The Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia extends its sincere congratulations to all winners in the 35th Atlantic Writing Competition and its heartfelt thanks to all of the judges who volunteered their time and expertise. Judges were tasked with evaluating all finalist manuscripts, choosing the eventual winners, and writing a citation celebrating their outstanding qualities.
The Young Adult/Juvenile Novel Prize
1st Place: "Secrets of the Hotel Maisoneuve" by Richard Levangie, Dartmouth, NS
2nd Place: "Unobtanium" by Katrina Nicholson, Sydney, NS
3rd Place: "Juggling Time" by Judy Dudar, Halifax, NS
Winners' citation by Susan White
The three manuscripts I have chosen all exhibit evidence of many hours of thoughtful writing and having achieved a quality suitable for submission to a publisher. All three showed depth of story that meets a pre-editing standard showing much potential. Relevant themes such as self esteem, self identity, bullying and harassment issues, taking responsibility, showing initiative and finding your passion were common threads throughout the three pieces. I feel that the content and voice presented in each would appeal to the Y/A reader.
The third place winner “Juggling Time” deals with a subject that would appeal to young readers. An interest in juggling and the attempt to master the challenging skill brings two of the characters together. Their friendship develops as they both deal with unpleasant situations involving feelings of loneliness and exclusion while facing bullying at school. They become determined to achieve a goal which ends up helping others and also helping the situation.
The second place winner “Unobtanium” is an adventure set around the challenging sport of mountain bike racing and finds twin siblings struggling with their identity and questioning their future as they find out about a mother they have never known. Ambition and the desire to win conflict with a clear understanding of the truth when faced with some difficult choices. Love and loyalty is tested with the adventure of a cross- Atlantic trip and amid a backdrop of high stakes in the cutthroat world of competitive bike racing.
The first place winner “Secrets of the Hotel Maisoneuve” begins with a young man facing the challenges of several difficult situations: a move brought on by economic upheaval; a loss of friends and familiar surroundings and strain on family brought on by a huge labour intensive project his father is undertaking to refurbish a historic hotel in Montreal. To add to these challenges Jacob’s daily outings have been plagued by the constant harassment and aggression from a kid who roughs him up and repeatedly steals from him. During an altercation an elderly woman is injured and Jake must assist in her recovery. This forces Jacob to take responsibly and to look deeper in to his ancestry. There is an interesting side story that unfolds through letters and clues to which lead him to find treasures which will in the end change all of the difficulties he is dealing with. The historic aspect is very compelling and well integrated in the story.
My congratulations to the writers of the winning entries and all the writers that submitted to this year’s contest. I also applaud the continuing efforts of the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia to support and encourage writers in Atlantic Canada.
Susan White, of Clifton Royal, NB, won the AWC's YA/Juvenile Novel Prize in 2010 for "The Year Mrs. Montague Cried." The manuscript was later published under the same name by Acorn Press and eventually won the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children's Literature in 2011.
The Joyce Barkhouse Writing For Children Prize
1st Place: "Callista, the Amazing Honey Bee, Tells All" by Patsy Clothier, Wolfville, NS
2nd Place: "Christmas and the Wicked Old Witch" by Jo-Anne Hemming, New Maryland, NB
3rd Place: "Monarchs" by Jo Shawyer, St. John's, NF
Winners' citation by Jan Coates
Two distinguishing features of the 2012 winning entries in the Writing for Children category are: 1) each piece responds beautifully to a child's curiosity and sense of wonder, and, 2) each story contributes to young readers' understanding of, and empathy for, creatures other than themselves. There are magical elements within all three of these child-centered pieces; the magic of the natural world, and also a magical world inhabited by imaginary beings.
Young readers of these stories will gain new insights into the lives of familiar characters, including butterflies, bees, witches and Santa Claus. Answers to questions such as, "what's it like to be a witch's child?”, "why do bees buzz?” and, "how do fragile Monarch butterflies manage such long annual migrations?" are found within these pieces. They are presented in interesting, colourful and child-friendly language and styles, including flowing rhyme and a just-right amount of charming description that leaves ample room for complementary illustrations.
Each author of these winning entries uses a welcoming tone that invites children to enter into, and explore, the worlds they've created within their pages. Congratulations to the creators, and best of luck with your writing!
