Nearly 60 Newfoundlanders & Labradorians now have one more award to add to their bios, and a little more money in hand, thanks to the 2015 NL Arts and Letters Awards. The notable highlight this year is Sharon Bala’s name appearing as a winner in TWO categories (Short story and the Percy Janes 1st Novel Award).

The Arts and Letters awards are an annual celebration of local arts, across all disciplines, from scripts to songs, and books to the visual arts. There are categories for adults and youth alike, and this year alone, they doled out over $35,000 in prizes.

Senior Short Fiction:

Judged this year by Elisaeth de Mariaffi & Chad Pelley.
Award value $1000

Sharon Bala St. John’s Lord of the Manor
Bridget Canning St. John’s Colleen’s Birthday
Michael Finn St. Bernard’s-Jacques Fontaine The Chimney
Karen Rowe Gander Between Then & Now

Junior Short Fiction:

Judged this year by Eva Crocker and Charis Cotter
Award value $350

Emma Hayden St. John’s The Pain of Survival
Maya Morton-Ninomiya St. John’s The Seed
Megan Randell Little Burnt Bay Let the Clock Reverse
Olivia Bradbury Upper Island Cove Prey
Grace King St. John’s Still Life No. 16
Melanie Slaney Burin Ballad of Brigitte Hertz
Danielle Thomas Carbonear Remember Me
Regan Williams Harbour Grace What Goes Around Comes Around

Adult Poetry:

Judged this year by George Murray & Mary Dalton.
Award value $1000

Randy Drover St. John’s Sheila’s Brush
Jacqueline Hynes St. John’s Some Functions of the Wind
Katie Vautour St. John’s The Fisherman
Douglas Walbourne Gough Corner Brook Synesthetic Response


Junior Poetry:

Judged this year by Dana Evely & Grant Loveys.
Award value $350

Cole Curnew Stephenville Crossing A Mission Overseas
Katie Hardy St. John’s Loss
Liz Waterman St. John’s Withstanding Toxicity
Megan Penney Mount Pearl Supreme
Isabelle Riche St. John’s Fat
Julia Rose St. John’s Shattered
Breanna Sheppard Paradise A (Once) Quiet Corner in Her Mind
Matthew Williams Gander Wonderland


Percy Janes First Novel Award:

The Percy Janes First Novel Award is a $2,500 award for an unpublished manuscript by a writer who has yet to publish their first book. It’s become a proving ground or launching pad for local authors. Previous winners have included Joel Thomas Hynes, Sara Tilley, Patrick Warner, and Craig Francis Power. This year, adjudicator Trudy Morgan Cole chose Sharon Bala’s manuscript, Boat People. Publishers should take note of this name, that’s been popping up everywhere in the last 2 years, and now, in a rare — maybe unprecedented — display of her potential, she’s won TWO Arts & Letters awards in the same year: short fiction and the Percy Janes First Novel Award.

Is she excited about it? Hell yes. In her own words, “I’m pants-on-head, victory-lap-running, guzzling-back-champagne-by-the-bucketful excited! My entire existence as a writer thus far has primed me for rejection, especially form letter rejections in self addressed stamped envelopes. I do so treasure those. So the double win came as a massive surprise. I think I’m going to quit writing now. Take George Costanza’s advice and leave on a high note, etc. (Just kidding! What would I do without those form letter rejections?)”

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.”
As bala points out, Canada has a long history of sea arrivals and “illegal” migration: Japanese fishermen in the 1800s, the Vietnamese Boat People, Draft Dodgers, and the Underground Railroad. “I got interested in these successive waves of immigrants, in the different ways people are received, in war-time distrust and internment. The book is about identity and language, grief and belonging, it’s about racism and third culture children, and ultimately it’s a book about what it means to be Canadian.”

Senior French Literary Award:

This year’s winner of the $1000 Senior French Literary Award was Monica Plourde, or La Grand’terre, for her peice, “Exil.” It was judged by Michel Savard

Adult Dramatic Script:

Judged this year by Michael Chiasson.
Award value $1000

Megan Gail Coles St. John’s Falling Trees
Justin Simms St. John’s Nexus


Two powerhouses took home the awards for best script this year — Justin Simms, who is currently busy directing the latest local feature film here in town, Away from Everywhere, and Megan Gail Coles, who has been busy all year being shortlisted for literary awards for her book, Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome.

