2017 Alberta Literary Awards winners

R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature 

  • Georgia Graham (Lacombe) – Cub’s Journey Home, Red Deer Press

Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction 

  • Gisèle Villeneuve (Calgary) – Rising Abruptly, University of Alberta Press

Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction 

  • Sydney Sharpe and Don Braid (Calgary) – Notley Nation: How Alberta’s Political Upheaval Swept the Country, Dundurn Press

Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama 

  • Vern Thiessen (Edmonton) – Of Human Bondage, Playwrights Canada Press 

Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry 

  • Richard Harrison (Calgary) – On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood, Wolsak and Wynn

James H. Gray Award for Short Nonfiction

  • Austen Lee (Edmonton) – “Among Cougars and Men,” Glass Buffalo 

Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story 

  • Laurie MacFayden (Edmonton) – “Haircut,” Alberta Views

Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Award 

  • Rona Altrows (Calgary) – “Letter of Intent”

WGA Golden Pen Award for Lifetime Achievement 

  • Candas Jane Dorsey

Youth/Emerging Writing Award

  • Katie Bickell, “Angels in the Snow”
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Dear Younger Me: Relax, you’ll turn out OK

youngerself

What would you say to your younger self?

Dear Younger Me … A letter to myself
Sunday, Nov. 6, 2-3:30 p.m.
Latitude 53, 10242 106 St, Edmonton

Six area writers have been invited to pen letters to their younger selves, whether as children or as young adults, and share these aloud with the audience, followed by a Q & A session. The event includes a silent auction, cash bar, and desserts from Cafe Reinette donated by The Writers’ Union of Canada. Proceeds go to our kids camps and sponsoring youth in financial need from Edmonton and rural Alberta to attend.

Marilyn Dumont, Minister Faust, Mieko Ouchi, Thomas Trofimuk, Thomas Wharton and Laurie MacFayden are the featured literati letter writers and presenters. They’ll have copies of their books available for purchase.

Tickets are available at the door for $25.

trocadero

My brother started collecting squirrel skulls at the age of seven. But it is not yet time for madness to enter the story.

My mother found a ring at the Canadian National Exhibition Princess Gates. But it is not yet time for turquoise to enter the story.

I fell in love on the Paris Metro. But it is not time for Trocadero to enter the story.

Still, we have to enter somehow, with the story of something. So how about the story of the thimble in my jewelry box – and how it is the only thing left from my father’s house. He burned mom’s recipes and gave away her coats. Who would want them? he asked the daughter, seriously.

So I rescued her thimble and keep it preserved. And I guess that in itself is a little bit of madness and, in fact, is proof that it’s never too early for madness to enter a story.

Collecting squirrel skulls is certainly madness. My brother didn’t kill the squirrels, I hope you didn’t think that; that would be seriously mad. No, he just saved and preserved skulls he found in the woods; he had good eyes, good skills for such a thing. Our father had been a naturalist and taxidermist from the age of 13 so in our family this sort of thing was considered not even close to madness. When my father’s mother, my grandmother Clem, killed herself at 38, her madness was swept under the rug. His collections of bird and small animal skulls provided some kind of intricate, earthy solace.

The ring? Why did I save my mother’s thimble instead of the turquoise ring? I don’t know, really. The thimble seemed more her to me. She sewed some clothes for me with it. If you know what I mean.

trocadero-2I’m starting to think the turquoise ring would fit better inside a story about love on the Paris Metro. So now it is time to introduce Trocadero to the story.

There is no Eiffel Tower stop, you see; you have to know that you get off at Trocadero if you want the best view of the tower. There is a flat plane leading up to it, and always lots of people selling Eiffel Tower trinkets. Key chains. Pens. Sunglasses. Statuettes. Bottled mineral water that says Evian on the label but you suspect has been replaced with tap water. Counterfeit Evian. Paris is just that kind of place. You love and trust it even as you are suspicious of everything.

Trocadero. Did I really find love there? Seriously? No.

But I really love the sound of Trocadero. Troc-a-de-ro. Trocadero. I also love the sound of Vavin – which is a Metro stop close to another Paris tower – the less famous, big black monolith of Montparnasse that’s world-class ugly and completely soul-less. Apparently there is a view, but why would you go up to see that when you can just sit in the Odessa Cafe and enjoy the swirling sepia tones of the City of Light?

Vavin. Va-vin … Va va va voom … TROCADEEEEEEERO!

I fell in love with a boy on the Paris Metro. He was wearing a turquoise ring and reminded me a bit of my little brother. He made art that induced madness in squirrels.

Etown Top 30: #2, Folk Fest

(This Top 30 comes to you courtesy of Edmonton Winter. It’s a list of things that keep me here despite weather like, well, like the royal blizzarding we’ve had this week. Today’s item is a true summer gem: The Edmonton Folk Music Festival.)

I lived in Edmonton for almost a decade before I ventured to Gallagher Park on the second weekend in August. Friends had gushed on about Edmonton’s storied folk music festival, yet for some reason I steered clear of it until the early ’90s.
Then I got my first taste … and have been hooked ever since.

Weather movin' in, main hill, 2011

The Topp Twins. Jennifer Berezan. Ferron. Catie Curtis. Melissa Ferrick. Janis Ian. Ani. The Waifs. The Nields. Serena Ryder. Sarah Harmer. Iris Dement. Long John Baldry.
The Stage 3 Gospel Hour on any given Sunday morning…

My fave year remains 1996. That heavenly lineup featured Jann Arden. Joan Armatrading. Laura Love. Roseanne Cash. The Flirtations with Suede. (One of my favourite FF workshop memories is Suede recalling being asked if the Flirtations ever played at weddings. ‘Our people aren’t allowed to HAVE weddings,’ she replied with a grin. My, how times have changed.) k.d. lang in a dashing white suit belting ’em out during the Sunday finale. (Garth Brooks was also in town that weekend, and he stole the front page spotlight in the local tabloid. Twice. Harumph.)

