long and Short of it – Prairie Books NOW Review

Motivation for playwrights, comedy for readers

Collection of PTE shorts highlights some of the city’s most talented playwrights

Reviewed by Kyla Neufeld

A debate about pies, an argument about alien abductions, adolescent chess players, and a zombie asking to be remembered: all of these can be found in The Long & Short of It: A selection of short plays written by the Prairie Theatre Exchange Playwrights Unit, a new collection of “Short Shots” written by the Prairie Theatre Exchange Playwrights Unit and edited by Brian Drader, the executive director of the Manitoba Association of Playwrights.

Every year, the Playwrights Unit showcases new plays during the Carol Shields Festival of New Works. The Long & Short of It represents the best of those 50-plus plays by playwrights such as Sharon Bajer, Joseph Aragon, Rick Chafe, Debbie Patterson, James Durham, and Alix Sobler.

“There was such a cohesive voice to all of these. It ended up, I think, fitting together really well,” says Collins, adding that most of the plays have a comedic slant. “I like, too, that it feels like a snapshot of what that experience [of writing for the Carol Shields Festival] has been like,” adds Trish Cooper, author of the play “Life of Pie.”

“I actually think for anyone else it would be fun to read,” says Cooper. “There’s a lot going on.”

The Long & Short of It is dedicated to Bob Metcalfe, artistic director of PTE for 15 years, who founded both the Playwrights Unit and the Carol Shields Festival. Metcalfe has commissioned, nurtured, and produced 19 plays through the Playwrights Unit and has been a source of constant support and encouragement for local playwrights.

“When we found out that Bob Metcalfe would be leaving Prairie TheatreExchange, we thought it would be a loving parting gift to give him, to publish this book and dedicate it to him,” Collins says. “We presented it to him at the last Carol Shields Festival where he was the artistic director.”

For Brian Drader, who recently returned to Winnipeg to head MAP after being the director of playwriting at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal from 2004 to 2017, editing The Long & Short of It was like catching up with old friends.

“The PTE Unit represents many of this city’s most talented and active playwrights,” he says. “And what a pleasure to dig into their plays! To experience how my old colleagues have grown as artists and storytellers, to experience the work of two former students who have come fully into their own, and to discover the work of new playwrights who I didn’t
know except by reputation.”

Drader concludes, “To be able to so quickly get reacquainted with old colleagues and meet new ones was a blessing.” 

Moon Was a Feather – Winnipeg Free Press Review

Reviewed by Jonathan Ball

Scott Nolan’s Moon was a Feather (The Muses’ Company, 96 pages, $16) finds the Winnipeg singer/songwriter offering sad meditations in short, clipped lines: “I’m like an upright piano. / I need to at least be in tune with myself. / No one really wants / to hear a grown man sing.”

In an early poem, Nolan compares his childhood excitement for a “Judas Priest concert, / running on hormones and our parents’ liquor cabinets” to the calmer reality of the rock star life: “Meanwhile, Judas Priest played the back nine / at the Charleswood golf course.” Many of the poems try to pop the romantic bubbles that bloom to engulf some experience for a harderedged acceptance of how things are. A must-have for Nolan fans, and a strong, minimalist collection.

Moon Was a Feather – Prairie Books Now Review

Long walks and the search for stillness help germinate debut collection

Singer-songwriter Nolan lets snippets of the city speak through his poems

Reviewed by Steve Locke

The neighbourhoods, streets, and interstitial spaces of Winnipeg appear frequently in Moon Was a Feather, the first poetry collection from hometown singer-songwriter Scott Nolan. Stripped down to its quiet grit in moments of nostalgia and contemplation, the city spirit of uniqueness and integrity pokes out between lines like blades of grass through cracks in the pavement.

Take this description of spring fever from “Privacy Issues,” for example: “It always brings with it a sort of hysteria. / Two months we have / before we return / to our waking hibernation.”

“Winnipeg has its influence on everything I do,” Nolan says. “I used to defend it, yet now, I often brag about it. We live through four distinct and often difficult seasons, and historically speaking, we are a frontier town. Something about these extremes tends to foster a deficit of pretense.”

Brief but lingering, Nolan’s poems give readers an experience like glancing out through a car window during a pause at an intersection, witnessing small moments from a distance. This makes sense, given Nolan’s creative process, as most of the poems found in Moon Was a Feather were typed into an iPhone during pauses on long walks throughout the city.

“These long daily walks found me in the neighbourhood I grew up in, and frequently in the company of a childhood friend. I’m about middle-aged, I suppose, and I’m taking some inventory,” he says.

The inventory includes reflections on addiction and loneliness in “New Year’s Eve,” missing and murdered Indigenous women in “Springtime in Manitoba,” and rebellion and sharing stamped-out cigarette butts in “Grade Eight.” In “Deli,” the owner is remembered for loving baseball and jazz, and for honouring Nolan by placing a photo of him on his wall of fame.

Also remembered are certain beloved artists who have recently passed, their legacies immortalized in text. In “Telecaster Tears,” the loss of Prince Rogers Nelson is felt as the “colour / formerly known as purple” dissolves into blue and red. Gord Downie lives in “The Man Who Walks Amongst the Stars,” which articulates a feeling of homesickness in singing along with a barroom of strangers to memorized anthems of courage and hockey.

Movement and stillness both play significant roles in the collection, as one flows into the other, leading Nolan to settings that are described in “Cancelled” as “The kind of quiet you could tell your secrets to.” There, the reader becomes intimately acquainted with his introspective, detached voice.

In “Upright Piano,” the speaker watches folks enjoying ice cream on a warm summer day while he is “learning to breathe again.” Contemplating his detachment, the speaker compares himself to the titular musical instrument, claiming, “I need to at least be in tune with myself.”

These poems come from an authentic need for stillness and contemplation.

“I’ve lived with anxiety disorder for a number of years now, and have had some recent successes with the practice of meditation,” says Nolan. “Quiet and stillness twice a day for 20-minute sittings has done wonders for me.” 

Join musician Scott Nolan for the launch of his debut poetry collection Moon Was a Feather – April 5

McNally Robinson Booksellers & The Muses’ Company
are pleased to present

Scott Nolan
Moon Was a Feather

Friday April 5, 7:00 pm
Grant Park in the Atrium, Winnipeg, MB

Singer, songwriter and musician, Scott Nolan’s debut poetry collection Moon Was a Feather reflects on a life well-considered. Poems that chronicle a difficult youth, experience with drugs, friendships, and music are interwoven with insights gleaned from the eclectic jumble of neighbourhoods and people he encounters on his long walks. Spare – eloquent with a healthy dose of grit – the poems of Moon Was a Feather are infused with the poet’s deep appreciation for the eccentricities of fate that life throws at him, and the love for music that helps him make sense of them.

Scott Nolan is a songwriter, poet, multi-instrumentalist from Winnipeg, Manitoba Treaty One territory, with nine albums to his credit. His songs have been recorded by Hayes Carll, Mary Gauthier, Watermelon Slim, and Corin Raymond, among others. Long an avid reader of poetry, Nolan turned to writing it in 2015, when he started walking ten kilometres a day in a bid to quit smoking. Nolan discovered melodies and rhythms in the shuffling of his feet, and began writing short poems inspired by reflections on his own difficult past, as well as about people and places in his neighbourhood.