Thursday, July 29, 2010

Frank O'Connor Award

Being somewhat partial to all things Irish, I happened to notice this week some comments from  Nadine O'Regan, judge of the Frank O'Connor Award. The award honours the best original collection of stories published in English in the past year and is the richest short story prize in the world (what is it with these Irish guys anyway that they have to have the richest short story prize in the world and the richest novel prize too — The Impac — haven’t they heard that the Celtic Tiger has long since been declawed?) Anyway, O’Regan commented to The Guardian newspaper that she “was looking for a story collection which I felt I could give to someone on the street who liked short stories, and say: 'This is a story with an interesting take on life.' I didn't want something which felt like it came out of a creative writing program — I wanted the stories to show individuality."

So here’s the thing: Robin Black, T.C. Boyle and Lauren Van Den Berg (three of the five finalists) all have MFAs from Creative Writing Programs, which might suggest that individuality is possible despite Ms O’Regan’s misgivings!

And hey, all you aspiring writers out there, UNB’s English department has a pretty good Creative Writing program itself if you don’t mind developing individuality and the possibility of winning big money prizes.

Gerard Beirne
Fiction Co-Editor

Monday, July 19, 2010

The League of Canadian Poets AGM in Toronto

The League meeting was really enjoyable for me this year.  Many sessions and readings began with someone reading a poem from Pat Lowther.  I hadn’t read Lowther for a number of years, and it was great to be reminded what an outstanding poet she was.  The new Collected is out now and is a must read!  I know the readings were painful for some, but I found it celebratory in a quiet sort of way.

I was asked to participate on a panel on ekphrasis, poetry about the visual arts, organized by Ruth Roach Pierson.  She read an insightful paper that laid out the historical background of ekphrasis.  John Reibetanz was on the panel, and his paper contained all the delightful wit we’ve come to expect from him.  I didn’t give a paper exactly.  Instead I listed eight ways of thinking about ekphrasis and talked about how they might be approached if you were writing an ekphrastic poem.  The panel was chaired by Anita Lahey, who is editing an issue of ARC on ekphrasis.

There was an excellent panel on experimental poetry.  Sina Queyras was captivating in talking about how politics are shaped in the open field of her work.  She also gave an exceptional reading from Expressway at the Bar Italia, as part of the opening night celebrations.

Anne Simpson gave the Szumagalski lecture this year.  I won’t recapitulate it here.  Watch for it on The League's website in the section on The Anne Szumagalski Lectures Series.  It’s not up yet, but if you want to look at what Tim Lilburn or Anne Carson have given in the past, the full texts are available.

The Lampert Prize for best first book is always interesting, the shortlist providing a group of writers many of whom you haven’t heard of yet.  James Langer won the award for Gun Dogs.  I realize that I am biased, but I think this is a book we’ll all be reading years from now.

Karen Solie won the The Pat Lowther Memorial Award for Pigeon, obviously a very fine book.  It’s been showered with awards.  Take a look and see.

Ross Leckie

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Congratulations to James Langer!

James, The Fiddlehead's poetry co-editor, won the 2010 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for Best First Poetry Book for his collection Gun Dogs (House of Anansi Press).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Fiddlehead Wins National Magazine Award

The National Magazine Awards winners have been announced and The Fiddlehead is pleased to say all five of its nominees did well.

In the Fiction category Steven Heighton's story, "Shared Room on Union" won gold. And "Back to Disney" by Jeff Park and "The Spanish Hour" by J. M. Villaverde were honourable mentions. All three stories were published in The Fiddlehead 240 (Summer 2009).

In the Poetry category honourable mentions were given to Anne Compton’s three poems, "Stepping Off," "It starts with names," and "We waited" from The Fiddlehead 239 (Spring 2009) and to Vanessa Moeller’s poetry sequence,"Abandoned Postcards Found in Hotel Room 464," from The Fiddlehead 241 (Autumn 2009).

Congratulations to everyone!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Blog for the Slightly Savage

There is a misleading notion that the writing life is a solitary one. American author Jessamyn West is often quoted to support this: “Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.”

While I am not suggesting that this particular editor of The Fiddlehead is without his share of savagery, and while acknowledging that many writers prefer to be alone when formulating the words, the writing life goes way beyond those moments. A writer must engage with the world in order to write about it. Interruptions are to be welcomed and indeed should be sought after. No matter how we posit it, writing is a communal process.

The Fiddlehead itself (like all literary publications) is proof of this. Why else would we gather a collection of writings and writers together in a designated place? Why else would any of these writers agree to publish their work? Why else would we need editorial input? Furthermore, the response to the published writing is, I believe, in itself a part of the process. As such, I welcome the arrival of The Fiddlehead Blog. It provides a space to facilitate communication between Canada's longest lived literary journal and ...well, anyone else who cares to join in – family, friends, natural enemies, and, of course, the slightly savage.

Your comments are to be welcomed. We look forward to hearing from you.

Gerard Beirne
Fiction Co-Editor