Four Victoria writers, including a construction worker, were nominated for Governor General’s Literary Awards, it was announced Tuesday.
Poet Garth Martens, a carpenter and machine operator for large-scale construction projects, was nominated in the poetry category for his debut collection, Prologue for the Age of Consequence.
Martens, 31, heard the news having just returned from five months in High Prairie, Alta., where he had been building a hospital.
“It was quite a surprise. I was half asleep. The phone vibrated because someone from Toronto wrote a congratulations on Twitter or something,” said Martens, whose book is inspired by his blue-collar experiences. “I was really quite jubilant.”
Arleen Paré was also nominated in the poetry category for Lake of Two Mountains. She said she was “teary with the overwhelm of it all.”
Before living in Victoria, Paré worked in Vancouver as a social worker and administrator. Lake of Two Mountains, a contemplation of landscape and memory, is a praise poem in 45 parts.
Nationally acclaimed writer Bill Gaston was one of five nominees in the fiction category for his collection of short stories, Juliet was a Surprise. The stories have been described as playful, absurd and “shockingly real.”
Gaston, who teaches writing at the University of Victoria, is a novelist, playwright and short story writer. A former logger and fishing guide, his works include Gargoyles, also nominated for a Governor General’s award.
The other fiction finalists were Thomas King’s The Back of the Turtle (HarperCollins Canada), Claire Holden Rothman of Westmount, Que., for My October (Penguin Canada), Sweetland (Doubleday Canada) by Michael Crummey, a 2001 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist from St. John’s, N.L., and Winnipeg’s Joan Thomas for The Opening Sky (McClelland & Stewart).
Janet Munsil, a Victoria dramatist, received the G-G nod for her play That Elusive Spark. Munsil said she hopes the nomination will lead to her play having more productions. The play premièred at Alberta Theatre Projects and had a second production at the University of Victoria in 2005.
Published last spring by Playwrights Canada Press, That Elusive Spark is inspired by the true story of Phineas Gage, who in 1848 survived an explosion in which an iron rod shot through his head. “It’s lovely to be nominated,” Munsil said. “It’s been around for a while, so it’s a very nice surprise.”
The winners of the Governor General’s Literary Awards, one of Canada’s top literary honours, will be announced Nov. 18.
Category winners receive $25,000 each.