A celebration of words 

Vogler, Fawcett, Wood Barrett win top prizes in first Whistler Select Writing Awards

What: Whistler Readers & Writers Festival

When: Friday, Sept. 12 & Saturday, Sept. 13

Where: Whistler Public Library and MY Millennium Place

Cost: Free to $35

It’s been a busy summer for Whistler’s literary crowd. Not only are they readying for the coming weekend of writing workshops and seminars, but the Vicious Circle, Whistler’s writing group, has also just announced the winners of the first Whistler Select Writing Awards.

Offering one of the largest cash prizes in North America in the field of travel writing, the Whistler Select Writing Awards aimed to recognize great storytelling in three categories: published journalism featuring Whistler, Whistler Untold, and the Postcard Jam.

Stella Harvey, director of the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival and founder of the Vicious Circle, said the inaugural awards have been a great success, with more than 80 high-quality entries received.

“We had, for example, the Whistler stories — the published pieces — came from all over the place,” Harvey said.

Whistler writer Stephen Vogler took home the $1,000 prize for a feature story about Whistler published in the last year for his non-fiction piece “The Bomb Shack Ski Patrol Museum,” which was published in Mountain Life magazine last winter. Judges noted that it was a “unique and surprising story” about the hidden relics of Whistler’s early days. Vogler will present his piece at the opening night gala of the Whistler Readers & Writers Festival.

Katherine Fawcett captured top prize in the Whistler Untold category for her piece, “Sophie’s Cappuccino Bar.” The judges felt that it offered up fresh voice and perspective, and told a previously untold Whistler story. Fawcett will also receive a $1,000 prize for her efforts.

Finally, under the Postcard Jam category, which aimed to showcase the best undiscovered fiction writing from the region, we have three winners: Rebecca Wood Barrett was awarded first-place and $250 for her piece, entitled, “Don’t leave…” Feet Banks came in second with his, “Mice are stupid” entry and collected $150, and Katherine Fawcett was awarded third place and $50 for her “Perfect Match” piece. The three winners present their stories in a jam format during the closing of the festival this weekend. The audience will determine the winner of the jam, and the winner will receive another $50.

The top three Postcard Jam stories are also published in this issue of Pique.

A panel of judges, including Harvey; full-time independent travel writer, John Lee; the former managing editor of POWDER Magazine , Leslie Anthony; Jeffrey Tam, senior producer for CTV Canada AM; Steven Threndyle, member of the communications department for the Canadian Tourism Commission; freelance writer and editor, Glenda Bartosh; Pique editor, Bob Barnett; writer, broadcaster and editor-in-chief of Ski Press Canada and Ski Press USA, Jules Older; and Laura James, Tourism Whistler’s manager of media relations, judged the entries.

The awards were sponsored by Whistler-Blackcomb, Watermark Communications and Pique Newsmagazine.

And Whistler’s writing world is still abuzz with excitement over the upcoming weekend of workshops and seminars during the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival.

The weekend of writing kicks off with “Who Gives a %$*&^ About Words?” a panel discussion about the power of words featuring G.D. Maxwell, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, and Paul Cumin. The debate will be followed by the keynote address by publisher and author, Mel Hurtig.

On Saturday, you have to manage your time well, as there are 15 workshops and seminars to choose from, which touch on everything from writing from life, fiction and non-fiction, to free-writing.

“Techniques of the Inquisition” offers expertise on interviewing people to get their stories, while “Writing For Young Adults,” “Scriptwriting” and “10 Tips To Crank Up Your Writing” are being held simultaneously first thing in the morning, starting at 8:30 a.m. From 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., you can participate in a question and answer session with some of the biggest names in the Canadian publishing industry, while enjoying your lunch. Starting at 12:30 p.m. and running until 3:30 p.m., choose between “The Frying Pan” — a memoir workshop, “Introduction to Romance and Women’s Fiction,” “Structure, Storytelling and Sticking to the Facts,” and “Writing the Mystery Novel.”

And from 4 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., choose between another memoir workshop, “The Basics of Memoir Writing,” “Writing Fiction,” “Breaking Into Magazines” and “Feedback Blitz.” Finally, the day finishes off with a discussion at 8 p.m. with Leslie Anthony, Candas Jane Dorsey and William Deverell.

So far, Harvey said registration numbers have been very strong, with the opening night panel discussion and a few of the workshops, like the publisher’s lunch and memoirs seminars almost sold-out already.

But there’s still time, and room, to sign-up for all of the sessions, and participants are welcome to show up and register at the door, as well. For a complete copy of the program, or to register for workshops, visit www.theviciouscircle.ca .

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