Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Posts from — November 2009

The Charter for Compassion

This is a great new movement aiming to spread compassion around the world. We all could use more of that, couldn’t we?

On February 28, 2008 Karen Armstrong won the TED Prize and made a wish: for help creating, launching and propagating a Charter for Compassion. Since that day, thousands of people have contributed to the process so that on November 12, 2009 the Charter was unveiled to the world.

November 18, 2009   No Comments

Advising for Spring 2010 registration

Fall registration begins for Seniors on Tuesday, November 17, and opens up for everyone else gradually over that week. Make sure to check the UVM Registration schedule to see when you may begin registering for Spring classes.

I’m setting aside enough 15 minute appointments over the next week or so to meet with all 50 of my advisees. I’ll be available to answer any advising questions and to help review your choice of courses for the fall semester. If you’ll be a senior planning on graduating in spring 2010, you should definitely come to see me before registering so that we can make sure you’ll be set to graduate.

Keep reading after the break for further details and to choose your appointment time.

[

November 13, 2009   No Comments

Canadian poet Randall Maggs reading at UVM on November 12



Thursday, November 12, 4:30 PM
John Dewey Lounge, Old Mill

Randall Maggs is the author of two collections, Timely Departures (1994) and Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems (2008) and co-editor of two anthologies pairing Newfoundland and Canadian poems with those of Ireland. Night Work won the 2008 Winterset Award, the 2009 E.J. Pratt Poetry Award, and was a Globe and Mail top 100 book of 2008. It has been shortlisted for the upcoming Kobzar Literary Award. Maggs is artistic director of Newfoundland’s March Hare festival of music and literature, and has just retired from teaching literature at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial University, Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

Night Work Cover.small.jpg

Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems is a hockey saga, wrapping the game‚s story in the “intense, moody,
contradictory” character of Terry Sawchuk, one of its greatest goalies. In compact, conversational poems
that build into a narrative long poem, Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems follows the tragic trajectory of
the life and work of Terry Sawchuk, dark driven genius of a goalie who survived twenty tough seasons
in an era of inadequate upper-body equipment and no player representation. The book is illustrated
with photographs mirroring the text, depicting key moments in the career of Terry Sawchuk, his
exploits and his agony.

“Through his marvelous, moving poetry, Randall Maggs gets closer than any biographer to the heart of
the darkest, most troubled figure in the history of the national game. This may be the truest hockey
book ever written. It reaches a level untouched by conventional sports literature… His Sawchuk is real.”
– Stephen Brunt, Globe and Mail columnist and Canada‚s premier sportswriter and commentator

Sponsored by the UVM Canadian Studies Program, and the Canada Council for the Arts

For more information about the reading, please contact
Paul Martin, Dept of English

The following articles will give you more information about Randall Maggs and his work: inspires poetry page/2198813/story.html

November 10, 2009   Comments Off on Canadian poet Randall Maggs reading at UVM on November 12

Northwest Passages to shut down its retail operation

Below you’ll find the latest newsletter from Northwest Passages. Closing down our beloved site after 14 years is hard, but necessary for us. There are lots of good books for sale at our site right now, so make sure to check it out.   

NWP moves on

Greetings from Northwest Passages. I know that it has been a long time since you have heard from us, but I’m writing today with important news. As of December 31, 2009, Rob Stocks, Sarah Bagshaw, and I will no longer be in the business of selling books. Northwest Passages will cease operation at the end of this year.

This decision has been coming for some time and probably should have been made a long time ago. We’ve loved much of what we’ve done at NWP and have had a hard time letting go of our passion for selling and promoting Canadian literature. With the directions our lives and careers have taken in recent years, not to mention the changes to the landscape of publishing and bookselling in Canada, we feel it is time for us to close our store.

We are very grateful to all those of you who have supported us over the 14 years our site has been online. This newsletter’s editorial talks in more detail about our history, but suffice it to say that we have loved working with so many great authors, publishers, distributors, and, most important, customers from across Canada and around the world. Northwest Passages never made us anything close to enough money for us to even consider this a part-time job, but the site did help

Although we have stopped bringing in new books, we still have a considerable inventory of fine Canadian books that we are hoping to clear out by the end of this year. If you’ve supported us in the past, we hope that you will take some time to look through our inventory. Any of these books would make great Christmas gifts for your loved ones or excellent additions to your own personal library of Canadian fiction, poetry, drama, and literary criticism.

To see which books we have in stock, just go to our website at You can either go genre by genre and see what’s “in stock now” or head right to the “On Sale” heading on our site. Either way, you’ll discover many great works of Canadian fiction, poetry, drama, and literary criticism at excellent prices.

The future of Northwest Passages?

