Winning a literary contest, especially when you’re just starting to send out your work, is incredibly validating. That another writer, or as in the case of The New Quarterly a panel of writers and editors, would choose your story out of two or three or four hundred others makes up for a lot of rejection emails!
One of the short-listed essays in the 2011 Edna Staebler Personal Essay contest, Geoff Martin’s “From the Banks of the Grand” traces the history of Block II, a parcel of land in what is now Waterloo County settled by his own Mennonite ancestors under deeds that were illicitly issued, a swindle that only came to […]
This piece was originally posted to the TNQ blog in Spring 2013. I am a terrible traveller. Pretty much phobic about flying. Ironically, I’ve spent my life travelling. I was born on an overseas business trip—crossed oceans and continents my entire life. I should be cavalier but I’m not. Quite the opposite. My fears were intensified by […]
I submitted to TNQ because the contest is unique in its focus and celebration of the occasional poem. I feel like most poems, for me, begin with an occasion in my own life, whether that occasion stays overtly in the poem or not.
Lying in bed before falling asleep, I track the changeable sky through a frame of white pines, a view so Tom Thomson it made me laugh at first. Unreal, I thought. How can this be real?
The silence was a gift. So, too, was the view from our kitchen window at the cabin. The smell of pine I haven’t experienced in years hit me as soon as I stepped out of the car. The discovery of fiddleheads on the five kilometre walk with my cabin mate Lindy Mechefske one morning.
TNQ’s annual personal essay contest attracts musings on every imaginable topic. (The sheer range—from mermaids to dimmer knobs—restores my faith in human nature.) But what we’re looking for in these entries is the deft weave of language, a writerly exploration of a subject that’s personal, engaged. We are looking for ideas, and for heart. That […]
Essays have this reputation for being stringently styled and highly polished, but they’re unruly little beasties. I think poets have more fun than essayists, but essayists can just go raw and real, really get their messy guts out. If I finish an essay feeling sick with terror but also wildly triumphant, that’s my sweet spot.
We can tell Edna’s ghost that the prize money is going toward a trip to Prague this November. David and I will be staying in the building that housed the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute, where Kafka served for most his working life as an insurance adjuster. The building is now a hotel, and we’ve booked the room that was once Kafka’s office.
Will my essay have an impact? I don’t know. But perhaps it will encourage others to share their own experiences, fears, questions, and allow their voices to be heard. I believe, more than ever, that this is what we need.