Recently, the School of Liberal Education at the University of Lethbridge is excited to launch Canada’s richest short story fiction writing award – The Bridge Prize.
A nationwide contest, The Bridge Prize is a short story fiction writing competition to be awarded every second year, and is open to any student registered in a Canadian post-secondary institution at the time of the submission deadline. Its focus is to celebrate excellence in the literary arts, to nurture aspiring student writers and to support the transition between student writing and professional literary art.
“The Bridge Prize is intended to inspire and motivate the next generation of Canadian writers,” says Terry Whitehead (BA ’94), a Vancouver-based alumnus of the U of L who initiated The Bridge Prize concept and has pledged to fund the competition for 10 years. “I am grateful to the University of Lethbridge and the School of Liberal Education for leading this exciting new national initiative celebrating creative writing at the post-secondary level.”
The deadline for the first intake of submissions for the prize is January 20, 2020, with $7,500 awarded to the winner of the contest and an additional $1,000 to each of three finalists. Each winning author also receives a $200 gift card courtesy of Munro’s Books of Victoria.
An exemplary panel of jurors has been recruited to review the submitted works, including author, Thomas King; Executive Director and Publisher of The Walrus, Shelley Ambrose; author, Charles Demers; Vancouver Writers Fest Artistic Director, Leslie Hurtig; and Alberta-based author, Aritha van Herk.
“I want to express my thanks to our founding jury – truly a mix of Canada’s most established and emerging literary talent and cultural leaders – for their commitment to supporting Canadian talent at the post-secondary level,” says Whitehead.
The U of L is already home to three annual student writing competitions that collectively award over $6,000 each year in prize money. They include the Play Right Prize, which celebrates excellence in one-act playwriting; the Striking Prose Prize, which recognizes excellence in short fiction; and the HistoriCity Essay Award, which recognizes excellence in historical research related to the city of Lethbridge.
Whitehead, who also funds these competitions, says The Bridge Prize is a natural progression for the University’s commitment to nurturing excellence in student writing. It also celebrates the values of liberal education, on which the U of L was founded and continues to thrive.
“Liberal education is our foundational teaching and learning philosophy. A liberal education values curiosity, multidisciplinary studies and the ability to connect and integrate knowledge, critical thinking and citizenship. These are all values that are essential to creative writing,” says Dean of the School of Liberal Education, Dr. Shelly Wismath. “The ability to explore, contextualize and contribute to the world around us is enhanced by a foundation of liberal education. Exploring and explaining the world through fiction is what writers do.”
The award’s name is representative of its intent to support the transition, or bridge, between being a student writer and pursuing a career as a professional writer. It also pays tribute to the Lethbridge Viaduct, commonly known as the High Level Bridge, the world’s longest and highest bridge of its type and one of the iconic viewpoints from the University.
For more on The Bridge Prize, visit the website at go.uleth.ca/thebridgeprize.
Following is a look at the jurors:
Thomas King (Head Juror)
Thomas King is an award-winning writer whose work consists of fiction, non-fiction, short stories, radio plays, children’s books, and a mystery series. He has won numerous awards, including the 2003 Trillium Book Award for The Truth About Stories, the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction for The Back of the Turtle, and the RBC Taylor Prize and the B.C National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction for The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. Thomas taught at the University of Lethbridge and is a University Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph.
Shelley Ambrose is the executive director and publisher of The Walrus, a national publication dedicated to sparking conversation on matters vital to Canadians. She was previously a producer for CBC Radio. Ambrose has been awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for Volunteerism, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for Arts and Letters.
Charles Demers is the author of five books of fiction and non-fiction, including the bestselling satirical crime novel Property Values, which has been optioned for development as a feature film. He is a comedian and his stand-up record Fatherland was nominated for the Juno Award for Best Comedy Album of the Year. He is a fan-favourite on CBC’s smash radio hit The Debaters.
Leslie is the artistic director of the Vancouver Writers Fest, an international, year-round festival that aims to connect people to outstanding books, ideas and dialogue. She has worked for some of Canada’s best bookstores and acted as a sales representative and publicist for some of North America’s great publishers.
Aritha van Herk
Aritha van Herk is the author of five novels, Judith, The Tent Peg, No Fixed Address, Places Far From Ellesmere, and Restlessness. Her non-fiction includes Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta, and The Age of Audacity (a history of the University of Calgary). Her most recent work, Stampede and the Westness of West, melds poetry and place-writing. She is a Member of the Order of Canada, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and has been honoured as one of the 25 most influential artists in Alberta.