Prof and three alumni make CBC Literary Awards short list

York alumni Michael Blouin (BFA  Spec. Hons. ’84), John Blair (BA Comb. Hons. ’88) and Jennifer Derkitt (BFA Hons. ’91), along with York English and education Professor Rishma Dunlop, are all finalists for the 2009 CBC Literary Awards.

Dunlop’s “Paris Notebook” and Blair’s “Fishing for the Moon” are both competing in the creative non-fiction category, while Blouin’s “fidelity” has been nominated in the poetry category and Derkitt’s "The Homecoming" in the short story category.

Left: Rishma Dunlop

Eighty English-language finalists were chosen out of 6,000 submissions in three categories – creative non-fiction, poetry and short story. The winner in each category will receive $6,000, while the second prize winner will receive $4,000.

Dunlop, the 2009 recipient of a Canada-US Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Creative Writing, is the author of four books of poetry: White Album (Inanna Publications, 2008), Metropolis (Mansfield Press, 2005), Reading Like a Girl (Black Moss Press, 2004) and The Body of My Garden (Mansfield Press, 2002). 

She received the 2003 Emily Dickinson Prize for Poetry and her radio drama, “The Raj Kumari’s Lullaby”, was produced by CBC Radio in 2005. Her poems have appeared in anthologies and journals, including Blackbird, the Literary Review of Canada, CV2, Canadian Literature, Descant, Event, Grain and The Comstock Review.

Right: John Blair

Currently head of the English department at Town Centre Private High School in Markham, Blair wrote “Fishing for the Moon” in memory of his father. He is the author of Fissure Rock (Xlibris, 2004), and he also wrote, directed and produced the play Noble Hockey Legend, which was performed at St. Vlad’s Theatre in Toronto. In addition, he is the director of a new acting school opening this July – Toronto Acting Place. Blair’s short story "Dad Dreams" was a runner-up for the 2003 Literati Short Story Contest.

Blouin has been published in many Canadian literary journals, including Descant, Arc Poetry Magazine, The Fiddlehead, The Antigonish Review, Event, The New Quarterly, Grain and Queen’s Quarterly. He is the author of the poetry collection I’m not going to lie to you (Pedlar Press, 2007) and the novel Chase and Haven (Coach House Books, 2008), a haunting story of suffering and love, made of thousands of small impressionist facets that refract the quiet spectrum of the beauty and the detritus of two entwined lives. Chase and Haven won the 2009 ReLit Award for best novel.

Left: Michael Blouin

“To be a finalist for the CBC Awards is another step and nice to see so many entries this year. I think it says a great deal about the health of the literary community in this country,” says Blouin. “Nice to have had my literary start at York University where I wrote my first stories, sceenplays and plays while a member of the film department.”

In addition, Blouin was the winner of the 2003 Diana Brebner Prize for Poetry from Arc Poetry Magazine, as well as the Lillian I. Found Prize for Poetry from Carleton University. His work has been shortlisted for a National Magazine Award. He has a new book expected out in the spring of 2011.

Derkitt started her shortlisted story “The Homecoming” when she was still a student at York as an exercise in one of her creative writing classes. About the same time, her short story, "Visions", was chosen as a Judge’s Choice award winner in the Toronto Star’s Sunday Short Story contest.

After graduating, Derkitt says her focus switched to screenwriting. “I found representation at Gersh [Agency] in Beverly Hills, and moved to Hollywood. I then opened a script-consulting firm, and that segued into literary management,” says Derkitt. "In 2008, I began writing full-time again.” 

"The Homecoming" is part of a collection of short stories, Company B, which Derkitt is currently writing about Canadian soldiers in France during the First World War. She is also in the process of finishing her first novel, Becoming Dead, what she describes as a high-concept horror.

“The CBC Literary Awards nomination is such a great honour,” says Derkitt. “I’ve always admired the CBC’s power as a unifying force. It helps bind Canada together and makes the country unique. I couldn’t hope for a more prominent and beloved organization to give a nod to my work.”

Awards host Shelagh Rogers will unveil the English-language winners chosen from the finalists Thursday, March 18, at 11am on CBC Radio One’s show "Q" with Jian Ghomeshi. Christiane Charette will announce the French-language winners that same day on La Première Chaîne de Radio-Canada.

Interviews with the winners will air on a special broadcast of "The Next Chapter", hosted by Shelagh Rogers Monday, March 22, at 1pm. The winning works will be published in Air Canada’s enRoute magazine and read on CBC Radio’s "Between the Covers" from April 12 to 16. They will also be available as a podcast on iTunes, the CBC Podcasts page or CBC Books page as of April 14.

For more information, visit the CBC Literary Awards Web site.