Glitz and glory brighten city’s literary skies

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Glitz, glory, grants and glamour – the next five weeks promise to be a high-octane celebration of all things literary in Toronto.

On November 7, the Writers’ Trust of Canada will hand out $114,000 in prize money at its 12th annual awards event, to be held at the city’s Isabel Bader Theatre.

Headliner is the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, where five finalists will vie for honours as writer of the year’s best novel or short story collection. Each of the five will receive $2,500, with the eventual winner receiving a total of $25,000. Finalists were chosen by a jury of Lynn Coady, Esi Edugyan, and Drew Hayden Taylor from 116 nominated titles.

To give the public a taste of their work, finalists Tim Bowling (The Tinsmith), Tamas Dobozy (Siege 13), Rawi Hage (Carnival), Alix Ohlin (Inside) and Linda Spalding (The Purchase) will be reading at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto on October 24 and in Owen Sound on October 25.

(The annual festival runs from October 18 to 28 and features such luminaries as Alice Munro and Rohinton Mistry.)

Also competing at the November 7 awards event will be three finalists for the Writers’ Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, which recognizes new and developing writers for the best short story first published in a Canadian literary journal during the previous year.

Kevin Hardcastle (“To Have to Wait” in The Malahat Review), Andrew Hood (“Manning” in PRISM international) and Alex Pugsley (“Crisis on Earth-X” in The Dalhousie Review) will joust for the $10,000 Journey prize.

Four additional prizes for a body of work will also be presented at the ceremony:

  • Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life ($20,000)
  • Vicky Metcalf Award for Children’s Literature ($20,000)
  • Writers’ Trust Distinguished Contribution Award

Canada’s literary leaders will reconvene for the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, with the crowning of the 2012 winner set for a November 12 gala at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music.

The five finalists were chosen from a slate of 104 titles by former Ontario lieutenant-governor James Bartleman, past prize finalist Charlotte Gill and writer Marni Jackson. They are Kamal Al-Solaylee (Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes), Modris Eksteins (Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery, and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age), Taras Grescoe (Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile), J.J. Lee (The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit) and Candace Savage (Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape).

After all that praising and prizing, literary benefactors will start topping up the till again at the annual Writers’ Trust Gala to be held Thursday, November 15 at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel. Proceeds from the event  fund  programs and initiatives that include the organization’s literary awards program, Berton House Writers’ Retreat and scholarship program with Humber College.

The Writers’ Trust of Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to advance, nurture, and celebrate Canadian writers and writing.

Giller jury unveils its 2012 longlist

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The Scotiabank Giller Prize jury has announced its longlist of 13 books that are in the running for this year’s prize. The books were selected from 142 competitors put forward by 51 Canadian publishers from across the country.

Started in 1994 by Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his wife, the late literary journalist Doris Giller, the annual prize recognizes the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English. This year’s jurors are Dublin author and screen writer Roddy Doyle; Toronto publisher, writer and essayist Anna Porter; and New York author and satirist Gary Shteyngart.

Several Ontario writers made this first cut for the prestigious award. Toronto residents Cary Fagan, Robert Hough, Katrina Onstad and CS Richardson join the pool of talented authors vying for the $50,000 prize.

On October 1, finalists will be announced at a news conference in Toronto. The 2012 winner will then be crowned at a televised ceremony in Toronto on October 30.

Claiming a place on this year’s longlist are:

  • Marjorie Celona for her novel Y, published by Hamish Hamilton Canada
  • Lauren B. Davis for her novel Our Daily Bread, published by HarperCollins Canada
  • Cary Fagan for his short story collection My Life Among the Apes, published by Cormorant Books
  • Will Ferguson for his novel 419, published by Viking Canada
  • Robert Hough for his novel Dr. Brinkley’s Tower, published by House of Anansi Press
  • Billie Livingston for her novel One Good Hustle, published by Random House Canada
  • Annabel Lyon for her novel The Sweet Girl, published by Random House Canada
  • Alix Ohlin for her novel Inside, published by House of Anansi Press
  • Katrina Onstad for her novel Everybody Has Everything, published by McClelland & Stewart
  • CS Richardson for his novel The Emperor of Paris, published by Doubleday Canada
  • Nancy Richler for her novel The Imposter Bride, published by HarperCollins Canada
  • Kim Thúy for her novel Ru, translated by Sheila Fischman, published by Random House Canada
  • Russell Wangersky for his short story collection Whirl Away, published by Thomas Allen Publishers

New sci-fi mag hits e-shelves

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New Scientist has launched a new digital sci-fi publication. Arc, a “magazine about the future,” hit the e-stands in late last month.

The first edition features new fiction from Ontario’s Margaret Atwood. “Bearlift” is described as “an eerie exploration of the near future” drawn from a yet-to-be-published novel. Maddaddam, the third book in a set that began with Oryx and Crake, is scheduled for release next year.

Unfortunately for eager sci-fi writers, the new magazine does not take submissions. It says it decides what it wants to do with its four yearly editions, then selects and hires writers on commission to produce the material.

It has, however, also launched a writing competition in conjunction with Intel’s Tomorrow Project.

Entries should be new, original stories of between 3,000 and 5,000 words set in the near future. Although technology should be prominent, a compelling human element is also important. Arc’s editors strongly suggest writers read Issue 1.1 to get a feel for the current theme, The Future Always Wins.

Deadline for the first competition is one minute to midnight on April 8.

Editors will select one story for publication in the next Arc, which is due out in May. The winner will also receive £500, with each of five short-listed stories scoring a £200 payday. For further details, please read the terms and conditions on Arc’s website.

High school writers called to compete

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Ontario high school students can strut their creating writing stuff in a competition sponsored by the International Festival of Authors Ontario and Ontario Open Book.

Writers Ian Rankin, Joanna Skibsrud and Miriam Toews have provided short story-starters. Students are encouraged to select one of them as a jumping off point, then complete the story in 500 words or less.

Entries may be submitted online to writeacrossontario@harbourfrontcentre.com before the February 1 deadline.

Submissions will then be judged by the Authors at Harbourfront Centre in conjunction with Open Book, with a winner selected from each grade. Each winner will receive a cash prize of $500 and will have the chance to see his or her work published in the Open Book Magazine.

For more details on the Write Across Ontario Creative Writing Competition, please visit http://www.litontour.com/write-across-ontario.

Union needs a short, snappy postcard

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The Writers’ Union of Canada has launched its 13th annual Postcard Story Competition, inviting writers to say something memorable in 250 words or fewer for a shot at the $750 prize.

The winning entry will be published in postcard format and distributed in Write, the Writers’ Union magazine.

Deadline for entries is February 14, 2012. The winner will be announced in May.

The contest is open to any Canadian citizen or landed immigrant, published or unpublished, who can pen original English-language fiction or non-fiction, render it in double-spaced, 12-point type on white paper, slip it into an envelope with a $7.50 cheque or money order and mail it to the Writers’ Union office.

Don’t staple anything. And no electronic submissions, please.

Writers Clayton Bailey, John Lent and Nerys Parry will decide whose postcard is the snappiest.

Send entries to The Writers’ Union of Canada, 90 Richmond Street East, Suite 200, Toronto, Ontario, M5C 1P1. Rules and regulations are available at: www.writersunion.ca/cn_postcard.asp