Writing instructors tapped for Butler Book Prize

Two instructors with UVic’s Department of Writing are in the spotlight, this time as shortlisters for the seventh annual City of Victoria Butler Book Prize.

Former Victoria poet laureate Carla Funk and journalist Stephen Hume are both nominated for the Butler—Funk for her book of poetry, apologetic, and Hume for his nonfiction work, A Walk with the Rainy Sisters: In Praise of B.C.’s Places. Also on the short-list is writing UVic Professor Emeritus Jack Hodgins, for The Master of Happy Endings.

The winning author will receive $5,000 and will be announced at the awards gala to be held at the Union Club of Victoria on October 12. For more information, visit the Victoria Book Prizes Society.

Previous UVic winners include MFA candidate Frances Backhouse (Children of the Klondike), Patrick Lane (Red Dog, Red Dog) and Bill Gaston (Gargoyles).

UVic Writing grad D.W. Wilson wins £15,000 prize

UVic graduate D.W. Wilson has picked up the top prize in one of the richest short story awards in the world.

The 26-year-old Wilson was announced as the winner of BBC National Short Story Prize on September 26, 2011, for his story, “The Dead Roads.” The BC born-and-raised Wilson—the youngest winner in the five-year-history of the prize—now lives in London, England.

‘The judges were unanimous in their choice of David Wilson’s story as the winner,” chair of the judges Sue MacGregor told the National Post. “[It’s] a beautifully crafted and involving tale set in the Canadian Rockies. His offbeat, slightly wayward quartet of characters stays with you long after your first reading. The plot is tightly controlled and builds the tension perfectly. A rattling good read.”

A graduate of UVIc’s Department of Writing, Wilson’s award-winning story is included in his debut book, Once You Break A Knuckle, which will be released in the UK by Penguin this fall and has been published in Canada with Hamish Hamilton Canada. He is the recipient of the University of East Anglia’s inaugural MAN Booker Prize Scholarship—the most prestigious award available to students in their MA program. His stories have appeared in literary magazines across Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, including the Malahat Review, Grain, and Southword.

The BBC National Short Story Prize is worth £15,000—nearly $24,000 Canadian.

Terry Glavin writes from the shadows of Afghanistan

Acclaimed writer and journalist Terry Glavin will speak at UVic on October 19

When it comes to his experiences in Afghanistan, acclaimed writer Terry Glavin is characteristically blunt. “In my own working life, I have never encountered such a deep and dark gulf between the real world and the way that world, and the war there, appears in the media.”

The winner of more than a dozen literary and journalism awards, Glavin has been hailed as “one of the finest journalists writing anywhere in the English language.” As UVic’s fifth annual Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction, Glavin will explore our need to understand the world through narratives, discuss the enduring value of true stories and launch his seventh book, Come From the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan (Douglas & McIntyre), at a free public lecture, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. in room A240 of the Human & Social Development Building.

Glavin is also sharing his personal experiences with Afghanistan and a shifting media landscape with UVic students this year. His lecture and discussion course, “Orwell and Everything After,” explores what he deems “a disorienting time of social, geopolitical and economic upheaval”—but far from describing the era of George Orwell (1984, Animal Farm), he’s actually referring to the world today.

“Today’s revolutionary transition from analog to digital media is as epochal to the way we communicate ideas, stories and report ‘news’ as yesterday’s transition from an oral to a written-word culture,” explains Glavin. “But what has endured is our continuing evolution as a species that comprehends and explains the world through narrative . . . what also appears likely to endure is the value most people place on true stories.”

His latest book, Come From The Shadows, reflects his disturbing observations in that war-torn country. “I have always been drawn to those stories that present anomalous and unaccountable distances between the real world and its depiction and representation in the media,” he says. “When you discover those yawning chasms, you look for the reasons, and that’s where you’ll find the most overlooked, most interesting, most dangerous and most important stories.  It’s why I had to go to Afghansitan—and go back again and again and again.”

Terry Glavin has been hailed as “one of the finest journalists writing anywhere in the English language.” The author of six books and co-author of four others, he has been a reporter, editor and columnist for the Vancouver Sun and The Globe and Mail; his cultural criticism, science and travel writing have appeared in magazines across the country, and he has won more than a dozen literary and journalism awards, including the 2009 Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in BC. Glavin is also a co-founder of the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee and the National Post called him “one of Canada’s leading voices in support of our Afghanistan campaign.”

