It’s a busy day for poet-author Andre Fenton when The Coast catches him between meetings: “Me and Cory”—that’s Bowles, director of the 2017 Halifax-shot film Black Cop— “just had a Zoom meeting on CBC,” Fenton says, speaking by phone. The Creative Nova Scotia Emerging Artist award-winner is about to find his schedule even more booked up, though: Bowles, a longtime mentor to Fenton, is helping transform Fenton’s second novel, Annaka, into a film. Fenton is crafting the screenplay, while Bowles will produce the effort. They, along with collaborator Aaron Horton, have “been working on it now for quite some time. And it has been hard to keep a secret. I’m definitely really excited it is out in the open now,” Fenton adds.
“I'm just over the moon with how everything is coming together thus far as we're transitioning the story from page to the screen,” he says. “And I feel very humbled to be able to write the adaptation, because it doesn't really happen too often. But Cory definitely is a big believer in me and I’m just really excited to be given this opportunity to write my first feature.”
Annaka, Fenton’s third book, is “a story about grief and loss and magic through the lens of an African Nova Scotia experience—and also being a love letter to some of the small towns in this province,” the author says. (The bulk of the YA book is set in Yarmouth.)
It’s been a big year so far for Fenton, who also released the YA novel The Summer Between Us in 2022, which took home gold for Best Book in the Best of Halifax Readers’ Choice Awards. Fenton’s also working on an audiobook version of The Summer Between Us and recently secured representation with the Toronto-based Meridian Artists, showing that the come-up isn’t about to stop anytime soon.
“As a storyteller, I'm always looking at ways to be as versatile as I can: I do call myself an author, a poet, now a screenwriter. But I think overall I just want to be remembered as a storyteller. being versatile in all different genres and art forms with my craft. And I feel like making this into a film definitely opens up that audience much more,” Fenton adds. “I always hear from young people about how this little book of grief has impacted them in such a big way, because grief can be so unexpected and hit us: It doesn't matter what point we are in our lives. It just comes when it comes and I think having this made into a movie makes it much more accessible for a lot of folks too.”
“I met Cory, and instantly we kind of had a connection of the minds, like: Two African Nova Scotian storytellers who want to really paint the province and our cities in such an authentic light,” Fenton adds. “It's not too often that we see an African Nova Scotian story told through the lens of fantasy. So I feel like this is a unique experience for both of us to collaborate and turn this novel into a film—and illuminate different parts of this province.”