by Stewart Goodings
It may not be the Giller, or as Stuart Maclean used to say, ‘we may not be big, but we’re small.”
Denman’s recent writing competition has led to five island writers each winning $500. With funding from the BC Arts Council, the Readers and Writers Festival committee was able to entice sixteen submissions from local writers, all on a loose theme of ‘Denman Island.’ Our literary judges did their work anonymously, and the five winners, in alphabetical order, are Verna Isbister, Lorraine Martinuik, Katarina Meglic, Karla Neufer, and Leo Simmons.
The winning entries ranged from short fiction to poetry to memoir. They will be published later this year in Denman’s monthly, the Flagstone. The diversity and quality of the sixteen submissions attest to the depth of the island’s writing community. Already published books by writers Des Kennedy, Jo-Anne McLean (whose supernatural thriller, “Blood Mark” is just out and will be launched at Abraxas Books on November 13th from 11-2), Howard Stewart, Keith Keller, Ron Sakolsky illustrate the tradition of writing of this island.
Denman’s writing community is clearly larger than the names mentioned so far. Every issue of the Grapevine and Flagstone contains articles by a wide range of authors who may not necessarily consider themselves “writers” but their words and reflections illustrate their ability to share powerful information and reflection.
Two years ago, I went to a conference of literary festival organizers from across Canada, and one of the things I learned was that our little Denman festival was one of the only festivals where local writers were given the opportunity to read their own work. For many years now, we’ve had two sessions at the annual July Festival where local writers have read their own compositions. And this past July, when a ‘normal’ in-person festival was not possible, we had Turning the Page, a two day event in the Community Hall where 17 writers and musicians shared their words and music to appreciative audiences.
Whether the recent writing competition will be repeated is up for discussion. We won’t likely be able to count on further government funding as we were this year. But there may be ways to offer financial incentives to island wordsmiths. Small the island may be; however, it does not lack creativity!