2019 Christmas Book Blitz

50% off all in-store purchases

Let us help you get ready for the gift-giving season with Breakwater’s annual Christmas Book Blitz. For one day only everything purchased in-store is 50% off! From popular new releases to backlist classics, this is your chance to stock up on books by your favourite local authors. Come celebrate the season with us!

Saturday, December 14 from 10 am – 6 pm
Breakwater Books, 1 Stamp’s Lane, St. John’s
Everyone welcome. Free parking.

xmas book blitz

2019 Fall Launch Party


Thursday, November 21 from 7-9 pm
The Johnson Geo Centre
175 Signal Hill Road, St. John’s

It’s that time of year again! Join us for our 2019 Fall Launch Party. Featuring readings by James E. Candow, Gemma M. Hickey, Trudy J. Morgan-Cole, Michelle Porter, and Leslie Vryenhoek, as well as food samples by East Coast Keto authors Bobbi Pike and Geoff Pike.

Doors open at 7 p.m. Readings commence at 7:30 p.m. Reception to follow.

For each book purchased during our Fall Launch Party, you’ll receive an entry to WIN A TWO-NIGHT STAY IN BEAUTIFUL TRINITY on us! Valued at over $500 you don’t want to miss your chance to sit back, put your feet up, and read a book in this sweet vacation property.

Free Event | Cash Bar | Light Refreshments

Spring Launch Party & Welcoming Reception

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To celebrate the arrival of warm weather, new books, the Eastbound Conference, and The Atlantic Book Awards, Breakwater Books presents an evening of great literature, featuring readings by Breakwater authors Terry Doyle, Susie Taylor, and Kevin Major, and Atlantic Book Award nominees Sharon Bala, Elisabeth de Mariaffi, and Mark Critch.

Shortlisted authors Christine LeGrow and Shirley Anne Scott, of Saltwater Mittens fame, will also be on hand with a display of Newfoundland knitwear and knowledge.

Join us on June 5 at the Johnson GEO CENTRE (175 Signal Hill Rd.) to kick off the Eastbound Conference and The Atlantic Book Awards 2019.

Doors open at 7 p.m. Readings commence at 7:30 p.m. Reception to follow.

Free Event | Cash Bar | Light Refreshments
Click here for the Facebook event

National Poetry Month Feature

In honour of National Poetry Month, Katie Vautour and Tom Dawe share stories about what attracted them to writing poetry, their artistic inspirations, and more.

Join Tom and Katie on Thursday, May 9 for the launch of their books An Unorthodox Guide to Wildlife and New and Collected Poems. The launch will be held at the Breakwater Books shop on 1 Stamp’s Lane, St. John’s, starting at 4:30 p.m. Tom and Katie will be joined by Agnes Walsh and event host, and Poet Laureate of St. John’s, Mary Dalton for an evening of poetry.

Tom & Katie

When did you start writing and what attracted you to poetry specifically?

Katie Vautour: Well, to be honest, I was always “that nerdy kid” who liked books more than socializing, but I received some free tuition certificates from a previous job years ago. And I wanted to get my Master’s in English, so I thought, “Okay, poetry is optional, but it should be interesting for one class!” Now it’s three years later and I never stopped studying or reading or writing poetry, and I somehow have a book.

Tom Dawe: From a small child I’ve always been attracted to poetry and verse. In school I was lucky to have teachers who were fond of reading aloud to us in the lower grades where there were lots of concerts with dramatic reading and music. In Sunday School I fell in love with the magnificent free verse of the King James Bible. Ursula LeGuin once said that style is a very simple matter, it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words.  Ideas sometimes have to wait on the right rhythm to express them. 

Do you or have you ever belonged to a writing group? If so, how did belonging to the group affect your writing?

KV: I have been in several groups, and all the people are fantastic and offer good input, but mostly I like working on my own.

