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24th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards: Fiction Finalists
Stephen Near

This is the third in a four part blog series showcasing the finalists of this year's 24th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards. Find out which authors will take home the prizes by attending the gala celebration on Nov. 27, 2017 at Theatre Aquarius.

From a compelling story of loss and renewal, to a historical fable for young adults, to a magical tale of the fae, and a satiric journey across the oceans, the books in our 2017 Fiction shortlist offer a diversity of voices and wildly approaches to storytelling. Each of these stories represents Hamilton storytelling that is both unique and engaging.

Freedom's Just Another Word is Caroline Stellings’ tale of Easy, a car mechanic in Saskatoon who can sing the blues like someone twice her age. When she hears that Janis Joplin is passing through her small town, Easy is there with her heart - and her voice - in hand. It’s 1970 and Janis Joplin is an electrifying blues-rock singer at the height of her fame – and of her addictions. Yet she recognizes Easy’s talent and asks her to meet her in Texas to sing. So Easy begins an unusual journey that will change everything. Caroline Stellings is an award-winning author and illustrator of numerous books for children and young adults, including The Contest and the Nicki Haddon Mystery Series. She has been nominated for many prizes and has won both the ForeWord Book of the Year and the Hamilton Literary Award for Fiction. She lives in Waterdown, ON.

Set in the years around 1492, Yiddish for Pirates recounts the compelling story of Moishe, a Bar Mitzvah boy who leaves home to join a ship's crew, where he meets Aaron, the polyglot parrot who becomes his near-constant companion. From a present-day Florida nursing home, this wisecracking yet poetic bird guides us through a world of pirate ships, Yiddish jokes and treasure maps. Rich with puns, colourful language, post-colonial satire and Kabbalistic hijinks, Yiddish for Pirates is also a compelling examination of mortality, memory, identity and persecution from one of this country's most talented writers. Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, and multimedia artist, and the author of 20 books of poetry, fiction and books for children. He has been Writer-in-Residence at Western University and Young Voices eWriter-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library and has taught creative writing at a number of colleges and universities. 

In Saints, Unexpected, author Brent van Staalduinen makes his debut in a magical tale about fifteen-year-old Mutton. Robbed at gunpoint while working in her mother's Hamilton thrift store, she loses a valuable item thus hurling herself and her family into a summer of remarkable and heartbreaking events. From fighting unscrupulous developers to first loves to the anguish that comes from never knowing what your final words to a loved one might be, Saints, Unexpected reminds us of the magic that comes with each opportunity to begin again. Brent van Staalduinen lives, works, and writes in Hamilton. He is the recipient of both the 2015 Bristol Short Story Prize and the 2015 Short Works Prize, his work appears in The Sycamore Review, The Bristol Prize Short Story Anthology 8, EVENT Magazine, The Dalhousie Review, The New Quarterly, and The New Guard Literary Review. A graduate of the Humber School of Writers, he also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and teaches writing at Redeemer University College.

In The Captain of Kinnoull Hill, Jamie Tennant presents us with Dennis Duckworth, philanderer, misanthrope, and the least-likeable person on the Chicago music scene. When a routine flight from New York mysteriously alters its path, he finds himself penniless and stranded on a wooded hillside in rural Scotland. The hill is home to Eddie the Red Cap, a curmudgeonly, thousand-year-old goblin who secretly loves books and regrets the violent past of his people. Filled with absurdity, magic, humour and hope,  Tennant’s book asks what happens when we can no longer abide our own nature. How much can we truly change about ourselves and — in the end — is it worth it to try? Jamie Tennant is a writer and radio program director based in Hamilton, ON. A long-time music enthusiast, he has covered music and pop culture is the Program Director at 93.3 CFMU at McMaster University and was co-founder of the Hamilton Independent Media Awards. The Captain of Kinnoull Hill is his debut novel.

This year's Award for Fiction is sponsored by:

Next: the finalists for the Kerry Schooley Award