Forty-five people gathered at the Wingham Golf and Country Club Sept. 29 to celebrate Canada’s stories and storytellers at the gala for the Alice Munro Writers and Readers Festival.
It was only fitting that the festival to honour one of the world’s acknowledged masters of the short story genre, Alice Munro, should include the presentation of awards to up-and-coming short story authors.
The finalists in the 2012 Alice Munro Short Story Competition showcased their work by sharing a brief passage from their short story submitted to the contest last summer. Awards, in two categories, included a cash prize and an advance copy of Alice Munro’s newest short story collection entitled, “Dear Life.”
Dear Life will be released to the general public in mid-October and was generously provided by the Huron County Library.
In the youth category, the winner was Rachel Loerts from Wyoming, Ontario. Rachel has just entered her first year at the University of Windsor in the Bachelor of Music program. Her story “Perfect” tells
of a young woman’s struggle to fit in, and her escape from personal demons. Rachel was unable to attend the awards ceremony.
Second and third prizes in the youth category were awarded to Yasmina Jaksic of Thornhill and Bronte Cronsberry of St. Marys. Yasmina’s story “Neverland” tells of the effects of the cultural revolution in China and the desire to come to Canada in this coming of age tale. Bronte’s submission “And Brian” explores moving on after a great loss and a return to a sense of stability.
In the open category, winner was Hayley Linfield of Goderich. Hayley wrote “Water Treatment” about a man finding a second chance at happiness.
The second prize was awarded to Royden McCoag for “A Fish Tale” which is a good read for all would-be fishermen. Third prize went to Sheila Eastman of Mississauga for “Do You Like Cowboy Music” - an intriguing compilation of two stories about two characters whose lives become intertwined on a bus ride.
Lead judge John Cull described the high quality of the 57 submissions in the 2012 short story competition.
Well-developed characters and interesting plots made for stories that were compelling, he said. Fellow judges Dick Allan and Catherine MacLeod were both in attendance.
Allan was the evening’s master of ceremonies. He expressed pleasure at the revival of the festival, and said, “Hopefully, this is the first of many such celebrations...” He made special note of the remarkable young authors who “continue the grand tradition.”
The keynote speaker was one of Alice’s biggest fans, Mary Wolfe. She enthusiastically shared her appreciation of Alice’s work and her admiration of Alice as a treasured friend.
Mary is the former owner of the Village Book Shop in Bayfield.
The Huron Arts and Heritage Network (www.heritageandculture.on.ca) was the host organization of the revitalized Alice Munro Writers and Readers Festival.
A series of special events was held on both the Friday and Saturday of the festival. The highlight of the festival was the opening performance at the Blyth Festival Theatre. An enthusiastic literary audience heard delightful stories about the Canadian publishing scene. Doug Gibson, editor and publisher just retired from McClelland and Stewart launched his memoirs, Stories About Storytellers. Eric Coates served as master of ceremonies for the second half of the evening, hosting Jennifer Zoethout, branch services Librarian with the Huron County Library; Gary Draper, professor of English Literature at the University of Waterloo; and Marcia Johnson, a playwright who adapted a Munro story for the stage at the Blyth Festival.