TD: Years ago I attended sessions of the Writers’ Guild at the Arts and Culture Centre which was very beneficial to me, meeting established writers such as Helen Porter, Bernice Morgan, Harold Horwood and others. This got me interested in entering the annual Newfoundland Arts and Letters Competitions where various adjudications were very helpful.

Do you have a favourite poetic form?

KV: I am a bit of a fan of the echo verse– I think I managed to pull off one version of it in my book, called, “The Aquarium.” But it’s so interesting visually and verbally, because the last word of each line in structured in a way that it creates its own sentence if read vertically.

TD: I write mainly in free verse, though I’ve used other forms from time to time. My poem “If Sonnets Were In Fashion,” among other things, has something to say about poetic forms being in and out, depending on the times.  Sometimes I’ve written light or humorous verse in more traditional rhyme schemes, for example, “Cat Poem” and “Frog Prince.”
Do you have a favourite word? What is it?

KV: That’s tricky, but if I had to pick, it would be “bamboozled,” or “onomatopoeia,” because they are both slightly onomatopoetic.

TD: I’m in love with words and could never isolate one as my favourite.  We have many beautiful Newfoundland and Labrador words. If I had a favourite it might be “tuckamore” because this gnarled, stunted tree saved my life one time when I was a helpless child sliding over a cliff into the ocean, reaching out and grabbing it.

Name one poet whose work you consider similar to yours. In what ways is your work similar?

KV: Wow, this is tricky, because I don’t like comparing my own work to better people. But if I have to choose, I’d say Anne Compton, mostly because she writes about Atlantic Canadian regional landscapes, life, and animals, so I can relate to it.

TD: I’m hesitant to name a poet whose work is similar to mine.  We are all such a bunch of one-of-a-kind creatures.

Name one poet whose work you consider dissimilar to yours, but whose work you greatly admire.

KV: Pablo Neruda? That might be too pretentious to say, but I do love his work.

TD: Robert Bly.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated poetry collection?

KV: By T.S. Elliot, it’s called The Old Book of Practical Cats. Throughout the 1930’s, he composed the now famous poems about Macavity, Old Deuteronomy, Mr. Mistoffelees and many other cats, from the longest-running Broadway musical of all time, “Cats.” Most people don’t realize this credit. Also, I played in that musical for several years in high school, and grew up listening to it.

TD: In my opinion, The Edge of Beulah by David Elliott, published by Breakwater in 1988, could be more appreciated.

I think it’s safe to say you are both influenced by art. Can you expand on how, if at all, visual art has inspired your poetry? Are there any specific poems that were directly inspired by an artwork or artist?

KV: Actually, this is a funny story. When I moved to Newfoundland, I attended a life-drawing session at the Arts & Culture Centre, just to keep up my sketching skills. My first encounter with Gerald Squires happened that day–I didn’t know who he was, at that point. But when I took out my pencil sharpener, he grabbed it and threw it into the garbage and said, “That’s trash. This is how you do it with a real knife. Especially if you’re a good artist, which you seem to be.”

He definitely had some influence on me keeping up with art, and believing in the work I do in general. So I am extremely grateful to have met him, and I am sure he had trust in everyone who’s ever tried to make anything.

TD: Being an artist myself, I thoroughly enjoyed working with my friend, Gerry Squires, on Where Genesis Begins. We had many conversations about confronting the blank canvas or the blank page, one of the most difficult things in creativity. We both preferred strong visual imagery. As Martina Seifert writes in her introduction to our book: “Dawe’s strong sense of sight, his precision in observing detail, his painterly, highly imagistic style and use of evocative tactile imagery connect him to Squires, who not only loves poetry and is inspired in his artworks, but who actively engages in the poetic process with both the lyricism of his visual art and the poetry he writes himself.” A number of my poems have been inspired by art and artists; for example, “Daedalus,” “Lot’s Wife” and “In Picasso’s Madman.”

What, if anything, do you hope a reader takes from your poetry?

