WRITING CAN GO WRONG in a multitude of ways. It is, essentially, a machine built to fail, because it depends on so many interlocking components to make it run smoothly, to make it appear to move without effort. One of the most important of these elements is consistency—of pacing, tone, language, believability and narrative strength. How many stories have we read that started out well and then collapsed halfway through? How many tales lost momentum, or couldn’t sustain a vocabulary that matched the plot or characters?
When the consistency is working in a piece of writing, it operates almost invisibly, seamlessly bringing the various parts together to create a united whole, much the way individual instruments work as one within an orchestra.
The non-fiction essays that I have chosen as the winners of this year’s contest are the ones where I feel this level of consistency is at play.
Honourable mention goes to “On Leaving Home.” What was impressive about this essay was the way that Barbara Wackerle Baker paired very direct language with an intense situation, giving tremendous, cohesive power to the dramatic war story she was relaying.
The third-place essay is “The Fish Kings” by Shelley Bindon, who skillfully weaves a story about relationships through the act of fishing and uses the language around that activity to inform the emotions experienced by the central character.
“Life, Death and Deer” takes second-place. Using imagery that is both violent and beautiful, Natalie Hervieux examines the complex arguments and emotions around the subject of hunting animals, through the lens of her childhood relationship to her hunter father.
The first-place essay is “The Old House” by Nicole Boyce. It is a masterful exploration of the particularity of memory, told through the quiet story of two sisters returning to their family home.
I would like to heartily congratulate the winners for their wonderful pieces, and to wish them well on their future writing projects.