Two local authors receive Victoria literary awards

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Local Victoria authors Stephen Reid and Polly Horvath were awarded at the 2013 Victoria Book Prize Awards, in a gala held at the Union Club of B.C. on Oct. 16. In recognition of their literature, each author received $5 000 in prize money. For his non-fiction work, A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden, Stephen Reid was awarded the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize. Polly Horvath was presented the Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize for her fictional piece, One Year in Coal Harbour.

Published by Thistledown Press, Reid’s book deals with the author’s relationships, pain, sorrow, and hope during his time in prison. The collection of essays talks about the confines of imprisonment, the challenges of addiction, and the realizations he gained from each experience. The award-winning book is favourably described by jurors George Fetherling, Laurie Ricou, and Michelle Whitehead: “Framed by a sharply observed, imaginatively speculative, and risky exploration of beachcombing, Stephen Reid’s A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden is a prison ethnography taut with wit and humanity.”

Reid, a former member of the infamous “Stopwatch Gang”—named for their ability to rob a bank in less than two minutes—served 21 years in prison. The Gang was implicated in robberies of more than 100 banks, and, in the 1970s, this put Reid on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Reid then originally served more than 14 years in prison, with two escape attempts. After being released in 1987, he was again arrested for an attempted daytime bank robbery in Victoria in 1999. His previous written works include the novel, Jackrabbit Parole which he penned in prison, and articles and essays for magazines, journals, and newspapers. The spouse of popular writer Susan Musgrave, Reid now teaches creative writing, works as a youth counsellor, and has served on various editorial boards.

Polly Horvath is the recipient of many young adult and children’s book awards, having written more than five award-winning children’s books. Published by Groundwood Books, One Year in Coal Harbour is based on the adventures of Primrose Squarp. The protagonist originally starred in Horvath’s previous, Newberry Honor book Everything on A Waffle. In this sequel, Squarp takes on adventures in Coal Harbour as new problems and situations rise to challenge the people and places she loves. Jurors Leslie Hudson, Freda Nobbs, and Beryl Young praise the book, saying, “Woven throughout are glimpses of just what it means to be alive, of how to discern what you truly value and cherish, how to find beauty, even when it’s wrapped in anger and pain. Brimming with wit, imagination, and insight, One Year in Coal Harbour is at once contemporary and timeless.”

After winning the Bolen Book Prize, the Toronto Dominion Children’s Literature Award and the Toronto Dominion Fan Choice Award all in the same week, Horvath said in an email, “It was about as much excitement as I could handle without a cardiac infarction. I’ve won and lost a number of awards over the years, but I realized afterward that this was the first one I had ever won with my husband in attendance and I forgot to thank him! He is recently retired UVic professor Arnie Keller. So it seems appropriate to thank him here. He is a wonderful husband, wonderful father, wonderful friend, and hell of a teacher. Thank you, Arnie Keller.”

The Butler Book Prize of the City of Victoria celebrates its 10th year in 2013, while the Bolen Books Children’s Prize is in its sixth year. Both awards are meant to recognize and support the thriving writers’ community in Greater Victoria. The event was hosted by CBC journalist and recent UVic Harvey Southam lecturer Jo-Ann Roberts, and opened with poetry readings from local Poet Laureate Janet Rogers.