KV: I don’t start a poem with an agenda, but looking back on it, I suppose I hope it makes poetry seem less scary, and more accessible. Most people I know who enjoy reading mostly studied Shakespeare in school (whom in my opinion is cool), but they found poetry intimidating, so they kind of ran away from it. Aside from that, I love animals, and I think creatures can tell us a lot about our own existence and culture, more than what people expect.

TD: I never think about what someone is going to get from my poetry; all that depends upon what the reader or listener brings to the poem.

2019 IPPY Award Wins

Winners of the 2019 Independent Publisher Book (IPPY) Awards were just announced, and we are thrilled two have two award-winning titles in the Canada-East Best Regional Fiction category:

GOLD: The Luminous Sea by Melissa Barbeau
SILVER: One for the Rock by Kevin Major

The IPPY Awards reward those who exhibit the courage, innovation, and creativity to bring about change in the world of publishing. Independent spirit and expertise comes from publishers of all sizes and budgets and books are judged with that in mind. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded to winners in national subject categories, regional categories, and e-book categories. Winners are celebrated at a ceremony on the eve of BookExpo.

Full list of award winners available here.

IPPY Award Wins

Foreword INDIES Finalists

Out of over 2,000 Foreword INDIES entries received this past year, three of our books were named 2018 INDIES finalists: transVersing in the LGBT category, One for the Rock by Kevin Major in the Mystery category, and Best Kind edited by Robert Finley in the Anthologies category.

Find our finalist pages here:

transVersing INDIES Finalist Page
One for the Rock INDIES Finalist Page
Best Kind INDIES Finalist Page

“Determining the INDIES Finalists is such a rewarding process,” said Victoria Sutherland, founder/publisher of Foreword Reviews. “Each year we are reminded what a vital part of publishing indie presses occupy, and knowing what the recognition could mean to an individual book inspires us to provide our finalist judges with the best choices to help them determine the winners. We take this privilege very seriously.”

Congratulations to all of the finalists. Full list available here.

Reading Women with Michelle Porter

In honour of International Women’s Day, we invited some of our authors to tell us why reading books by women is important and to share some of their favourite books by women with us.

Our final featured author is Michelle Porter. Michelle Porter is a Red River Métis poet, journalist, and editor. She holds degrees in journalism, folklore, and geography (PhD). Her academic research and creative work have been focused on home, Métis mobility, and the changing nature of our relationship to land. She’s won awards for her work in poetry and journalism, and has been published in literary journals, newspapers, and magazines across the country. She lives in St. John’s.

Michelle’s nonfiction has been anthologized in Best Kind (recently named a Foreword INDIES finalist), and her debut collection of poetry, Inquiries, is now available for pre-order.

IWD2019_Michelle Porter

Michelle Porter on Reading Women

I can tell you that I don’t read women writers so that I can read about familiar worlds. There’s so much diversity among women that I almost never recognize myself in the books I read that are written by women. The notable recent exception is when I read The Break by Katherena Vermette. In that book, for the first time in so, so long, I recognized myself and my family. And that’s why I’ll read anything and everything by Katherena Vermette. But that’s a rare thing.

Indigenous women are writing some of the best books in Canada and in the world. They’re writing books that offer us a different way of thinking about our selves, our connections, about the land we live on, this country we all want to understand, about possibilities for the future, and about new paths that lead to something like hope, but are too real and too connected to be as wispy as hope. Lee Maracle, Katherena Vermette, Maria Campbell, Marilyn Dumont, Louise Bernice Halfe, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Eden Robinson are just some of the writers I’ve been encountering. And I’m a better person for it. If you are looking for more, this Room Magazine list remains strong.

I read women authors so that I can enter stories that offer a full spectrum of human experience. In so many ways in today, we live in a world that holds up the male experience and body as the norm. The world we encounter on a daily basis is built on the male experience of the world, as writer Caroline Criado Perez points out in her book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. The world we live in offers itself to the common daily lives and bodies of men. Some days it is only in essays, books, poems, and novels written by women that a person can begin to understand a world that is focused on the imagination of a woman.

