David Elias – My Manitoba Book Awards experience

David Elias was shortlisted for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction so we asked him about his experience:

  1. How did you hear about the Manitoba Book Awards?

Answer: I received an email from my publisher, ECW Press, informing me that my book, Elizabeth of Bohemia:  A Novel about Elizabeth Stuart, The Winter Queen, had been nominated for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction.

  1. How was the process for submitting your book? If you submitted to previous Book Awards, how did the process differ, for better or worse?

Answer: ECW Press took care of everything.  They submitted the book for a number of other awards, as well.  As it turned out, the novel was also selected as a finalist for the Foreword Reviews Indie Awards, which is American.

  1. Have you attended Book Awards Galas, in the past? If so, what were your impressions of the evenings. With the COVID-19 situation putting a damper on our ceremony this year, is there something you think we should have done instead of simply announcing the winners in an online forum?

Answer: I’ve attended a number of Book Awards in various cities.  In 2005 I attended the Amazon First Novel Award ceremonies in Toronto when my novel, Sunday Afternoon, was one of the finalists.  It was an elaborate affair, with special guests and plenty of food and refreshments.  That year I also attended the Manitoba Book Awards because the same novel was nominated for both the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction and the McNally Robinson Book of the Year.  It was held at the Hotel Fort Garry in one of the ballrooms, with all the accoutrements of a gala event.  I’ve attended the Manitoba Book Awards on other occasions, as well, including the year Brenda Sciberras, to whom I am married, won the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book for her collection of poetry, Magpie Days.

This year’s nomination for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction was great, but to say that Covid-19 put a damper on things is putting it mildly!  Nothing compares to a live in-person event.  Other than a couple of congratulatory emails, it was basically “crickets”.  There was some mention of interviews with the nominees that would be posted online, and I thought the local media might step in and do a bit more to promote the awards, but none of that materialized.

  1. How did you feel when you received the email announcing that you’d made the shortlist?

Answer: I was certainly happy to receive the nomination, but I didn’t anticipate it.  I’ve written other books that I thought might be nominated that got passed over, so I’ve learned not to get my hopes up.

  1. What more can we do to help you receive the accolades you deserve?

Answer: I think what you are doing now – interviewing me you about my experience, featuring me in your newsletter, and your plans to have me as the Featured Author at an upcoming virtual Book Chat are all terrific.  I really couldn’t ask for more.

  1. What else would you like to say about the experience?

Answer: When you’re nominated for an award, it’s certainly an affirmation, which can really be a boost.  But what about all those accomplished writers who never get to have that experience?  When I was writing Elizabeth of Bohemia, I reached a point where found myself in something of an existential crisis, and had to stop and think about what I was up to.  It was taking years of research and effort to write the book – with no contract, and no prospects that it would ever be published.  What if nothing came of it?!  After not writing for a while, I realized how much I missed Elizabeth.  And she missed me!  But what I missed most was the work, the process.  I decided let go of my expectation, my striving for “success”, and soon I was back at work.  It changed me as a writer.  I felt calmer after that, quieter.

Thanks, David, for the insight into your experience. I hope what we are doing will help you as a writer.

Also, congratulations on your upcoming virtual launch on October 20 through McNally Robinson Booksellers (https://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/event-18012/David-Elias-Online-Book-Launch#.X4dzu9BKjIU). Hope your new book, The Truth About The Barn does well.

Insider view of the Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program – part 2

With the Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program about to call for submissions for another year (starting in September with the deadline being November 30, 2020), we thought you should hear from the Mentor who helped Joy this past spring. Not only has he been a Mentor for the SOMP, but has also been an apprentice, so he is able to give some insight from both sides. Let me introduce Keith Cadieux:

As an apprentice: In my early experiences as a writer, the Sheldon Oberman Mentorship was perhaps the largest single influence which taught me that I could take writing seriously and that it was worth pursuing. My mentor was Jonathan Ball, a writer with whom I am still friends. We continue to share work back and forth, many years after the program. The long-term one-on-one interaction that the SOMP provides is an incredibly valuable experience. It allows the apprentice to see how the advice and lessons from the mentor are shaping their writing. Spending months on a single project with a mentor allows for tremendous progress, both for the project itself but also the career trajectory of new writers. The SOMP is a once in a lifetime experience that I wish I could have again.

As a mentor: I’ve been lucky enough to be chosen as a mentor several times now for the SOMP. What always surprises me is how much I get out of the experience and how much my own writing motivation increases while working with new writers. The selection committee has an uncanny talent of pairing mentors and apprentices. Though sometimes, on the surface, it would appear that our writing styles or subject matter are at odds, the apprentices with whom I’ve been paired have always been wonderful people and our work ideas have complemented each other in exciting ways. The SOMP is an experience that I’m glad to return to, as many times as they’ll have me.

Thanks, Keith, for sharing your thoughts on your experiences with the Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program!

Book Chat #5 with Lauren Carter

Our next virtual Book Chat will take place on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 7 pm. It will feature one of the 2020 Manitoba Book Awards winners, Lauren Carter. Please join us by emailing the Manitoba Writers’ Guild to receive instructions.

Lauren is the author of four books. Her poetry collections are Following Sea and Lichen Bright and her novels are Swarm and This Has Nothing to Do With You, which won the 2020 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction at the this year’s Manitoba Book Awards, where she also received the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. 

