Fine Arts student Erin Fisher is $2,000 richer, thanks to her first-place win for a story originally written as a first-year assignment for the University of Victoria’s Department of Writing. Fisher, now a third-year Writing student and winner of the 2009 Cadboro Bay Book Prize for Fiction, was selected as the Grand Prize Fiction winner in the 2011 PRISM International poetry and fiction contest for her 2,500-word short story “Bridges.”
Chosen from a field of over 250 entries by this year’s fiction judge—noted songwriter and publisher John K. Samson of The Weakerthans fame—Fisher describes “Bridges” as a story about “a six-year-old girl who spends her time watching her sister, watching herself and telling stories; it’s about quietness in people, and connections.”Originally written in two weeks for a first-year writing class, “Bridges” was reworked as an entry for The Malahat Review’s 2010 Open Season Award in Fiction, where it was shortlisted as a finalist, before being redrafted and sent to PRISM. “This will be my first publication, and it is a much-needed moral boost,” says Fisher, an award-winning pianist who also teaches at the Victoria Conservatory of Music. “I’ve spent a lot of years composing music and playing music, and in order to work on writing words I had to shift part of my focus from those studies. It’s good to know both fields can complement each other.”
Fisher says she hadn’t originally planned on pursuing writing at all. “When I first started at UVic, I was thinking of finishing off a music degree in composition,” she recalls. “I took a course from Lorna Jackson to see how the structure of short stories could compare to a musical structure, and got addicted. After luring me in, the writing department showed me what to watch for in technique and craft.”
Acclaimed local author Matthew Hooton (Deloume Road) was one of Fisher’s writing instructors this year and says it has been a “humbling experience” to read her work. “I’ve found myself in the paradoxical position of trying to engage with her work in class and get out of her way at the same time,” he says. “She has a knack for choosing the right word, the right metaphor, the right structure, the right line of dialogue. This prize is the literary equivalent of a warning shot over the bow of the establishment. It won’t be the last time you read her name—trust me, I’ve seen what she’s got coming next.”
Founded in 1959, PRISM International is the oldest literary magazine in Western Canada and published some of the first works by such iconic Canadian writers as Margaret Laurence, George Bowering, Alden Nowlan and Margaret Atwood.