Winners

Congratulations: Shashi, Greg, Alicia, Liz, Philip, Jason, Aviva, Rowan, Sofia, Jess, Iryn, and Carly! Look at these stars, the long listed authors whose stories will appear in the Journey Prize 30.

JP Long List.jpg

Congratulations to: The Dalhousie Review, Pulp Literature (x2), The New Quarterly (x2), Event, The Malahat Review, Prism International, PrairieFire, This Magazine (x2), and the CVC Anthology Series (x2).

JP Names.jpg

Zoey, Kerry, and I judged the stories blind meaning it was only after the decisions were made that we got to see the authors' names and the publications that had put their stories forward. After all our debates and nit picking over theme and character and form, all these particulars that were, at the time, divorced from our knowledge of the writers themselves, the big reveal was a joyous experience. There were many exclamations, especially when we learned that one writer and one publication had made the list twice (Greg if you are reading this, we all agreed that Pulp should give you a free subscription for life).

I've adjudicated a few short story competitions now but I've never been prouder to see a list of winners. Yeah. Winners. Listen. It was A FEAT for these writers to get on the long list. First, they had to write a story (difficult enough!). Then they had to find the story a home (you can imagine all the rejection along the way). Then the publications had to decide that out of all the stories published that year, their particular story was the one to put forward. And then the story came to us, the jury.

Zoey, Kerry, and I are tough customers and there were many wonderful stories that did not make the cut (some that I still recall with great admiration). So yes, once again, congrats to the winners:

Alicia, Aviva, Carly, Greg, Iryn, Jason, Jess, Liz, Philip, Rowan, Sashi, and Sofia.

Jury duty

38071473_10156637439224577_2562000090017300480_o.jpg

The Journey Prize - Canada's biggest and most lucrative annual short story award - turns 30 this year and I was fortunate enough to be on the jury along with authors (and all around wonderful human beings) Kerry Clare and Zoey Leigh Peterson. The long-listed authors and their stories will be announced on Tuesday, August 7th. Watch this space.

How the award works

In January/ February, magazines and publications choose up to three of the best stories by emerging authors that they published in the previous year. The stories are sent to McClelland & Stewart who administer the award (not to be confused with the Writer's Trust of Canada who give the award out and are responsible for the hoopla surrounding the ceremony). It's actually my Canadian editor Anita Chong and assistant editor Joe Lee who do much of the thankless, painstaking, administrative work. They are stars.

M&S hires the jury and we all read every single one of the stories. And then we the jury discuss and debate and re-read and re-consider and eventually we narrow it down to the long-list, all of which are published in the Journey Prize anthology. I'm so pleased for these authors because I know what it means to make the anthology. And it's a gold star for the publications that nominated them too. Let's take a moment to tip our hats to those magazines and literary journals - staffed mostly by volunteers working long hours on shoestring budgets. They are the corner stone of Canadian literature, the first rung on the ladder and their existence makes so many of our careers possible.

This year's jury

I lucked out with my fellow jurors. Kerry Clare (who has written about her Journey Prize experience here) and Zoey Leigh Peterson are careful readers and came to the job with a spirit of openness that made healthy and respectful discussion and debate possible. We listened to each other. We kept open minds. None of us assumed we knew better. We gave the job the respect and attention it deserved and were willing to re-read. Over and over and over. The things Kerry and Zoey taught me about reading, are lessons I carry with me today. They have made me a more thoughtful reader and probably a better writer. And I'm proud of the anthology we curated. Journey Prize 30. It's a stunner.

So Much Love

Earlier this year, during a visit to M&S, my editor Anita told me about one of her other authors, Rebecca Rosenblum. She's a bit like you, Anita said. She knows everything about her characters, even the minor ones, and they like to show up in multiple stories.

A writer after my own readerly heart, I thought. Rebecca's debut novel was about to come out and Anita gave me a copy. Last week, I cracked it open. So Much Love is incredible, utterly devastating. Quiet, meditative, and simultaneously a compulsive read. In the last fifty pages, I couldn't put it down. Even when it was time to call my husband who I hadn't seen in a week, still I couldn't set the book aside.

At its heart is an abduction - a young woman is snatched from a parking lot after dark. For months no one knows where Catherine Reindeer has gone or if she's alive. Then the mystery is solved and everyone in her life must cope with the consequences.

Catherine lives in a small town and her disappearance affects everyone in it - her husband, her mother, co-workers, an English professor, a highschool girl she never met. Their stories are relayed in first person and third, giving us glimpses into these other lives while sketching a picture of the missing woman. The kidnapper has his say in second person, a point of view cannily chosen to make the reader complicit. In a lesser author's hands the device might have been coy but Rosenblum pulls it off with a dexterity that would make Nabokov proud.

Woven through Catherine's narrative is the story of her favourite poet, Juliana Ohlin, who died twenty years earlier, murdered, everyone believes by her boyfriend. The menace of men - strangers, intimates - looms large over the book but it is never suffocating. Because there are other themes here too: resilience, bravery, hope. The question of who a person becomes when pushed to the brink, how far you would go to survive, the value of rage when there is no one to rage at.

There's nothing lurid here, no cringeworthy gore. Instead, the prose is precise and emotion is at the fore. Every word, every nuanced thought, feels familiar and correct. 

Neither novel nor story collection, So Much Love evades neat categorization -  and is stronger for that defiance. Rosenblum wields the subtle pen of the short story writer, revealing through her interconnected stories just the tip of the iceberg. Always there is sense that there's more to tell about these characters, other details and anecdotes that didn't make the cut. As a reader I want to rummage through her recycling bin. As a writer I envy her restraint.

THE BOAT PEOPLE

BEAUTIFUL NEWS! My debut novel, The Boat People, will be published by McClelland & Stewart (in Canada) and Doubleday (in the US).

Editors Anita Chong and Melissa Danaczko made a joint offer for the US/Canadian rights and I was overjoyed to accept.  As my friend Nancy says, M&S and Doubleday US = the SERIOUS, BIG TIME! But the other truth is I had spoken with both Melissa and Anita at great length before they made the offer. (Funny story: the calls were arranged one after the other and I'd promised my agent Stephanie I'd give her a ring when I was done. And I was on the phone, first with Melissa, then with Anita, for so long (2.5 hours to be exact) that Stephanie thought I'd forgotten all about her!) So by the time the offer came, I was confident that Melissa and Anita shared my vision for the book and that the manuscript would be in safe hands with them.

I'm more grateful than I can say (and possibly also a bit teary) - to Anita and Melissa and their respective houses for seeing possibility in my novel, to Stephanie and the team at Transatlantic for making this whole process so seamless and stress-free, to every single friend, family, and Port Authority member who read my craptastic early drafts, to my husband Tom who never doubted this would happen. BIGGEST DREAM COME TRUE.

Full details are on the press release here.