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WGA Blog: Meet the 2017 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize Shortlist Authors

Here’s your chance to learn a bit more about the 2017 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize finalists!

Lauralyn Chow, Photo Credit: Richard Betts

Lauralyn Chow (Paper Teeth, NeWest Press) was born and raised in Edmonton. She received a B.A. and an LL.B. from the University of Alberta.  Edmonton is the setting for many of the interconnected stories in her book, Paper Teeth. Lauralyn divides her time between Edmonton and Calgary.

Q: What book or books have made a profound impact on you and why (at any time in your life)?

Lauralyn: The Cat in the Hat, by Theodor Geisel, or Dr. Seuss.  All I know is that before the book was read to me (this was before I could read), I lived in a fairly binary world—good/bad, honour/shame, happiness/sorrow—but after I knew that book, I saw everything differently, and paid attention differently.  Here was a world where there was complexity, diverse and conflicting perspectives, brooding subtexts, infinite continua of nuance, and convoluted chains of causation.  That book hit me over the head with life, put big holes in the wall of this-happened-then-that-happened storytelling, and showed me there was a bigger, more interesting, but not necessarily easier world.

Q: What is the best creative (or life) advice you have ever received?

Lauralyn: The best creative advice I ever received is this:  when all else fails, go for a walk.

The best life advice I ever received is this:  get out of your own way.  Trust yourself.  Take a chance.

Q: The #1 destination you would like to travel to/visit – and why?

Lauralyn: Wherever in the world it might be, sometime, I’d like to be out enjoying a bimulous night (as described in the book, When the Sky is Like Lace, by Elinor Lander Horwitz, with pictures by Barbara Cooney) and see fireflies.  Apparently, certain species of fireflies can synchronize their flashes with one another, and to see fireflies flying and synchronizing their bioluminescence as a way of communicating and luring, well, that’s something I hope to see in the future.

 

Katherine Koller with Mayor Don Iveson at the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts press conference

Katherine Koller (Art Lessons, Enfield & Wizenty) writes for stage, screen and page. Her trilogy of Alberta Landworks plays includes Last Chance Leduc, The Seed Savers and Coal Valley. A six-part web documentary, Sustainable Me, features Edmonton youth changing their world. Katherine’s short fiction has appeared in Alberta Views, Room, Epiphany and Grain. Art Lessons is her first novel.

Q: What book or books have made a profound impact on you and why (at any time in your life)?

Katherine: The novels of Jane Austen. I would actually “save” some them to read as a young adult, for a time when I needed it, like moving away from home, starting a new job, having my first apartment. I reread all six recently in order and was equally astonished at Austen’s dramatic scenes, her insight into human behaviour and her intelligent wit. For many of the same reasons, I also admire  the work of Carol Shields, including her amazing biography of Jane Austen. I am also a huge fan of American writers Elizabeth Strout, Kent Haruf and Marilynne Robinson.

Katherine reading from Art Lessons

Q: What is the best creative (or life) advice you have ever received?

Katherine: The best writing advice I ever received was from playwright John Murrell. He said that to make it in the world of theatre you must do as many different jobs as you can. Somehow I extended that to write in as many different genres as you can. And this is what I have done, from radio drama, theatre, dance and ballet and opera libretti to short and long fiction, nonfiction and film. I write poetry in the closet.

Q: The #1 destination you would like to travel to/visit – and why?

Katherine: I have always wanted to see Egypt, the pyramids, the desert, the Nile. I have watched many films that pique my curiosity and wonder if I’ll ever get the chance to go there, but I would also love to see the far north by boat: the icebergs, animals and sea life. I’ve been as far as Churchill, Manitoba, to see the polar bears, but I’d like to go further.

 

A watercolour Trent picked up on his travels

Trent Portigal (A Floating Phrase, Roundfire Books) is a writer of political tales and urban anecdotes. He has an eclectic background in philosophy, Francophone literatures and urban planning. He has called Edmonton home since 2008. A Floating Phrase is his second novel.

Q: What book or books have made a profound impact on you and why (at any time in your life)?

Trent: A recurring theme in my work is the play between intimacy and periphery. This idea has been significantly influenced by Thomas Pynchon’s V. and Catherine Mavrikakis’s Deuils cannibales et mélancoliques.

It is also worth mentioning Balzac’s Le contrat de marriage, in connection to the response to the next question.

Q: What is the best creative (or life) advice you have ever received?

Trent: The best advice, I think, comes more from what people do than what they say. From the creative perspective, Balzac’s approach to his La comédie humaine has given me great advice. He wrote a seemingly endless set of scenes covering different facets of France under the Bourbon Restoration, after the fall of Napoleon. When he felt that the facet was explored, he was not shy about summarily wrapping up the story.  Each scene was just as long and as short as it needed to be.

World map of libraries that carry Trent’s books

Q: The #1 destination you would like to travel to/visit – and why?

Trent: I would like to visit areas where libraries have acquired my books. They all have fascinating contexts and stories completely unrelated to my work. One of the most recent libraries is at Lincoln Memorial University, in the Appalachians of Tennessee, bordering Kentucky and Virginia. The furthest is at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras.

 

 

We invite you to join us on Wednesday, April 26, 7pm at Audreys Books in Edmonton (10702 Jasper Avenue) for the 2017 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize Shortlist Reading. Audreys Books and the Writers’ Guild of Alberta host a special night of readings by these shortlisted authors.

The Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize was established by the City Council in 1995 and is administered by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta.  Entries must deal with some aspect of the city of Edmonton: history, geography, current affairs, its arts or its people or be written by an Edmonton author. Entries may be fiction, non-fiction, poetry or drama written for adults or children, published in the preceding year. The winning author will receive a prize of $10,000. The prize is sponsored by Audreys Books and the Edmonton Arts Council.

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