Other highlights from over the years: Mary Gauthier rockin’ Wheel Inside the Wheel with Buffy Sainte-Marie’s band. A Stage 6 folkapalooza with Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Nancy Griffith, Tom Russell, plus Greg Brown if memory serves (and it doesn’t always). The northern lights dancing across the eastern sky as the Indigo Girls closed out the 2002 festival …

Melanie and her son lay down Candles in the Rain

There have been amazing blasts from my teenaged past (Melanie,
Al Stewart, Linda Ronstadt, Joan Baez, Bruce Cockburn …)

There have been marriage proposals … and actual weddings … and a whole lotta flirtin’ in between. Oh yeah, baby.

Each August I heard things that caused me to race to the ‘record tent’ to purchase music by artists I’d never heard of and who now, years later, still feature prominently on my iPod.

Of course, I’ve missed a few folkfests here and there – we always seem to be out of town when Emmylou Harris drops in. And family commitments prevented me from hearing Joni Mitchell and Elvis Costello in ’94. Chris Isaak shuttin’ her down a couple of years ago? I was, I confess, too tired to stay around for the finale that year. But managed to stick for the return of k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang this year; another outstanding lineup from three decades of outstanding lineups. Other 2011 notables (for me) were Imelda May, Lissie, Angelique Kidjo, Lyall Lovett and Jeremy Fisher, to name just a handful.

Rather than gush on and on about how wonderful this festival is — I haven’t even mentioned the green onion cakes, chickpea curry, getting all folked up in the beer garden on more than one occasion, eating lunch with Dar Williams (still kicking myself that I didn’t have the guts to introduce myself and my partner as Jane and Amber), or the legendary tarp races of last century — I’ll just sign off with a gallery of snapshots from over the years.

torontosaurus wrecks

News item, February 2011:
Toronto the Good ditches longtime nicknames T.O., T.Dot and Hogtown; dubs itself ‘El Toro.’
Dear Toronto,
Please refer to Seinfeld episode #175: You cannot give yourself a nickname. It must be bestowed upon you by others. As George Costanza discovered, when you try to get people to call you ‘T-Bone’ you end up being called ‘Koko.’

Ironically (or was it a cry-for-attention cheeky collective nod to Seinfeld?), ‘T-Bone’ was runner-up in the Eye Weekly contest that unleashed ‘El Toro.’
Whatever. Nine months have passed since CBC television host Evan Solomon, one of the celebrity judges, proclaimed the winning moniker has ‘a delightfully multicultural tinge.’ Right. So … Is anyone actually referring to Toronto
as El Toro?

Didn’t think so.
Love,
Spatherdab

ACT I
two bruised peaches on the subway platform
samuel taylor coleridge on the TTC
two new moleskin notebooks
to match your bergundy chick-magnet blundstones
whispering around the henry moore
gourmet popcorn on the menu at starbucks
*
man on crutches to litterer: you dropped something.
litterer: thank you.
man on crutches: you dropped something.
litterer: you’re welcome.
man on crutches: so why don’t you pick it up?
litterer: fuck you.
man on crutches: aren’t you going to pick it up?
litterer: fuck you!
man on crutches: pick it up!
litterer: go fuck yourself!
*
you miss chagall at the AGO by one week
dark green centre

lochhead . riopelle . borduas
shamanic art ^^^ automatist painting ^^ ahhhhh ^
canadian landscape (NFB movie
featuring a.y. jackson, 1941
you know, the year your grandmother
killed herself)
‘can paradise ever be achieved?
A) damnshit right it can. got some of it right here ahhhh ahhhh ^^^^^ ahhhhh ^^
B) not without modern appliances
*
robert motherwell says art = an experience, not an object.
general idea says poodles = “the hairdresser’s little friend”
(which of course = code for “SO GAY!”) ^~^~^~^
*
INTERMISSION
it’s obvious you’ve been wondering:
what is it about the poet brain?
what sets those sad captains apart?
is it hope?
belief in miracles?
in true love in daffodils in forever?

you may not be ready to hear this but the truth is
when we myopic fools finish deep wrestling with a particularly obstreperous line
or recalcitrant couplet
we more frequently than we care to admit
wake up in a strange hotel room days later
lying next to stanzas smeared with blood and mascara
exclamation marks reeking the sweaty sour reek of vodka
hungover commas retching into the morning-after porcelain
(which act of punctuational thuggery
tore the bathroom door off its hinges this time?)
the fetid stench of onomatopoeia
hanging in the air
like stale pizza
*
DENOUEMENT
oh look look at the clever hipster youngster
being wicked funny on queen street
‘donation? donation?’ he giggles, waving an empty coffee cup
under the noses of saturday night flaneurs and leafs fans.
the genius is wearing a $200 gap sweater and shiny italian shoes.
begging as a lark, it’s such a joke, will anyone toss a coin
into his blatantly un-needy cup?
(true homelessness has become just so banal …)
three blocks later another sharp dresser grabs your arm and asks for change.
no but i’ll give you five bucks for that leather jacket
— what? fuck. no. seriously, lady. i need it for food. i haven’t eaten in three days.
sorry.
— PLEASE! THREE DAYS!
you start walking away so he accosts the person behind you
with even more hostility in his voice.
— for food! PLEASE!
then he leans against a brick wall and (blatantly, defiantly) lights up a joint.
someone yells:
geez, pal, if you can afford weed surely you can afford a cheeseburger