Keepin’ it quality

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So many Sask authors, not enough awards!

So many Sask authors, not enough awards!

Saskatchewan Book Awards nominees discuss their books

Article: Laura Billett – Contributor

Creative, resilient, and determined, authors face a plethora of challenges before they can see their work and name in print.

“There are so few perks with writing: you spend your time alone, it’s very isolated, you’re just sort of in your head the whole time,” says author Lisa Bird-Wilson.

“I thought this project was cursed,” says author James Daschuk, chuckling as he reminisces how he thought of his book, “someday this will never be published.”

To honour those who dedicate their time, often outside of their day jobs, to the craft of literature are the Saskatchewan Book Awards. Established in 1993, they have been a major influence and motivator for the Saskatchewan literary community. Fourteen awards are granted to both authors and publishers, aiming to promote and recognize their tireless work.

The incredible aspect of the Saskatchewan Book Awards is that there is an emphasis on diversity. Among the most nominated authors are Lisa Bird-Wilson for her collection of short stories Just Pretending, Bernard Flaman for his stunning Architecture of Saskatchewan: A Visual Journey, 1930-2011, and James Daschuk for his poignant Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life. The three books could not differ more.

Just Pretending is a collection of short stories that are united by a timelessly relevant theme: identity. Bird-Wilson described the book as her own experimentation with perspective and style. Often told by young narrators, the stories are dark, but with a touch of light humour. Bird-Wilson’s novel is nominated for four writing awards and one publishing award.

Clearing the Plains is also nominated for four writing awards as well as two publishing awards. Daschuk’s historical book caused a storm of discussion in the country as it retells the history of Canada’s birth at the expense of the First Nations people. It has quickly become a countrywide must-read, a far cry from what Daschuk expected would be a historical monograph read only by academics.

Flaman’s A Visual History is exactly as it sounds, and should be judged by its stunning cover and graphics. A collection of the work of various photographers, the book shows the history of the rise of modernist architecture in Saskatchewan.

Flaman explained it was a team effort to compile the book, and hopes it will encourage people to notice the buildings seen every day and taken for granted. The book is short listed for two writing awards and one for publishing.

Flaman light-heartedly separated himself from the other “real writer” nominees, but it is the magic of the Saskatchewan Book Awards that a book of stunning architectural photographs, a collection of short stories dealing with the dark, yet sometimes humorous search for identity, and the historical account of the horrific and unnecessary cost of our country’s birth can be acknowledged in one evening.

The Saskatchewan Book Awards celebrates authors and publishers according to the quality of their writing. With broad categories, the awards allow for an appreciation of the best work available; there is no exclusion because of genre or subject.

“It is important to say that Saskatchewan writers are producing quality writing and let’s recognize it, let’s honour it, let’s put it out there, let’s show the rest of the world that we have good quality writing, and we have a good literary arts community,” says Bird-Wilson.

In Flaman’s words, “if we are going through the trouble of producing a traditional print book…it should be a beautiful artifact.”

All of the short-listed books are beautiful in their own respects and will be honoured as such on April 26 when the winners with be announced at the 21st Awards Ceremony.

“I am actually overwhelmed with the reception [my book] has gotten” says Daschuk. “We’re working under a rock by ourselves, it’s a very solitary process, so I think it’s really good that we all come together and celebrate writing.”

The Saskatchewan Book Awards are important to promote the literary community; they honour authors like Daschuk, Bird-Wilson, and Flaman who work so hard in our digital world to keep quality and variety on our bookshelves.

Image: Evan Radford

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