Our Town

Stevenson nominated for Journey Prize

Telkwa-based writer Jane Stevenson has been nominated for Canada’s premier short-story award, the Journey Prize.

Her story Sadie’s Bone was published and nominated by the Newfoundland based Riddle Fence magazine.

Stevenson will now await the jury’s short-list, which will be announced later this spring. Following that, the winner will be named in the fall of 2014.

If she wins, she’ll receive a $10,000 prize and, perhaps more importantly, the prestige and notoriety that come with winning Canada’s premiere short story competition.

Today’s well known fiction writers are yesterday’s Journey Prize winners; The award has launched the careers of many Canadian fiction writers, including Yann Martel and Timothy Taylor.

For Stevenson, the recognition has given her confidence moving forward with her fiction writing.

“It’s a major accomplishment, and I feel like it adds legitimacy to the years of fiction writing that I’ve done,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson began writing fiction at an early age and has been honing her craft ever since.

She got her first rejection letter from Owl Magazine at the age of nine.

“They told me my story was too long and to submit a joke instead.”

Most writers get bogged down in the face of rejection letters, but Stevenson has a different attitude.

“I keep all my rejection letters, I think they’re empowering.”

Stevenson brings a unique genre to the Journey Prize, she specializes in micro-fiction which entails telling an entire story in less than 1,500 words.

“I really like writing short stories that are under 1,500 words because you have to make every word count,” Stevenson said.

“You have to pack everything into a small space and be very careful with your details. If you can pull it off, it’s great.”

Sadie’s Bone adds a twist. In under 1,200 words, Stevenson switches protagonists three times, and allows the reader to figure out the ending before the protagonist does.

“I think, perhaps one of the reasons its been nominated is because of the uniqueness of the way the story is told.”

In the lead-up to the shortlist, Stevenson continues to work on her first book of short stories, centred on life in B.C.’s northwest.

“I think northern B.C. is under-known. The places, the names aren’t commonly known and that creates intrigue in the reader.

“I am very proud of being from here. I’ve raised my kids here and the more I can put our northern towns names or character names out there, the better.”

Currently she’s writing a piece about Kitimat, based in the 1950s.

Though many of her stories are set in different times or places, Stevenson still has trouble convincing her readers that most of her fiction isn’t based on her life.

“I have story about a character whose mother dies and, for years I have been getting sympathetic remarks about my mother, even though she isn’t dead.”

She admits that some portions of her stories come from real life events, but they are usually ancillary to the story itself.

“It’s been a challenge for me, moving from non fiction, because everyone knows I’m a non-fiction writer,” Stevenson said.

“People make assumptions that the story is you in there, but it’s definitely not my life. I take snippets from my life and run with them, but it’s something completely unknown.”

Stevenson is employed as a grant writer for the Village of Telkwa, so the switch to fiction allows her to expand into a different style.

“After writing nothing but facts for awhile, my brain needs to make things up.

“But it can be good to use your fact-based knowledge as a basis for creativity.”

The nomination from a Newfoundland-based magazine brought Stevenson’s career full-circle.

“I like that a Newfoundland magazine published and nominated me.

“I think there is some reciprocity in that, since I was born there.”

She currently has seven different short stories awaiting review from various literary publications across Canada.

The Journey Prize (officially called The Writers’ Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize) is a Canadian literary award, presented annually for the best short story published by an emerging writer in a Canadian literary magazine.

The award was endowed by James A. Michener, who donated the Canadian royalty earnings from his 1988 novel Journey.

Stevenson was raised in Kitimat. She left the northwest to attend school at the University of Victoria after graduating high school.

Years later, and with degrees in anthropology and environmental studies in hand, she returned to the northwest to raise a family.



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