All photos by T. Hynd
In true literary fashion, the winners of the 2015 Kootenay Literary Competition were announced Thursday at Touchstones Nelson with fine words of praise. Dozens of writers encased this year’s theme of velocity into their poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction submissions.
Among the six winners were two Black Press writers, Nelson Star reporter Will Johnson and columnist Shelby Cain, for The Free Press in Fernie.
Nelson’s John Buck won first prize for his short story How to Deliver Water and Johnson placed a close second with a short murder mystery titled Paisley. Judge Verna Relkoff said “fiction tells the truth.” Of the 15 entries, she said two were “outstanding, phenomenal entries,” and emphasized her agonizing decision of deciding first and second, as the two stood out far from the other nonfiction submissions.
She described Buck’s story as an existential voyage with “excellent interior dialogue” about a water deliverer who drinks himself blind over the weekends, testing his theory that managing a hangover adds challenge to his monotonous work days and respite from its isolation.
Although Buck is confident in his writing skills, he was surprised to win. “I like the beginning and the end, but not the middle,” he said. “I did deliver water for a year but I wasn’t a maniac [like the driver in the story].”
Relkoff described Johnson’s Paisley as a conventional story that was “beautifully written … told with economy, in one small scene, layered until finally the reader realizes there has been a murder.”
Prior to announcing the creative non-fiction category winners, judge Tara Cunningham, senior editor of Kootenay Mountain Culture and assistant editor of Coast Mountain Culture magazines, said the genre “is such an intimate experience,” she looked forward to meeting the winning authors.
“Both winners delved into the velocity of time, which is a bit of a tricky business … and how life can accelerate at an unmanageable pace,” she said.
Cain won for Hell Roaring, which recounts a couple caught in an avalanche near Kimberley two years ago.
“It’s between hopeful and hopeless,” said Cunningham, “in a really good way.” It contains the internal dialogue of the main character, who is frantically searching for her boyfriend after he was swept away in a massive avalanche before her eyes.
Cain, who writes a satirical parenting column for the The Free Press, said composing the story was difficult for her friend but also cathartic. This is the third award at the competition for Cain; she won the emerging writer award three years ago, and placed second in the fiction category two years ago.
Second place winner Cindy McCallum Miller of Thrums impressed Cunningham with Travelling at the Speed of Light, which delves into the untimely death of her brother Gordon.
Poet Jane Byers announced the poetry winner, Edan Marshall of Grand Forks, for Distance /Overtime which Byers said had “beautiful tone, pace and [was] gorgeous … sinking into the depths of the poem was profound.”
Brad Bradley (a pen name) placed second for his poem, Fireworks & Funeral Confetti, which Byers said had “fresh metaphors, fun use of language and great humour.”
Bradley told the Star he loves telling stories and writes poetry because it is “condensed and expanded at the same time.” A father of two who works full time, he said he is dedicated to writing, which means staying up too late too often.
Guest storyteller Ray Stothers, dressed in a kilt complete with a Scottish knife, said, “It’s not the story you want to tell, but the one that people want to hear.” He demonstrated the power of a story as he lightly beat a drum introducing a tale that took place “a long time ago, before you could wear time on your wrist, before you could hold it in your pocket, or have it glare at you in red and blue light.”
First place winners received $400 and a ticket to one evening event at the annual Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, and second place authors received $200.
• Aspiring youth writers should note the Spring Scribble workshop in May, which is open to youth in Grades 7 to 12, will offer a weekend intensive with a professional writer to hone in on the skills needed for successful writing.
2015 Kootenay Literary Competition winners
1st: John Buck, How to Deliver Water
2nd: Will Johnson, Paisley
1st: Shelby Cain, Hell Roaring
2nd: Cindy McCallum Miller, Travelling at the Speed of Life
1st: Edan Marshall, Distance/Time
2nd: Brad Bradley, Fireworks & Funeral Confetti
Pictured: Authors John Buck and Will Johnson, first and second place winners of the fiction category.