23rd Annual Hamilton Art Council Literary Awards: Fiction Finalists
Lisa Emmons

This is the first in a three part blog series showcasing the finalists of this year's 23rd Annual Hamilton Art Council Literary Awards. Find out which authors will take home the prizes by attending the gala celebration on December 7th, 2016 at Norman and Louise Haac Studio Theatre at Theatre Aquarius at 7pm.  All are welcome and the event is pay-what-you-can.


Gary Barwin • I, Dr. Greenblatt, Orthodontist, 251-1457

Since winning a 2015 Hamilton Literary Award for his book of poetry moon baboon canoe, Gary Barwin has had quite a year; his novel Yiddish for Pirates spent weeks on the Canadian bestseller list, and was shortlisted for English Canada’s most prestigious literary awards. A composer and multimedia artist, as well as author of over 20 books of poetry, fiction, and books for kids, Barwin has a PhD in music composition, and has been Writer-in-Residence at Western University and the Toronto Public Library Young Voices eWriter-in-residence. A new poetry collection, No TV for Woodpeckers will appear from Hamilton’s Wolsak and Wynn in 2017. 

At times comic, tender, dark, and arrestingly bizarre, Gary Barwin’s latest fiction, I, Dr. Greenblatt, Orthodontist, 251-1457, collection marvels at the strangeness, charm, and beauty that is contemporary life in the quantum world. Ranging from short story to postcard fiction, Barwin’s stories are luminous, hilarious, and surprising. A billionaire falls in love with a kitchen appliance, a couple share a pair of legs, a pipeline-size hair is given the Nobel Prize only so that it can be taken away, a father remembers with tenderness the radiant happiness of his teenage child, trapped inside his body.

Lawrence Hill The Illegal

Lawrence Hill is the author of ten books of fiction and non-fiction. His first two novels were Some Great Thing and Any Known Blood, and his third novel, The Book of Negroes, attracted international attention and was made into a successful TV mini-series; as the Globe and Mail’s Carrie Snyder writes, both it, and The Illegal, “use story to give flesh, breath, and blood to cold, calculating political and economic practices.” Hill is currently writing a new novel and a children’s book, and co-writing a television miniseries adaptation of The Illegal. He has recently become a professor of creative writing at the University of Guelph.

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill is about a boy, Keita Ali who is on the run. Like every boy on the mountainous island of Zantoroland, running is all Keita’s ever wanted to do. In one of the poorest nations in the world, running means respect. Running means riches—until Keita is targeted for his father’s outspoken political views and discovers he must run for his family’s survival. Keita escapes into Freedom State—a wealthy island nation that has elected a government bent on deporting the refugees living within its borders in the community of AfricTown.

Keita can stay safe only if he keeps moving and eludes the officials who would deport him to his own country, where he would face almost certain death. Keita’s very existence in Freedom State is illegal. As he trains in secret, eluding capture, the stakes keep getting higher. Soon, he is running not only for his life, but for his sister’s life, too.

The Illegal is being adapted by Conquering Lion Pictures into an eight-part television miniseries with CBC TV.

Janet Turpin Myers • The Last Year of Confusion

Janet Turpin Myers is a Burlington-based poet and novelist. Her first novel, Nightswimming, was shortlisted for the 2014 Hamilton Literary Awards. Her latest novel, The Last Year of Confusion, is a humorous, thought provoking—at times dark—commentary on the heaviness of humankind’s boot prints upon this planet. Rhonda Dynes, in the Hamilton Literary Review, has written “For those looking to situate The Last Year of Confusion in the Canadian canon, think Stephen Leacock wrapped in a Hudson's Bay blanket with Joseph Boyden and Paul Quarrington.” Myers’ poetry has been published in Hammered Out and Sage, as well as in anthologies published by Hamilton’s Tower Poetry Society.

Villis—a cranky, retired anthropologist and survivor of Stalin’s GULAG work prisons—walks daily in The Pearl, an unspoiled frill of forest, along with his long-time friend, Bipin. They banter about the nature of man, of gods, and of what Bipin calls the World Wise Web. Everything is connected, Bipin believes. There are no coincidences. So, when a cerebrally challenged young man invades The Pearl on an obnoxious all-terrain vehicle, chewing up trails and threatening amphibians, Bipin seeks the cosmic meaning inherent in this assault. Villis, on the other hand, wants to wage war. Villis’ and Bipin's naïve efforts to dispel the ATV-man from The Pearl spiral into a rollicking chaos of confusion, involving celebrity impersonators, visions of cavemen, and a time portal swirling from within the vibrating heart of The Pearl. The Last Year of Confusion is a humorous, thought provoking—at times dark—commentary on the heaviness of humankind’s boot prints upon this planet.

Marnie Woodrow • Heyday

Marnie Woodrow is the acclaimed author of two short fiction collections, Why We Close Our Eyes When We Kiss, and In The Spice House, and a novel, Spelling Mississippi, a love story set in pre-Katrina New Orleans that was shortlisted for the First Novel Prize. Woodrow’s second novel, Heyday, tells the parallel stories of two lively girls who meet aboard a roller coaster in 1909, and a modern-day woman who grieves the loss of a partner with whom she was not in love. Marnie Woodrow has written for Xtra!, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, and NOW Magazine. She now lives, works, and teaches creative writing in Hamilton.

In Marnie Woodrow’s second novel, Heyday, two lively girls who meet aboard a roller coaster in 1909 and a modern-day woman who grieves the loss of a partner with whom she was not in love. Heyday is a double-barreled story about nostalgia, the soul’s quest for pleasure, and the power of love to endure through lifetimes. The contemporary half of her story relies on the inner thoughts of Joss, a recovering alcoholic and struggling photographer who is grieving the death of her wife, Bianca. In the narrative past a happier love story begins when Bette meets Freddy, a tomboyish ticket taker at the Toronto Islands movie theatre. Heyday examines what it means to love and be loved, and to maintain a clear sense of self in the process.

This year's Award for Fiction is sponsored by:





Look for the second installment of this blog series: 23rd Annual Hamilton Arts Council Literary Awards: Non-Fiction Finalists