The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) is pleased to announce the winners of the 34th Atlantic Writing Competition (the AWC.) Since its inception in 1976, the AWC has proven fertile ground for blossoming literary talent across the region, boasting Lesley Choyce and George Elliott Clarke among its past prize winners. 

The judging system of the competition underwent a significant restructuring this year, dividing up the process into two stages: a first round to designate finalist manuscripts out of the total 165 entries received and a final round to be judged by professionals within the literary community. The final round judges, Steven Mayoff, Chris Benjamin, Jessica Scott Kerrin, Lisa Doucet and Alice Burdick, were required to write citations celebrating the winners in their category, all of which can be read in full below.

The continuing legacy of the Atlantic Writing Competition is secured year after year by those writers across the region who bravely submit their work. Congratulations to all who entered.  If you are curious about entering the competition in a future year, please click here

The Budge Wilson Short Story Prize

1st Prize: “I Heard A Small Boy Singing: A Memoir” by Gillian M. Osmond, Lunenburg, NS

2nd Prize: “The Championship” by Melanie Furlong, Lower Sackville, NS

3rd Prize: “A Dip After Work” by Leah Benvie Hamilton, Upper Stewiacke, NS

Honourable Mention: “Moving Forward” by Sue Carter Flinn, previously of Halifax, NS

Judge’s Citation by Steven Mayoff

First of all, I’d like to congratulate all ten finalists for their fine work. It was with great consideration that I was able to eventually narrow my choices to the four stories above. What made these stories stand out for me was how they endured multiple readings. The authors distinguished themselves with clear and concise prose, as well as attention to detail, which lifted the stories off the page. 

As a reader I enjoy being taken on a journey where I am made privy to unfamiliar worlds, such as South African politics or competitive Highland dancing. I also appreciate the small touches that remain in my memory after the story has been put aside. The simplest fact (such as the collective noun for nightingales being a “watch”), when used effectively, is often all it takes to infuse a story with a life of its own.

These authors demonstrated rich voices, revealing the complex inner worlds of their characters. At the same time they were able to connect with common experiences and emotions that allowed their stories to be accessible to a wide array of readers. I wish them continued success in their literary endeavors. 

Steven Mayoff is the author of Fatted Calf Blues (Turnstone Press), winner of the 2010 PEI Book Award for Fiction.

The H.R. (Bill) Percy Novel Prize

1st Prize: “Turn Us Again” by Charlotte Mendel, Enfield, NS

2nd Prize: “For a Song” by Peggy Hogan, New Glasgow, PE

3rd Prize: “That Thing That Happened” by Libby Broadbent, Milton, NS

Judge’s Citation by Chris Benjamin

The winners in this year's novel category varied greatly in tone and style. They featured musicians, murderers, professors, scientists, nurses and evil mystics. They took the judges from the rural Maritimes to bustling London England and to completely new worlds. Yet there were similar themes. These works, in their diverse ways, explored the weight of familial bonds, the impossibility of escaping our early childhood experiences, and their inevitable influence on our destinies.

This year's third-prize winning novel, “That Thing That Happened”, delivered a slow-building volley of emotional punches with a number of well-developed characters. It opens with what seems a sure-fire spoiler and yet manages to surprise throughout, dredging through painful experiences with consistent comic relief, thanks to a quirky cast in an unnamed small community struggling with a shocking violent crime.

The second-prize winner, “For a Song”, imaginatively created an alternate reality, but one in which, like our own world, pure ideology takes those hungriest for power far from their good intentions, with disastrous consequences for everyone. The plot was suspenseful, funny, and was carried along with a beautiful sense of wonder from page 1.

And the fist-prize winner, “Turn Us Again”, powerfully, painstakingly, and painfully explored a difficult theme, effectively shifting perspectives to show multiple sides of a shattered family history. Readers will find themselves pulled into the darker side of love, partnership, and family, the part that usually comes after the movie ends. The writing here is well crafted, developing the complex, complete characters that drive the story heartward. It will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.

Chris Benjamin is the author of Drive-By Saviours (Roseway), which won the AWC’s H.R. (Bill) Percy Prize in 2008 under the title “Living in the Dirt.”

The Young Adult/Juvenile Novel Prize

1st Place: “The Night has Teeth” by Kat Kruger, Halifax, NS

2nd Place: “Spider's Parlor” by Lori McKay, Dartmouth, NS

3rd Place: “Lore Isle” by Jiin Kim, St. John’s, NL

Judge’s Citations by Jessica Scott Kerrin

“The Night has Teeth”

There are a plethora of young adult novels that feature vampires, witches, zombies, ghosts and other types of the undead. What makes this manuscript unique is the strong narrative voice throughout. Meet Connor, a recently jilted student who escapes to a Paris university, only to discover that his new social circle includes werewolves. Mix in moody secondary characters, complex villains who may turn out to be heroes, and scenes that are both humorous and terrifying, thus enhancing the believability of the plot, and you have a truly engaging story. Overlay this with the contemporary theme of the ethics of genetic engineering (and no easy answers) and you have a manuscript worthy of first place. It even comes with an "everything you wanted to know about werewolves" study guide! And while this work is strong enough to be considered as a stand-alone novel, the writer has left room for sequels. “The Night has Teeth” should definitely be read by the light of a full moon.