See also: “You cannot be ‘well read’ without reading women”, The Guardian 

And rarely does this female imagination create worlds that are similar to each other. Women, even from the same place, are just too different from one another. That’s the beauty of the untapped scope of the female imagination and world — there’s so much to lean into. Think of the Brontë sisters’ three very different responses in literature to the challenges of their places and lives in Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Think of the wonderful gaps between the different stories told in new novels by two women living right here: consider the startling worlds evoked by Sharon Bala in The Boat People and in Megan Gail ColesSmall Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club.

It is my opinion that one of the best ways to experience a place you’ve never been is to read it through the eyes of a woman author. Sophie Baggott wrote in The Guardian that “male authors dominate more than two-thirds of the translated fiction market.” That’s so much of the world left untranslated. And Miles Klee writes about our personal bookshelves, many of which are dominated by male authors—great authors, certainly—but male.

I read women authors because women write good books. Just look here in Newfoundland and Labrador. How incomplete would our understanding of Newfoundland and Labrador be without writers like Melissa Barbeau, Lisa Moore, Bridget Canning, and Trudy J. Morgan-Cole?

I believe that what [Miles] Klee wrote about women writers is true:

“If you’re passionate about an art, a science, a sport or a business, you owe it to yourself to seek out the women who are mastering it, and to study how they do so. Otherwise you’ll never get more than halfway to anywhere good.”

And read Mary Oliver. Poetry and essays both. Just do it. The world she unfolds before us, built with nothing but words, is fierce and beautiful all at once. Like the woman who wrote them.  And oh, dear God, read Miriam Toews’ Women Talking. Like all the best novels it is universal and particular all at once, uncovering through women’s talk, one conversation in a barn at a time, the dilemmas women face as we try to grapple with the years beyond #metoo. It left me breathless.

From March 8th – 12th, take 20% off all books by our female authors in-store and online.

Enter promo code: WOMENSDAY2019


Reading Women with Melissa Barbeau

In honour of International Women’s Day, we invited some of our authors to tell us why reading books by women is important and to share some of their favourite books by women with us.

Our second featured author is Melissa Barbeau. Melissa Barbeau is a founding member of the Port Authority Writing Group. She has been anthologized in Racket: New Writing Made in Newfoundland, The Cuffer Anthology, and Paragon. She lives with her husband and gaggle of children in Torbay, Newfoundland.

Melissa’s debut novel The Luminous Sea was recently shortlisted for the 2018 BMO Winterset Award along with Robert Chafe‘s Between Breaths and Heather Smith’s Ebb and Flow. Melissa will be reading from The Luminous Sea and taking audience questions at a public reading and reception: 7pm Wednesday, March 27, 2019 at The Rooms (in the Theatre), 9 Bonaventure Avenue in St. John’s.

IWD2019_Melissa Barbeau
Melissa Barbeau on Reading Women

Why read women?

When I first looked at this question I thought: easiest thing ever. What topic could be more simple to write about? Why read women? Why wouldn’t you? It’s exciting to read women. It’s invigorating. I read women because women are brilliant. I read women because I like to watch their brains at work, their synapses snapping. I like to see their thoughts swimming like koi fish inside their skulls, flashing with electricity. I read women because they’re innovative. Because they’ve invented whole new forms, new ways of writing (Hello, Virginia Woolf); because they take chances – with characters, with words, with social norms (who could ever forget the bloody tampon scene in Zadie Smith’s NW?). I read women because I have no idea what to expect. I read women because they are fearless. Because they are not afraid to offer up ugliness and despair – because they’re not afraid to revel in ugliness and despair – and because their search for the beautiful is never-ending (see: Tanya Tagaq’s heartrending novel Split Tooth). I read women because they’re contrary and brave and passionate and cold and angry and forgiving and joyful and fierce. Because their voices are singular and because they speak for their sisters. Because they’re eccentric. Because words like dynamic and explosive apply. Because we are the carriers of sorrow and joy and anger. Because our hearts hold half the world’s dreams.