Jan Coates won an honourable mention in the Atlantic Writing Competition in 2009 for her YA manuscript, "Jacob's Long Walk," which became the book, A Hare In the Elephant's Trunk, and was shortlisted for a Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature (English) in 2011.
The Budge Wilson Short Story Prize
1st Place: “Concha’s Smile” by Ruth Morris Schneider, Baddeck, NS
2nd Place: “Peaches” by Heidi Harding, Halifax, NS
3rd Place: “Thalia” by Sara Malton, Halifax, NS
Winners' citation by Devon Code
The finalists for this year’s competition varied widely in subject matter, style and setting. The top eleven entries in the short story category included an inter-species romance, a time travel fantasy, a reimagined fairy tale, a dystopian nightmare, works of contemporary realism, dark psychological fiction, and several stories of young protagonists struggling to make sense of the adult world.
The winning entries are reflective of the diversity evidenced in the finalists. Despite their differing genres, all three stories establish clear focus and tension within their first few paragraphs and follow this through to their final pages. These stories stood out because of their control of language, attentiveness to detail and effectiveness of narrative structure. I wish to extend my sincere congratulations to their authors for their accomplishment.
Devon Code won the Writers' Trust Journey Prize for his short story "Uncle Oscar" in 2010.
The Poetry Prize
1st Place: “Orientations, Syria” by Roger Field, Ferguson's Cove, NS
2nd Place: “Verve” by Maryann Martin, Halifax, NS
3rd Place: “Comfort Me With Apples” by Sheila Graham-Smith, Middleton, NS
Winners' citation by Jaime Forsythe
Each of these three poets impressed me with the convincing and particular worlds they create. I was hoping to uncover surprises in these manuscripts, and all of these writers delivered, bypassing cliché to get to evocative descriptions and observations. Each poet approaches their chosen subjects in interesting ways, with voices that stand out as being uniquely their own. Evident, too, is a sharp eye for the perfect and unexpected detail. Several images stayed with me after I finished reading, from Roger Field’s “dark architecture of the dead camel,” to Maryann Martin’s “intense encounter between a woman and a fox,” to Sheila Graham-Smith’s “transformed landscape after a snowstorm.”
I also appreciated the evidence of careful craft in these poems: the attention to rhythm and artful use of line breaks; the pleasure and play found in using sound and repetition; the concise language that leaves space for the reader to enter and become immersed. These poets make it look easier than it is. I very much look forward to seeing what they do next!
Jaime Forsythe published her first collection of poetry, Sympathy Loophole (Mansfield Press), this spring.
The H.R. (Bill) Percy Prize
1st prize: "Falling Ice" by Sasha Dence, Fredericton, NB
2nd Prize: "The View from Errisbeg" by Sheila Graham-Smith, Middleton, NB
3rd Prize: "To Opening Night" by Sarah Gignac, Halifax, NS
Winners' citation by Valerie Compton
Congratulations to the finalists and prize winners in this category. Completing a fully realized novel manuscript is a significant achievement. It is evidence of endurance and of a range of diverse literary skills that take years of work to master.
The three manuscripts we recognize this year share one trait: they are compelling reads. Apart from that, there are few commonalities. Each author has his or her own distinctive voice and each novel is its own world. That’s as it should be since a novel ought to take us places we have never been before, whether that place is a mountain on the west coast of Ireland, an eerie suburban monster home, or a Halifax church hall converted for Shakespearean theatre.
Reading these novels, I was impressed by their facility for language use, dramatic development, and moral and psychological complexity. There are beautifully rendered, sometimes astonishing, observations in all of them.
I wish these writers courage and further endurance as they move into final revisions with this exciting new work.
Valerie Compton's debut novel, Tide Road (Goose Lane Editions), is currently shortlisted for the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award.
The Creative Non-Fiction Prize
1st Place: "Pieces" by Crystal Vaughan, Halifax, NS
2nd Place: A Pillar Against Perfection" by Deirdre Dwyer, Musquodoboit Harbour, NS
3rd Place: "Divine Intervention" by Margaret Ommanney, Glenwood, NS
Prizes judged by Sue Carter Flinn.
Sue Carter Flinn is the online editor for Quill & Quire magazine. Her short story, "Moving Forward", won an honourable mention in the 34th Atlantic Writing Competition.