Theatre’s always been the main draw for Coles though, so it’s no surprise to see her name here. “FallingTrees” Part I of Coles’ Driftwood Trilogy, which she says “examines resource exploitation in Newfoundland and Labrador over the last century. It is set during the British appointed commission government. It focuses on a five men of various backgrounds; we meet two rural NL men in the lumber woods, two urban politically minded fellows in town, and one man who straddles both traveling between the two via rail, horseback and by foot. Simeon Dredge is cutting cords for the first time. Ambitious and young, he has no concept of what working in the woods will entail. Brother-in-law Albert Taylor is forever crushing Sim’s fantasies of fine wool coats and entrepreneurship with unwanted reality checks. ‘No one gets rich cutting wood.’ When word spreads that a Commission Government representative, Harold Jacobs, has been sent from St. John’s to investigate the notoriously poor conditions in the lumber camps, Albert fears that Sim’s naivete and ambition will cause him to speak out and forever be branded a troublemaker. Stewart Percy is also concerned with who’s saying what in the camps. The CEO of the island’s largest paper company is worried that Jacobs will stir up a rebellion amongst his labour force. Percy will not allow his family legacy to be threatened by an upstart politician and the great unwashed. He makes this understood in the office of British appointed Commissioner Wish Heart. The political lobbying and backroom bargains made in Falling Trees will set in motion a cycle of exploitation that threatens the fabric of a society for a century.”

Senior Non-fiction:

Judged this year by Nancy Earle
Award value $1000

Jiin Kim St. John’s Cheater
Jim McEwen St. John’s Takla Lake
Iain McCurdy St. John’s Skin


Senior Music:

Judged this year by Duane Andrews, Lisa McDonald and Bill Brennan
Award value $1000

Greg Bruce St. John’s Porchico (Gypsy Funk)
Glen Collins St. John’s Curry (world music)
Andrew Noseworthy St. John’s concerto for Korg Monotrom(classical)
Rebecca Simms Mount Pearl Bud (contemporary classical)


Junior Music:

Judged this year by Duane Andrews, Lisa McDonald and Bill Brennan
Award value $350

Joseph Coffin Paradise Lonely Road ( blues)
Maeve Collins-Tobin St. John’s Don’t Go  (pop)
Kat McLevey St. John’s Tell Me Once  (folk)
Luke Tremblett St. John’s Join Everyone  (Alternative)


Kat is no stranger to the Arts & Letters, having won in previous years. “Tell Me Once,” is a song about “the concurrence of the past, present, and future in our daily lives and how when their balance is thrown off, we may need a little help to get us back on the bike, so to speak.”


Senior Visual Art:

Judged this year by John (Jay) Barry, Michael Pittman and Kym Greeley
Award value $1000

Kelly Jane Bruton St. John’s Existence 2014 textile
Richard Fleming Corner Brook Geometry 1 metal
Rod Hand Conception Bay South Rain on Window Pane mixed media
Mike Gough St. John’s The Island Mixed on birch panel
Blake Gosse Stephenville The Persistence of Loss Gliclée print
Kathleen Knowling St. John’s Four of Me Mixed media
Christina Rees St. John’s Inverted mixed media on linen
Jennifer Oille Sinclair St. John’s Scene From the Museum 2014 digital photography
Amber Lynn Thorne Thornlea, Trinity Bay From Above oil
Ellie Yonova St. John’s OPUS #2309 digital collage
Nicole LeDrew May Corner Brook Rainy Windshield View of a Wet Night on Bannerman oil on wood panel
Danny Woodrow Mount Pearl The Modern Stump acrylic/oil on board


Junior Visual Art:

Judged this year by Maria Mercerand Jason Wells
Award value $350

Jaspreet Kaur Nijjar St. John’s The Colors of the Earth mixed media
Joshua Mack St. John’s A Collection of North American Animals mixed media
Liz Waterman St. John’s Decalage vers le rouge collage
Emily Clark Torbay Breaking Connections mixed media
Charlotte Hobden St. John’s Runs in the Family Graphite
Hayley Murphy Tors Cove Rhythm under the Sea pen/ink
Erika Stonehouse Conception Bay South Guardian Angel Oil on canvas
Madison White Portugal Cove Essen mixed media


The Overcast will provide more substantial coverage on the winners this week …