Kathy Hartley says the thing she loves most about the Kootenay Literary Competition is “the joy you see in the winners when they see their work recognized and valued. It is wonderful.”
The competition began in 2001 and Hartley has been one of the organizers since 2008. She’s seen many local writers win the competition and then become better known: Jane Byers, Amanda Bath, Roz Ney, Elena Banfield, and Jordan Mounteer, to name a few.
Novelist Anne DeGrace and actor-director Brian D’eon won it later in their careers. But Hartley is especially interested in the effect on new writers.
“We all feel it is a very important part of a development of a writer to be able to expose themselves to a competition to be judged by qualified writers,” she said, “and to have the publicity. I think one of the big things especially for young writers is to see their work in print. It is so encouraging.”
Each year all winners receive cash prizes and are published in an anthology. Antonia Banyard, another organizer, thinks this helps new writers establish publishing credits.
“You have to start somewhere. There is a very practical aspect to that: if you are applying grants, even if you don’t have a book, if you have a good enough list of publishing credits, it establishes you as a writer.”
This year’s festival comes after a one-year hiatus. The new version of the festival is simpler, with no public gala event as in past years, but only an online announcement of the winners.
There are two new categories: Indigenous and New to Canada. The other categories are Adult Poetry, Youth (Grade 9 to 12) and Adult Fiction or Personal Non-Fiction.
In the youth category, the organizers are departing from past years’ practice of getting teachers involved. That produced student writing that sounded like an assignment.
“We are focusing on getting young people who want to write,” Hartley says. “We want to support young people who are already dreaming of being a writer.”
The deadline for submissions is Dec. 31 and the judges will make their decision in the spring. Details on how to enter can be found at kootenayliterarycompetition.wordpress.com.
The theme of this year’s competition, around which entrants’ submissions should be based, is: Origins. Who are we? Where did we come from?