Her work has also appeared in literary journals across the country including Grain and The Fiddlehead and anthologies such as Best Canadian Stories and the forthcoming Voicing Suicide. A transplanted Ontarian, she holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and has lived in Manitoba since 2013.

She is currently working on completing a third poetry collection called Furrow and the first draft of her next novel. Visit her online at www.laurencarter.ca

Report on Angeline Schellenberg’s Book Chat

The August Book Chat featured award-winning poet, Angeline Schellenberg. She read from her book Fields of Light and Stone. The first poem she read with her son because she’d written it in the ‘voices’ of her grandparents. Angeline spoke the words attributed to her grandmother and her son read the part of her grandfather. All her touching poems from Fields of Light and Stone were based on her grandparents’ emigration experience and farming life in Canada.

During the Q&A, audience members asked Angeline about her creative process; working on the book layout, the editing for publication, etc. Afterwards, four audience members shared their own poems during the Open Mic part of the evening. Danie Botha shared a poem from his book 2 Bowls of Joy. Phyllis Cherritt read about a remembrance of her mother. Penny Haywood, inspired by one of Angeline’s poems about a garden, read her own poem about a garden. Emmanuel Okoh read I Kooti, published by the Canadian League of Poets.

I find it fascinating, during these Book Chats, how the Featured Author’s readings often inspire the audience to share their work with similar themes. I highly recommend you join us for Book Chat #5 on September 9, 2020 at 7 pm with Lauren Carter, who will be featured in the next post.

Launch of new program for kids

With the success of our evening online Book Chats and, with social distancing still an issue with kids as well as adults, we have come up with a way to reach out to the children and grandchildren of members, providing some free afternoon literary programs. During the month of August, we are lining up writers for a series of Kids Book Chats, beginning with those who were a part of this year’s Manitoba Book Awards, in particular, those who wrote books that were submitted to the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award – Younger Category.

Each of these online meetings will begin with a reading from the author, followed by a Q&A where participants can ask questions of the author and, in some cases, with the illustrator as well. This reading series will take place every afternoon for a couple of weeks, depending on how many writers we can get on-board. We’d like to continue the series with other local writers for children and teens, too. Anyone who would like to sign up their kids or grandkids to watch, please email the Manitoba Writers’ Guild (manitobawritersguild3@gmail.com) to receive the Zoom links and instructions.

Our first Kids Book Chat will take place on Tuesday, August 4th at 1 pm with Bill Richardson, who was the 2020 winner of the McNally Robinson Booksellers Book for Young People Award – Younger Category with his book, The Promise Basket, a lyrical story which celebrates the love between a mother and her daughter. He will be joined by his illustrator, Slavka Kolesar.

As well as winning this year’s Young People Award, former radio host, Bill Richardson, was also the winner of the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. He has written several other highly acclaimed books for children, including The Ants Come Marching, illustrated by Cynthia Nugent and winner of the Time to Read Award; the children’s novel After Hamelin, which won the Ontario Library Association’s Silver Birch Award; The Alphabet Thief and The Bunny Band, both illustrated by Roxanna Bikadoroff.

Illustrator, Slavka Kolesar, has a BFA in visual studies and art history from the University of Toronto and trained as an early childhood educator. Other books she has illustrated include Ulysse by Suzanne de Serres, Le Nom de l’arbre by Stéphanie Bénéteau and Le Légende de Carcajou by Renée Robitaille, which was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. She was chosen as the TD Summer Reading Club illustrator in 2017.

About The Promise Basket:

A stone when it’s thrown can cause damage, can break
but nothing can shatter the promise I make.

So begins the poem a mother writes on a scrap of paper. She wraps the paper around a stone and places it in a basket to give to her daughter on her first birthday. They are poor, but the mother is determined that gifts will be given when gifts need giving. She keeps her promise, and the Promise Basket, too.

Every time there is a need for gifts, the mother finds a pretty stone to tie up with paper and ribbon and gives it to her daughter in the basket. She continues the tradition over the years until her daughter has a baby of her own…

 

 

Book Chat #4 – Angeline Schellenberg

Book Chat # 3 with Joan Thomas was a lot of fun! Joan read a new piece of writing. Getting this sneak peak was very exciting for those in attendance, of which there were seven. Three participants read their own work during the Open Mic. The rest of us preferred to sit back and listen.

Our fourth Book Chat will take place on August 12 and will feature poet Angeline Schellenberg. This is a free-for-members-only event. If you are a current member of the Manitoba Writers’ Guild and would like to take part in this virtual event, please email the Guild (manitobawritersguild3@gmail.com) to receive the Zoom information and let us know if you would also like to take part in the Open Mic, which will take place after Angeline’s reading and Q&A.

Angeline Schellenberg is a poet living in Treaty 1 territory (Winnipeg). Her first full-length collection, Tell Them It Was Mozart (Brick Books, 2016) received three Manitoba Book Awards and was a finalist for a ReLit Award for Poetry. In addition to publishing three new chapbooks, in 2019 she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Arc Poetry Magazine‘s Poem of the Year. Angeline has served as Deep Bay artist-in-residence (Riding Mountain National Park), a Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program mentor, a Poetry In Voice performance judge, and host of the Speaking Crow reading series. Her second book is Fields of Light and Stone (University of Alberta Press, 2020).