UVic alumni take top nomination spots for Victoria Butler Book Prize

Culture Literature

On Oct. 11, one of the best and brightest of Victoria’s literary scene will be honoured with the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize — and there’s a good chance that someone will have a UVic connection.

Among those nominated for the best book published in 2016 include UVic alumnus Steven Price for his fiction novel By Gaslight; alumna Yasuko Thanh for her fiction novel Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains; and teaching alumni Patricia Young and M.A.C. Farrant for their respective poetry books Short Takes on the Apocalypse and The Days: Forecasts, Warnings, Advice.

The two $5 000 prize winners will be announced at the Awards Gala taking place at the Union Club of British Columbia (805 Gordon Street) early next month.

Writing alumnus Steven Price was delighted to hear the news.

“There are so many deserving and worthy books published every year, so to be recognized comes naturally as a very pleasant surprise,” said Price over email.

This is the 14th year the Victoria Book Prize Society has awarded Greater Victoria authors this literary prize, which, according to the society’s website, was “created to acknowledge and celebrate an extraordinarily accomplished writing community and the readers who support them.”

Steven Price (left) and Yasuko Thanh are both nominated for the Victoria Butler Book Prize. Photos by Centric Photography (left), Anastasia Andrews. Both photos provided

Nominees’ work will be judged by a group of independent adjudicators from the literary arts scene in Victoria.

In addition to the the Butler Book Prize, the Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize will also be announced that evening, crowning an author or illustrator for 2016’s best children’s book. The nominees include Kari Jones (At the Edge of the World), Margriet Ruurs (Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey), and Robin Stevenson (Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community), all published by Orca Book Publishers.

Between these two awards, many UVic alumni have taken home top prize over the years, including Dawn Green, who took the Bolen Books Prize last year for her children’s book In the Swish.

“I think it really speaks to the talent that comes through the program over the generations of writers [in the department],” said David Leach, Chair of the UVic Writing Department.

Steven Price cited the writing program as a big contributor to his writing when he attended over 20 years ago.

“I was fortunate to study under some of the finest teachers and writers in the country, alongside brilliant students,” said Price. “Perhaps the most valuable thing I learned from my time in the writing program was discipline: the simple difficult nature of sitting down to write when I didn’t otherwise know how to proceed, and writing my way out of that place.”

Thanh also said working in the program (including under Steven Price as his student) has a lot to do with where she is today.

“I was thrilled. Especially to be nominated alongside Steven Price, who taught me during my second-year at UVic, a fiction workshop, and to whom I owe an immense debt of gratitude,” said Thanh.

Price and Thanh’s books nominated for the prize. Photos provided

Both writers say that while they were excited to be nominated for the award, they realize that awards are not why they write.

“Prizes, nominations, even publication— all that stuff lives outside the work, and largely you can’t control it,” Thanh said. “What you can control is how many hours you spend a day with your butt glued to a seat and your fingers at the keyboard, how much you read (be omnivorous, and voracious). And only you, in the end, can define the sometimes elusive thing that makes you go on,” said Thanh.

“The longer I do this the more clearly I realize one writes what needs to be written, and for the love of the work, and the difficulty lies in staying true to that,” said Price.

Tickets for the Awards Gala can be purchased at Bolen Books, Munro’s Books, Ivy’s Bookshop, Tanner’s Books, and the Victoria Book Prize Society website