But I realized the question wasn’t that simple. We are admonished to read women, too, to see the world from a new perspective; to experience a new way of seeing. But what does that even mean? What new way of seeing? What new perspective? How is that women look out at the world and see something other than? What vista have we arrived at that offers a new view and how did we gain it? What path did we take through the trees to find a view looking out over the valley? My theory is this: that women are by nature, maybe by necessity, watchful. That we have learned to feel the atmosphere of a room as we enter it; to suss out the particulars of our environment and the organisms in it; to collect information with our eyes and our ears, with our subterranean senses. That we see the world in all its nuances and subtleties and that our stories come from a place of observed truth. I read women because we are truth tellers. Because we are creators of worlds that ring with authenticity.

What are some of your favourite books by women?

What women-author books are my favourite to read? A Room of One’s Own is the one book I read over and over and over again. As with many women, it has become a kind of manifesto for me about women working, writing, creating. And witty? And sly? That Virginia Woolf is as cute as a fox.

One of the questions I’ve been asked most frequently since my novel has been published is ‘how do you do it?’ referring to the blurb on the back flap mentioning that I work as a teacher in the public school system and have a gaggle of children. The answer is, of course, that it wasn’t easy – lady, let me tell you – but, also, the whole enterprise was in many ways a family affair, and that included a supportive partner who was all the way in. It meant our family reimagined work and traditional gender roles and caregiving and hosts of other things – the very topics Anne-Marie Slaughter writes about in her book Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family. This book is on my new favourites and, I think, an important read for anyone who works or has loved ones that they care for or who wants to live a fulfilled life (a.k.a. everyone).

And lastly, I love women who write weird. I love magic realism or books that dip into magic or oddity or the plain unlikely. And while I love those male masters of the genre (I won’t name them, you know who they are) I can’t get enough of women who write strange. I love the novels of Jeannette Winterson; if I had to choose one I’d pick The Passion with its web-footed female protagonist poling her boat through the canals of 19th century Venice. Also, Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, and anything by Chilean writer Isabel Allende. My very favourite short story – “Spinning for the Empire” which is about a group of women literally spinning silk in wartime Japan – comes from Karen Russell’s sublime collection called Vampires in the Lemon Grove.

From March 8th – 12th, take 20% off all books by our female authors in-store and online.

Enter promo code: WOMENSDAY2019


Reading Women with Bridget Canning

In honour of International Women’s Day, we invited some of our authors to tell us why reading books by women is important and to share some of their favourite books by women with us.

Our third featured author is Bridget Canning. Bridget Canning’s debut novel, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes, was published with Breakwater Books in April, 2017 and selected as a finalist for the BMO Winterset Award, the Margaret and John Savage First Book (Fiction) Award, and the IPPY Award for Best Fiction, Canada East. She was raised on a sheep farm in Highlands, Newfoundland and currently lives in St. John’s where she is busy working on an MA in Creative Writing at Memorial University.

The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes is one of four books selected for the first ever Read Local Month at Nova Scotia public libraries. Read more about the Read Local Month initiative here.

IWD2019_Bridget Canning
Bridget Canning on Reading Women

Why read women?

It’s frustrating to answer this question because it’s frustrating to feel that we still need to ask it. Do we really have to explain the importance of the point of view of half the population? Do we really have to explain the importance of reading work that includes a broad range of human experience? Have women not proven their worth as storytellers?

I feel there isn’t (or shouldn’t be) “writing” and “women’s writing.” Women writers should not be expected to create only work to be marketed in shades of pink and frilly, resigned to a special corner of bookstores. And we shouldn’t approach the work of writers who aren’t cis male, white, and straight as a fringe market, like something only to be consumed by the kind of people who create it.

