Judge’s Notes

Prairie Fire - - HELEN HUMPHREYS -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.