After writing up to 5,000 words on the subject of isolation, the winners of the 2010 Kootenay Literary Competition got a chance to shake off their subject matter at an awards ceremony Saturday night that capped off the competition’s biggest year yet.
Nine writers in five categories took home cash prizes and bragging rights for works about everything from the solitude of a long drive with two teenagers to Canada’s residential schools. Organizer Deborah O’Keeffe says this year saw 40 per cent more entries than the 2009 competition, with 35 people submitting work.
“And almost a quarter of those were emerging writers,” she adds. The category, added this year, was designed specifically for unpublished writers, who might not be used to sharing their work with a wider audience.
This year’s winning emerging writer, Marie Champagne, says that description fits her. The 45 year-old home renovator from Trail started writing fiction about two years ago and hadn’t shown it to anyone outside of her family before entering her short story Connections in the competition.
“Now I’m going to give it to other people because this is much better than my family’s response,” she jokes.
In Connections a young man Champagne describes as “somewhat of a gigolo” gets more than he bargains for when he is hired to accompany a rich old lady on a cross country ski trip. While the story started out with a more “typical” moral dilemma, Champagne says it evolved as she wrote “which was really neat for me because I’ve never experienced that before. You make these characters, and then they actually start to do things you don’t feel like you’re planning for them to do.”
For her winning entry in the youth category, 18-year-old Jenny Crakes started with a set plot — that of a favorite poem — then expanded on it to create The Runaways: The Story of the Indian Schools.
“I was really interested in researching it as well,” she explains. “I’d been learning about it in Social [Studies].”
O’Keeffe says the competition’s organizers are planning to collect all the winning entries for 2010 into a booklet, and are also making plans for the 2011 competition, which they hope to open up to writers in both East and West Kootenay.
Other winners are: Brian D’Eon, whose Badlands took first place for fiction, The Wind’s Voice by poet Sheila Murray-Nellis, and Ellen Burt’s non-fiction piece When the Path is Not a Straight Line.