To answer this question myself, I read the work of women for the same reason I write. I’m interested in complex female characters who are represented as fully human, with all the flaws, vices, strengths, and vast potential we all possess in reality.

Favourite Books

I’m very drawn to both reading and writing very character driven work – below are three of my favourites and happen to be written by women.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
The character of Blue is so rich and wonderful as a person who has lived with few connections other than books and film. Blue processes new information in a kind of bibliographic way – connecting everything to her vast knowledge which is so limited in her personal isolation.

Antarctica by Claire Keegan
I met Claire Keegan at the Sparks Literary Festival this year and immediately devoured her collection of short stories. She picks you up and puts you there. That’s the best way I can describe it.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
One of my favourite books from childhood which I feel inspired me to write. As Harriet collects her observations in her notebook during her “spying”, she is learning to see and write in her own voice.

From March 8th – 12th, take 20% off all books by our female authors in-store and online.

Enter promo code: WOMENSDAY2019


Reading Women with Trudy J. Morgan-Cole

In honour of International Women’s Day, we invited some of our authors to tell us why reading books by women is important and to share some of their favourite books by women with us.

Our second featured author is Trudy J. Morgan-Cole. Trudy J. Morgan-Cole is a writer and teacher in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Her historical novels include By the Rivers of Brooklyn, That Forgetful Shore, A Sudden Sun and Most Anything You Please. At her day job, she teaches English and social studies to adult learners. She is married and is the mom of two young adults. Trudy’s passion is uncovering and re-imagining the untold stories of women in history.

Most Anything You Please recently won NL Reads and the inaugural Margaret Duley Award. Read more about her win here.

IWD2019_Trudy J Morgan-Cole

Trudy J. Morgan-Cole on Reading Women

My answer to the question “why read women?” is really the same as my answer to “why read?” in that I don’t feel “books by women” are a special sub-category of books. If you love books, if you read widely, then you should read and love books by women, which are as varied and diverse as are books by men.

However, with that being said, I realize it’s very easy to fall into ruts with our reading, to only read what’s familiar, what we’ve read before, what gets recommended to us through certain channels. And so, for some readers, that might mean that they’re more likely to read books by men than by women, simply because that’s what they’re used to or what they’ve been exposed to. If you’re not reading many books by women, you’re leaving out a huge chunk of the human experience.

So for anyone who is not already reading a lot of books by women, I would encourage you to diversify your reading. Challenge yourself to find new women writers, new books by women that you might not have discovered if you hadn’t gone looking for them. Adding any kind of diversity to your reading list—whether it’s trying to read more women, more books by writers of colour, more books written in a language other than English, more books by LGBTQ authors, whatever—can only give you a richer reading experience as you get exposed to more perspectives, more views on the world. And that holds true whether you’re reading fiction or non-fiction.

When I think of my favourite women writers, I think of a huge variety—some very well-known; some not at all well-known. It’s easier for me to choose a few if I break them down into categories. I love historical fiction: Sharon Kay Penman, Dorothy Dunnett, Margaret George—those are just a few women who I think are masters (or mistresses?) of that genre. One of my favourite fantasy writers is Robin Hobb, and then there’s a very new female fantasy writer, S.A. Chakraborty, whose work I’m really excited about. For contemporary realistic fiction, I love classics like Anne Tyler, but I also love an American writer called Joshilyn Jackson and British writer, Catherine Fox, whose work is not nearly as well known. I think as Canadian readers we’re very lucky that some of our best-known and most foundational fiction writers are women, and of those I would say Margaret Laurence had the biggest impact on me of anyone.

But throwing out all those names is just scratching the surface. I could name a hundred more, in all different genres and styles, past and present. I believe in reading widely, books by men and women from all sorts of backgrounds—but as a woman, I do particularly love seeing the world through female eyes.

From March 8th – 12th, take 20% off all books by our female authors in-store and online.

Enter promo code: WOMENSDAY2019