The Writers Trust of Canada’s Annual Journey Prize is awarded to the very best short story published in Canada every year. It’s considered one of the most esteemed literary prizes in the country. To win, your story must have first been published in a Canadian literary journal, and that literary journal must choose your story as 1 of only 3 it is permitted to submit to the award. 

Like the author, the journal also stands to win: the author gets $10,000, and the journal who originally published the winning story earns $2,000 for their keen eye in finding and publishing the country’s up-and-coming authors.

A jury of three reputable authors sort through these submissions from literary journals, and create a longlist for the Journey Prize. These longlisted short stories — the cream of the crop — form the basis of The Journey Prize Anthology, a book that binds together roughly a dozen of the best reads of the year.  2017’s judges were Kevin Hardcastle, Grace O’Connell, and Ayelet Tsabari, and the Journey Prize Vol. 29 is now available in bookstores.

Local author Sharon Bala had not one but two short stories on this year’s longlist (and in this year’s anthology): “Reading Week” (published in PRISM International) and “Butter Tea at Starbucks” (Published in The New Quarterly). The latter won 2017’s Journey Prize, earning Bala $10,000 and The New Quarterly $2,000.

According to the judges, Bala’s story “burns as bright and fierce as the unnamed, immolated martyr whose image provides its thematic backbone. Following two Toronto sisters from a Tibetan background, the story explores the conflict between Tibet and China through the lens of a new baby, an interracial marriage, and an office rivalry.”

They continue on to say, “Tense and expertly plotted, the story is also packed with rich, sensory detail. This is writing that wades, unafraid, into complexity and controversy, but which is nuanced enough to wrangle finely drawn, utterly human characters to moments of aching vulnerability, confused pain, and unexpected joy. Bala takes big risks and reaps big rewards in this unforgettable story.”

A big congrats to one of our own here: the Journey Prize is hands down the hippest, hardest literary prize to win in Canada, because that the author must essentially pass through 3 juries (the editors at literary journals, twice, and then the Journey Prize jury). The last local to win the Journey Prize was Jessica Grant, for My Husband’s Jump,” and that was way back in 2003. She was, until now, the only Newfoundland author to have ever won the award.

The win is sure to help gain some much deserved interest in her forthcoming debut novel, Boat People (McClelland & Stewart). It hits stands January 2018. It has already won the Percy Janes First Novel Award, and bagging the Journey Prize 2 months before your debut novel hits stands is one hell of a way to announce your arrival.