When author Leo McKay Jr. found out his 1993 novel Twenty-Six was going to be the inaugural book pick for One Book Nova Scotia, he was thrilled.
“They called months ago to say I was selected and wanted to know whether I wanted to do this. I laughed because I knew it was going to be an amazing thing and I was honoured to be part of it.”
The book, Twenty-Six, was announced at a launch at the Keshen Goodman Library on Friday, Sept. 21. One Book Nova Scotia is a provincewide initiative to encourage people to “read the same book and share the same story.”
Twenty-Six is a fictionalized account of the Westray mine disaster and fit all the criteria for the program.
“The goal of the program is to increase the profile of reading in Nova Scotia,” said Marlo MacKay, steering committee member. “It’s a way of making reading a less solitary activity and get people discussing books.”
Although the future of the program depends on this year’s success, MacKay said they hope to make it an annual event.
Nate Crawford, executive director of the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia, was on the selection committee.
He said the selection process began by polling librarians in the province.
“We got a sense of what was on people’s minds,” said Crawford. “We were looking for something that was well regarded at the time that it came out but didn’t blow up huge. We had two or three that we were keen on and then Leo’s book came in and we said ‘This is it.’”
During a reading of his book at the One Book launch, McKay became emotional when talking about the mine disaster.
“The Westray mine disaster is one of those life changing events that everyone knows where they were the time it happened,” said McKay, who grew up in Stellarton and now lives and teaches school in Truro. “I was living in Japan at the time and found out much the way one of the characters in my book did."
He said his parents, who lived in Pictou County, were woken up when the explosion shook their house.
One Book Nova Scotia will run from Sept. 21 until Nov. 9. McKay will be doing readings at public libraries and other venues across the province in the coming weeks.
Twenty-Six is available at libraries across the province in traditional book format, eBook and audio version. The book can also be purchased at local book stores and online. To find out more, visit 1bns.ca.
Selection Committee criteria
-must be written by a living Canadian Author
-must be able to generate a broad range of adult readers of varying ages, literacy levels and life experience
-must be in print and available for purchase in paperback
-must be written with a compelling story, charcters and setting that will generate excitement among readers