Over the next seven weeks, Northwest Passages will be clearing out all of its inventory and preparing to close down our retail operation. We will, however, entertain any offers from parties interested in taking over Northwest Passages and carrying it on into the future. As mentioned below, with Twitter and blogs and espresso book machines these days, perhaps someone might want to take this established brand and bring it back to life in a new form. We’ll definitely be willing to talk to anyone who’s interested. If this interests you, please contact Paul directly at paul — at —

Passages: 14 years of Canadian Literature Online

In the fall of 1995, my best friend Rob Stocks and I came up with an idea that, for better worse, would go on to be part of our lives for the best part of fourteen years. Rob, an early Internet entrepreneur in the days long before this would become a common term, and I, a grad student just starting a PhD program in Comparative Literature, thought we might be able to combine our interests and expertise to create an online bookstore. What would make this online bookstore unique was that it would focus solely on Canadian literature. In the years since, we have put thousands of hours of work into our business and have helped sell thousands of Canadian books to readers around the world. Much of this work has been done by Sarah Bagshaw, who for years now has been the heart and soul of NWP.

When the Northwest Passages website went live in the summer of 1996, was still a new enterprise that many doubted would ever be capable of turning a profit. Although there was no Canadian equivalent to Amazon whatsoever, but Rob and I didn’t have much interest in the “everything for everyone” approach to bookselling online. We envisioned that the Internet could become home to a multiplicity of niche booksellers who could provide both a deep selection of an online store and the knowledgeable customer service of an independent bookseller. Northwest Passages would target the valuable and, still to this day, underserved market of Canadian literature.

In the early days of Northwest Passages, many people in the publishing industry viewed us great suspicion. As crazy as this might sound today, it sometimes took me weeks to persuade certain publishers that putting a picture of a book’s cover up on our website would neither violate copyright nor anger the book’s author. While publishers gradually warmed to my argument that this was no different than putting a copy of the book in a store’s front window, they were clearly unprepared at that time for the massive changes that the internet would soon bring to bookselling and publishing. When we launched, many publishers did not even have websites and none had any people on staff devoted to online marketing of any sort. Furthermore, most publishers were either unable or unwilling to provide us with digital data of any sort. Many of the early book covers and book descriptions that still exist in our database were all painstakingly scanned or entered by hand.

One of the things at the heart of our early vision of Northwest Passages that long set us apart from other online stores of any sort was that we wanted our site to be as much of an information resource as it was a retail store. Ultimately, as the three of us will readily admit, Northwest Passages was always more successful as a hub for information about Canadian books than it was as a store. At its peak, Northwest Passages saw thousands of different visitors accessing our site each month and over 1000 readers subscribed to our newsletter, The Compass. At the same time, however, we never sold enough books to pay even one of us a salary that would enable us to look after the store full-time. Because we held limited inventory and brought in books as people ordered them, it was very difficult for us to compete with the behemoth online bookstores ( and Chapters-Indigo) or local stores where you can walk in a find a book within a few minutes. The lure of immediacy was hard for us to overcome in the minds of our customers.

Where we did succeed commercially was mostly in sales to customers outside of Canada. Accustomed to moderate to long shipping times for purchases made by mail or online, these clients were more than willing to wait a few weeks for a book to arrive. More important, they appreciated having a bookseller like Sarah who was eager to help them obtain the books they wanted and who would keep them apprised of the latest Canadian releases and literary news. We also did well selling course books for Canadian literature courses taught everywhere from Australia to Italy. These customers especially will feel the loss of Northwest Passages acutely.

Looking back at what we began 14 years ago, it’s clear that Northwest Passages was ahead of its time. In some small ways, perhaps, we helped push some Canadian publishers on to the Internet more quickly than they might have otherwise done. With the technologies that surround us today such as Twitter, blogs, ebook readers, and Espresso Book Machines, I can’t help but wish sometimes that we were starting out again today with the same youthful energy and enthusiasm Rob and I shared in those early days of the Internet. We are once again at the dawn of a new and exciting era for publishing and bookselling in this country that will require us to start thinking in new and innovative ways about what it is that we do.

Over fourteen years, our lives have grown in rich and wonderful ways. So too has publishing and the selling of books. Today, Rob, Sarah, and I are ready to leave Northwest Passages behind and to go our separate ways. With his company ideaLEVER, Rob continues to innovate in the world of ecommerce and content management. Sarah, who has really kept NWP running for much of the last decade, has taken her expertise as one of the best booksellers around to KidsBooks in Vancouver. I, as many of you know, am now in the US teaching Canadian literature at the University of Vermont and directing its Canadian Studies Program.

We are incredibly grateful for the support we have received from family and friends, publishers and authors, professors and students. Most of all, we want to thank our incredibly loyal customers, some of whom have stuck with us since our first days online. It has been our great pleasure to get to know so many interesting people from all corners of the world.

Canadian literature, as we have seen firsthand, continues to have a wide international audience. We have been honoured to have helped readers everywhere get their hands on thousands of Canadian books.

On behalf of Rob, Sarah, and myself, thank you again for all of your support.

Paul Martin

October 20, 2009

November 9, 2009   No Comments