Carleton’s first short story competition top prize winner hopes his entry “leaves readers feeling a bit better about the world.”
Lesly Bauer’s Truing Kate is, in his words, “a love story that takes place on a fictional university very much like Carleton. . .about two people who find themselves and complete each other. It’s a bit quirky and a bit fun,” says the 44-year-old journalism graduate (’88) who grew up writing fiction on an old typewriter and dreaming of becoming the next Isaac Asimov.
The competition attracted 71 other entries, including second-place winner Andrew Forbes’s Vocalion and third-place Bruce MacGregor’s Suzy Q. Forbes, 33, graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 2003. MacGregor, 62, a former English high school teacher, graduated from Carleton with an honours bachelor of arts degree in 1969.
The competition was the brainchild of library subject specialist Martha Attridge Bufton, who believed it would “resonate with our very literate community.”
Attridge Bufton approached Ed Kane, assistant vice-president (university services), while working as editor of internal communications.
“I thought it was a great way for the bookstore to engage the campus,” recalls Kane. “And it’s a great way of promoting the university and the whole idea of writing. Next year,” he says, “we are going to expand it to a poetry contest as well. We would like it to become an annual part of the calendar that the community looks forward to.”
The calibre of the writing, says contest advisory committee member and creative writing instructor Rick Taylor, is “great because they accepted stories from current students, staff, retirees and alumni, so that casts a wide net.”
It’s unusual to open up a university literary contest to such a variety of university connections, adds Attridge Bufton. “That takes us to more than 100,000 people who could potentially enter.”
Five preliminary judges read the entries before passing on the 30 semi-finalists to senior judges Mark Frutkin, an Ottawa writer, editor and journalist whose novel Fabrizio’s Return won the Trillium Prize for Best Book as well as the Sunburst Award, and Frances Itani, well-known award-winning author and teacher of creative writing.
“The winning entries were all fine stories,” says Frutkin, “and I look forward for more in the future from these authors. Writing competitions are extremely important in helping writers connect with a reading audience and in encouraging writers to continue their literary efforts.”
The first-round volunteer judges were Susan Burhoe, program co-ordinator for the university’s Enriched Support Program (ESP); award-winning English student Del Jacko; Jennifer Gilbert, an instructor with Carleton’s Centre for Initiatives in Education and co-ordinator of the Academic Writing Centre in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies; English researcher and poet Marilyn Iwama; and ESP instructor and writer Susan Lee.
Advisory committee member and English professor Armand Ruffo suggests, “Such a contest serves to provide a sense of community, helps to keep alumni in touch with the university, supports the creative arts, and of course serves to highlight Carleton.”
Other members of the advisory committee were bookstore manager Andrea D’Agostino, poet Christina Turnbull, who works on several projects in the School of Public Policy and Administration including the Certificate in Nunavut Public Service Studies, and local fiction writer Jean Van Loon.
“The contest couldn’t have happened without these folks providing a lot of advice,” notes Attridge Bufton. “At the organizational level as well as at the entry level, the community really has embraced it.”
The sponsors of the event were the Carleton University Bookstore, the Department of English Language and Literature and the Department of University Communications.
Prize winners received their cheques of $500, $350 and $250 respectively on March 18 at an award ceremony at Baker’s on campus.
“Competitions like this are critical to emerging writers,” adds top winner Bauer, who admits submitting his story was “a bit brow-furrowing” and winning “an unexpected thrill.”
“By organizing this contest, Carleton is giving some of these fine writers a chance to grow and is contributing in an important way to Canada’s literary treasury. I have no doubt that over time, this competition will provide a helping hand to people who go on to write exceptional fiction that enriches us all.”
In addition to the judging panel, special thanks are owed to all the volunteers and staff who helped to make the inaugural Carleton University Short Story Competition a success:
Martha Attridge Bufton, Subject Specialist, Carleton University Library
Andrea D’Agostino, Store Director, Carleton University Bookstore
Armand Ruffo, Associate Professor, Department of English Language and Literature
Rick Taylor, Instructor, Department of English Language and Literature
Christina Turnbull, poet
Jean Van Loon, author
Donna Pereira, Assistant to the Director, University Services
David Townsend, Campus Card Co-ordinator
Department of University Communications
Beth Gorham, Manager, Public Relations
Linda Fullum, Project Co-ordinator
Maria McClintock, Editor, Internal Communications
Lin Moody, Media Relations Officer
Chris Strangemore, Desktop Publisher