I’m not sure what year it was – perhaps 1998 – but my first acknowledgement from the writing world came when I was awarded a 2nd prize in the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick’s Literary Competition. I do remember that the judge in the short fiction category was St. John’s author Paul Bowdring, and that Miramichi author (former author?) Larry Lynch took first prize. My story was called “Anna” and (something I also recall) it was the first time I wrote without quotation marks for dialogue.
Queue my long history with WFNB: from 1999 to 2014 I was (though not always but sometimes concurrently) a board member, newsletter editor, webmaster, five-year “interim” executive director and unofficial photographer. During that time, I never again entered the literary competition – I found judges, notified winners, co-emceed the awards soirée.
But this year I did enter the competition, aiming for the David Adams Richards Prize by sending four of my “Shabazz stories” (nearly 30,000 words) under the title “The Purpose of Evolution in Not Immortality” (yes, I got two grants in 2016 to write this same collection).
A few days back a call came from WFNB executive director Cathy Fynn with the satisfying news that…. I’d won. The judge’s comments:
Sophisticated literary fiction: haunts, tickles, and disturbs — and subverts. I laughed several times in places I later felt I shouldn’t, and I often shuddered. I at once admired the writer’s technique, and experienced emotional connections with the characters; those two things don’t always happen. Because the writer seems to be not as concerned with plot as much as what the characters believe is happening, some stories risk sag in the middle. Overall, however, the work is a delight: rich and strange.
The ‘sag’ must be watched, but that’s the risk of rambling/gambling (gamboling!) outside the plot (something I’ve loved doing since reading Gogol so long ago).
Am still writing this collection, but with one story at Numero Cinq, one published as a chapbook, and the aforementioned grants, this concept (Dr. Shabazz, a mysterious psychologist) continues to treat me well.
And nice to come full circle with WFNB.
A nod of thanks for both the Canada Council for the Arts and ArtsNB for supporting the writing of the collection.