Discover some of Canada's best new writers with this highly acclaimed annual anthology, made possible by the generosity of Pulitzer Prize-winning author James A. Michener.
For more than two decades, The Journey Prize Stories has been presenting the best short stories published each year by some of Canada's most exciting new writers. Previous contributors -- including such now well-known, bestselling writers as Yann Martel, Elizabeth Hay, Annabel Lyon, Lisa Moore, Heather O'Neill, Pasha Malla, Timothy Taylor, M.G. Vassanji, and Alissa York -- have gone on to win prestigious literary awards and honours, including the Booker Prize, the Giller Prize, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the Governor General's Award, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and CBC's Canada Reads competition. The stories included in the anthology are contenders for the $10,000 Journey Prize, which is made possible by Pulitzer Prize-winning author James A. Michener's donation of Canadian royalties from his novel Journey. The winner will be announced in fall 2011.
Among the stories this year: In a moving story about faith and the hope for redemption, a trio of strangers keeps vigil in a hospital waiting room for a man who has miraculously survived a fall from twenty-four storeys. A glamorous party provides the backdrop for a monologue - at once deftly comic and uncomfortably familiar - by a wannabe poet desperate to impress. Over the course of a single day, the eldest son of a cattle farmer must contend with new rites and old burdens, in an elemental story of fathers and sons. When a disgruntled employee decides to take measures into her own hands, she is unprepared for the consequences. In a spellbinding postmodern fairy tale, bears, bees, and shrinking humans populate the small world of the fur trader's daughter, who is more than she appears to be.
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September 27, 2011
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Excerpt from The Journey Prize Stories 23 by Alexander Macleod
I N T R O D U C T I O N
This is a short book. A harmless-looking thing. Feel the easy weight of it in your hands, its modest heft. What could such a slim volume possibly contain? A book this small could slip into the back pocket of your jeans and still leave room for gum. It could bang around at the bottom of your knapsack and you'd never notice. Or it could just sit there for a few weeks, quiet and still, in the stack beside your bed. But don't get too comfortable with it. This little book holds ten of the best short stories published in Canada this year, and it introduces you to ten of the most exciting new writers in this country. You can almost feel the potential trembling inside. Where are these new artists going to take us? Who are we going to meet along the way? How much can they achieve with the short story form? Crack the spine of this skinny little book if you want to find out.
Although we enjoyed putting this collection together, it didn't turn out exactly the way we planned. When we first started this process, we thought we'd be making a bigger book: something . . . busier. We thought it might work like one of those British roundabouts, a circular point of intersection where many different vehicles travelling along many different routes converge at the same time. We thought our anthology might be able to bring a variety of elements together, coordinate them, and synchronize all this wildly varied movement into one perfect loop where each story maintains its own autonomy while simultaneously contributing to the efficient function and form of the whole.
Think of it: such happy comingling, such coordination and interdependence. Wouldn't it have been great if our book emerged with that kind of balance and precision? Wouldn't it have been great if we could have made everything fit together without any conflict or tension, without any sharp edges jutting out? Maybe, but that's not what happened here. "Forget about good," wrote the designer Bruce Mau. "Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. As long as you stick to good, you'll never have real growth." In our deliberations, we searched for new growth in Canadian writing.
Instead of the safest, smoothest work, we sought out arresting pieces that defied expectations and interrupted the flow, stories that made us stop and wonder, stories that showed us new ways of the seeing the world. We wanted to find sentences that excited us and stories that moved us. We wanted to feel changed in some way. And then we all had to agree on what that felt like.1Was that asking too much?
In the beginning, we independently read through a stack of almost one hundred stories - more online journal submissions than ever before, we were told - and then we emailed each other with our long lists of contenders. Overall, we were a compatible group of jurors. For the most part, our opinions overlapped.
And yet! Despite our general agreement, there were some careful quarrels. In the end, it turns out that editing a literary anthology is not a job for peacekeepers. In this business, where every aesthetic choice really matters, a testy scrap is always more valuable and interesting than tepid consensus. As we hope these selections will demonstrate, a good story needs conflict and tension and commitment. It needs to make us think and feel in powerful ways.
Several stories appeared on all three of our long lists, and though we often appreciated them for different reasons, not all of those first selections made it through to the book. On the other hand, there were some stories that appeared on only one or two of the opening lists. When we looked at them again, though, they gained more support as we moved through our deliberations, and some of those initial outliers eventually made the final cut.
Often we felt that a story was close, almost perfect, but lacking in one essential element or another. And so many of the submitted stories felt the same. So it was tempting to choose the innovative stories first. We wanted to reward these audacious, deviant stories. We loved that they were brave enough to find new ground, that they broke out of that claustrophobic Canadian Prose terrarium. "But the author tried something different," we'd say as we presented our case. The response, inevitably, was: "Okay, but did they succeed?" Then we'd put on our teaching glasses, peer at the page, and talk about how we'd have edited it if given the chance.
It was also tempting to choose stories that were competent and well-delivered. They didn't give off light, perhaps, but they had been edited and polished to a satisfactory shine. Most of the stories in the stack were solid in this way. But when we were pressed to defend them, to really get behind them and explain why we loved them, we had to admit we had chosen them because we couldn't find anything wrong with them. And that was not good enough.