Eva Crocker, Sharon Bala, and Susie Taylor Shortlisted for the $5,000 Fresh Fish Award

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The Fresh Fish Award is given out once every two years to an unpublished manuscript by an emerging local author of great promise, who has yet to published a debut. Previous winners have gone on to publish their Fresh Fish winner to great accolades, including: Sara Tilley, Craig Francis Power, Lesleyanne Ryan, and Jamie Fitzpatrick.

The award is one of the country’s most lucrative literary awards of its kind, and is kindly sponsored by the NL Credit Union, and administered by the Writers Alliance of NL. It can be considered a career launcher, in that local publishers keep an eye on this prize and often publish the winning manuscript.

And why not: part of the win is $1,000 towards a professional edit of the manuscript. So not only is it an award-winning book, pre-publication, it’s one that’s been polished, professionally. The winner also receives, in addition to $5,000, a replica of “Man Nailed to a Fish” by sculptor Jim Maunder. Runners-up each receive $1,000.

The Three Finalists This Year:

Sharon Bala for her novel, The Boat People
Eva Crocker for her short story collection, Barreling Forward and Other Stories
Susie Taylor for her novel, Dispelling the Myths

Their work was chosen from submissions of fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction.

The Boat People

Quite notably, Sharon Bala’s manuscript, The Boat People, won the Percy Janes Award earlier this year — a double-win feat once accomplished by Craig Francis Power for Blood Relatives. Bala is also a member of “The Port Authority” writing group, whose fiction has recently been compiled in a book called Racket, curated by Lisa Moore, published by Breakwater Books.

Her manuscript begins “off the coast of BC with the arrival of a cargo ship bearing 500 people fleeing the Sri Lankan civil war. The novel follows a widower named Mahindan and his six-year-old son as they navigate the morass of the immigration system and attempt to begin new lives in Canada.”

She says she was inspired by the real-life stories of the MV Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady, two ships carrying Tamil refugees that arrived a few years ago.

“The Harper Government acted with appalling malice, demonizing them as ‘terrorists’ (without a shred of proof) and suggesting that arrival by ship was ‘irregular’ and, therefore, suspect. Frankly, I became incensed! But rather than leave a flaming pile of dog shit on the door step at 24 Sussex, I wrote a book.”

Judges called it “a precise reflection of a refugee’s bid for immigrant status” and “skillfully layered and paced” with “seamlessly engaging stories.”

Barrelling Forward and Other Stories

Eva Crocker recently completed a Masters in English Literature at Memorial University, and has had stories published in Riddle Fence, Paragon, and The Overcast, as well as in three editions of The Telegram’s Cuffer Anthology — an award she’s won before. She has read at Storytelling SouthEast in Ireland, and the Sparks Literary Festival.

Judges describe the collection thusly, The materiality of a peculiar world is captured vividly in this collection as characters navigate yoga classes, restaurants, hospitals, and apartments. And also, notably, a car trunk! The lucid world portrayed here is mostly the so-called “new” St. John’s, a cocktail of urban, rural and suburban modes of being.”

In Eva’s own words, “It’s a collection of short stories about how to tell someone you just started seeing that you didn’t realize you had scabies when you hooked up. Also about driving into Franconia Notch in the middle of summer and how the trees have less and less leaves the deeper you get so it feels like the seasons are rolling back on themselves. Also about effectively destroying beaver nests. And waitressing.”

The jury remarked on how “this is writing that brings to life the complexity of life today, holding up the mirror to the world, but holding it up askew, wondering, as the poet Bukowksi put it, about being ‘born into this.’”

Dispelling the Myths

Susie Taylor writes and lives in Harbour Grace, having moved to Newfoundland in 2002. She holds a B.A. in Fine Arts and recently took an online writing course from George Brown College.

Judges called her novel “a thoroughly engaging coming-of-age novel” elaborating that “Daisy’s journey through high school brings it all back with uncomfortable vividness: the profound social unease, the unpredictability of teen friendships, the unsettling sense of never really knowing who you are, the baffling unreasonableness of adult behaviour.”

“That vividness could almost be unpleasant, only it’s not—it’s funny, witty, with a sophisticated control of tone that allows the author to balance the authenticity of the main character’s point of view with situations that will be understood differently by the reader.”

​The 2015 nominees will read from their shortlisted works at Christina Parker Gallery in St. John’s, on Monday, November 9, at 7 PM. The winner will be announced at the Awards Ceremony at Government House on Tuesday, November 10.

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