The annual Harvey Stevenson Southam lectureship is made possible by a $250,000 gift from one of the country’s leading publishing families. Harvey Southam, a UVic alumnus and journalist, was heir to his family’s publishing empire when he died suddenly in 1991.

UVic playwright Joan MacLeod up for $100,000 Siminovitch Prize

Joan MacLeod speaks at the Department of Writing’s annual faculty reading night in September 2011

Will it be second-time lucky for Joan MacLeod? The acclaimed Canadian creator of such much-loved plays as Homechild, The Shape of A Girl and Amigo’s Blue Guitar is once again in the running for the $100,000 Elinore & Lou Siminovitch Prize, the largest theatre award in Canada. MacLeod, also the acting chair of UVic’s celebrated Department of Writing, was previously shortlisted for the prize in 2005.

Rounding out this year’s shortlist are Robert Chafe of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Montreal’s Larry Tremblay, Toronto’s Greg MacArthur, Saskatoon’s Mansel Robinson and Quebec’s Jasmine Dube, selected from a list of 23 nominated playwrights. The Siminovitch Prize recognizes accomplishments in design, direction and playwriting in three-year cycles, and this year’s focus is on playwriting. Past winning playwrights include Montreal’s Carole Frechette, Toronto’s John Mighton and Daniel McIvor, also of Toronto, who presented the world premiere of a new play, Inside, at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre earlier in 2011.

“The jury was thrilled with the range and quality of the work of all the playwrights nominated this year,” jury chair Maureen Labonte told the Globe and Mail. “The finalists demonstrate passion and imagination in their writing, as well as extraordinary voice and vision, all of which contribute to building a strong Canadian theatre scene.”

The Siminovitch prize was created in 2001 in honour of scientist Lou Siminovitch and his late wife Elinore. The winner will be announced on Nov. 7 at a ceremony in Toronto.

Writing grad Esi Edugyan makes shortlist trifecta

Booker, Giller and Writer’s Trust shortlists for Esi Edugyan

Most writers hope their new book will get some attention—a review, maybe, or an author profile. But getting attention hasn’t exactly been a problem for Esi Edugyan. Not only is she one of six authors shortlisted for the prestigious £50,000 UK Man Booker Prize, but she is also one of six authors on the $50,000 Giller Prize shortlist and one of five authors up for the $25,000 Writers’ Trust fiction award. That makes a trifecta of shorlists for her second novel, Half-Blood Blues, published in Canada by Thomas Allen.

“It’s amazing, like nothing you could expect,” says Edugyan, a former Department of Writing sessional instructor and graduate of UVic’s Department of Writing. Half-Blood Blues is set in the world of black jazz musicians in Nazi Germany and occupied Paris, and has been described by award-winning Book of Negroes author Lawrence Hill as “a truly beautiful novel . . . both taut and expansive, like great jazz [with] exquisite language throughout.”

With a Masters in Writing from Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, Edugyan’s work has appeared in several anthologies, including Best New American Voices 2003  and Revival: An Anthology of Black Canadian Writing (2006). Her debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, was published internationally and was nominated for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, was a More Book Lust selection, and was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of 2004’s Books to Remember. Edugyan has held fellowships in the US, Scotland, Iceland, Germany, Hungary, Finland, Spain and Belgium. She has taught creative writing at both Johns Hopkins University and the University of Victoria, and has sat on many international panels, including the LesART Literary Festival in Esslingen, Germany, the Budapest Book Fair in Hungary, and Barnard College in New York City. She is also the wife of fellow UVic Writing instructor Steven Price, with whom she had their first child in August 2011.

Edugyan is philosophical when asked if she felt pressure to follow up her first novel with something equally powerful. “I was only 24 when my first book came out, and I felt a lot of pressure and felt quite tossed around in the publishing industry,” she says. “But now, I just feel grateful. I honestly don’t feel any great pressure to produce something that people will love or will get me critical acclaim. There’s no formula; you just do what you like and write what you want to write. I don’t think anybody can predict in this business what’s going to do well. Things become popular that you would never think would become popular; something that worked last fall won’t necessarily work next year. You just do what you do.”

Given the reception Half-Blood Blues has been getting, Edugyan is doing just fine doing what she does.

The winner of the Man Booker Prize is announced October 18, with the winner of the Writer’s Trust Award announced November 1 and the Giller Prize announced November 8.