Salt Spring Island-based author and Vancouver Island University English professor Kathy Page has won the annual $50,000 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for her latest book, Dear Evelyn.
The award, which recognizes the year’s best Canadian novel or short story collection, was presented at a the Writers’ Trust Awards ceremony at the CBC Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto on Wednesday. Page was one of five finalists. The other nominees were Toronto writer Craig Davidson for The Saturday Night Ghost Club, Victora’s Esi Edugyan for Washington Black, Montreal writer Rawi Hage for Beirut Hellfire Society and Vancouver’s Jen Neale for Land Mammals and Sea Creatures.
“I somehow was completely convinced that there was no chance I would win it, so I was sitting there in a sort of fairly carefree way … and then it all happened very suddenly and it was very exciting,” Page said of the evening.
She said she was startled and tearful when she gave her acceptance speech, but overall felt it “probably wasn’t too bad.”
“This is where the speeches take a turn for the worst. I am completley unprepared for this,” Page said in her remarks. “A word that comes to mind though is from my obvious British origins and it is ‘gobsmacked.’ And also of course I am deeply honoured. The phone call when one’s on the short list comes as a complete surprise and it’s astounding to feel that people you don’t know have read your book and liked it as much.”
Page went on to thank her editors, her publisher, her family, the Writers’ Trust, the sponsors, the jurors and those in attendance.
In their citation, jurors Ann Y.K. Choi, Mireille Silcoff and Robert Wiersma said of Dear Evelyn, “What initially begins as a familiar wartime love story morphs into a startling tale of time’s impact on love and family, as well as one’s complex search for personal meaning and truth. By integrating themes that are universally understood by readers and skillfully crafting endearing characters that surprise and delight, Page has created a poignant literary work of art. The result is a timeless page-turning masterpiece.”
Regarding her winnings, Page said that although she works part time at VIU, the life of a writer comes with “fairly insecure incomes” and the related anxieties.
“I know that for a little while that won’t be the case and I can relax, which is much better for creativity,” she said.