“Spider's Parlor”

Coincidentally, all finalists in the Young Adult category submitted stories that delved into the supernatural. In keeping with this trend, writer Lori McKay introduces us to two charming young witches, Faye and Gar, on the hunt for an out-of-control warlock. At the same time, our everyday hero, Eamonn Drake, is determined to solve the mysterious disappearance of his older brother, now assumed dead. The unique setting - a small town automotive garage - along with effective cliff hangers, shifting point of views, multiple kidnappings and gruesome dream sequences keep the plot moving. Misbehaving ghosts and malfunctioning spells add much needed comic relief. And Eamonn's growing friendship with the two new arrivals concludes with the inevitable collision of both worlds. The result? A fast paced story that effectively explores the question: is there free will?

“Lore Isle”

There's nothing more unsettling for a reader than the introduction of a complex character who appears to be both hero and villain. Jiin Kim delivers up one such character name Albert Doyle. It is Mr. Doyle who convinces Peter to enter the fantastical world of Lore Isle, a parallel universe to the island of Newfoundland, in a quest to find enough gold to save the family home. But what are Mr. Doyle's true intentions? And what explains his uncanny connection to wolves? This manuscript offers fairy tale-type characters mixed with Newfoundland customs and historic fact. There are plot twists galore and the ever-creepy impression that Peter's quest will go terribly wrong. Even more disturbing is Peter's mother's insistence that he has a twin brother who went missing shortly after birth. Can this tragedy somehow be connected to the events unfolding on Lore Isle? Plenty of intriguing questions posed as inner dialogue keep the reader engaged to the very last paragraph. Oh, and did I mention the werewolves? It has that, too.

Jessica Scott Kerrin is the author of the Martin Bridge series (Kids Can Press) for young adult readers, which to date has sold over 100,000 books across Canada, the United States and Austrailia. 

The Joyce Barkhouse Writing For Children Prize

1st Prize: “Hiding in the Fireplace” by Lisa-Marie Brunnen, previously of Prince Edward Island

2nd Prize: “Tap, Tap, Twirl” by Bonnie MacIver, Liverpool, NS

3rd Prize: “Henrietta's Nightlight” by Alice Whitney, Kierstead Mountain, NB

Judge’s Citation by Lisa Doucet

This year’s prize-winning entries in the Writing for Children category each demonstrate a keen awareness of the mind and heart of a child. These stories provide expressions of hope and healing as they sensitively portray the fears and insecurities that children often face while trying to make sense of the realities of the great wide world around them. In their vulnerability, the children in each of these three stories will touch the hearts of young readers, inviting them to empathize with each one. Overcoming fear, coming to terms with sadness and loss, and finding acceptance are among the themes that are deftly handled in these pages. These stories are told simply and elegantly, gently depicting the range of emotions experienced by their characters. They are stories that contain uplifting and hopeful messages but which manage to neatly avoid being overwhelmed by these messages. Beautifully descriptive passages create vivid images of each setting and draw readers into each story. Each of these chosen entries lend themselves well to the possibility of illustrations and have great appeal for their target audience. Congratulations to the creators of these fine tales.

Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Halifax’s Woozles Children’s Bookstore, winner of the Canadian Bookseller Association’s Libris Award for Specialty Bookseller of the Year in 2010.

The Poetry Prize

1st Prize: “November Poems” by Janet Kennedy, Edmunston, NB

2nd Prize: “This Liminal Place” by Brian Braganza, Newcombville, NS

3rd Prize: “Tenacious Enunciations: Five Poems Inspired by Christian Bök” by Jeremy Smith, Halifax, NS

Honourable Mention: “Drifting” by Carey Bray, Newport, NS

Judge’s Citation by Alice Burdick

There are many wonderful moments in this selection of poetry manuscripts. These are four very different poets, writing diversely about different subjects, emotions, and situations. The thing that unites them is the strength of their distinctive styles. Lines are in turn clear, concise, and evocative, creating tangible and sensual worlds. There is humour and pathos in ratatat lines; strong and bittersweet narratives found within strict structures. In all of the writing, in various ways, the wonder of place writes the lines; the love of place is clear in its descriptions.

It is heartening to see such a range of poets doing strong, heartfelt, and well-crafted work. It can be a long process to find one’s voice, to write with freedom and constraint, and to find a place for play in one’s words. These poets have established themselves as writers whose work embodies these qualities. Lines echo in the reader’s head, the sounds and meanings of the words straightforward or curved. It is a real accomplishment to do this to a reader, in this very noisy world.

Watch these poets’ words! Watch these poets’ worlds unfold. 

Alice Burdick is the author of two collections of poems, Flutter (Mansfield Press) and Simple Master (Pedlar Press).

The Creative Non-Fiction Prize

1st Prize: “The Cross Road” by Brian Braganza, Newcombville, NS

2nd Prize: “Memoir” by Bosko Loncarevic, Bedford, NS

3rd Prize: “Reflections on Moving Wood” by Roger Field, Ferguson’s Cove, NS

Honourable Mention: “263 Miles From Brazzaville” by David Speare, Charlottetown, PE

Jury not required to write citation for winners.

The Unproduced Play Prize

1st Prize: "Hard Rock" by David Christoffel, Halifax, NS

2nd Prize: "Dead in Wawa" by Griffin McInnes, Halifax, NS

3rd Prize: "Punch's Opera" by David Hughes, Dartmouth, NS

Honourable Mentions: "The Land of Beauty" by Bet O’Toole, Saint John, NB and "For Riches and Honour: A Privateer Play" by Beth George, Brooklyn, NS

Jury not required to write citation for winners.  Prizes presented at the Robert Merritt Awards, which recognize excellence in Nova Scotia theatre arts, on March 28, 2011.