Categories included non-fiction, poetry, and children’s literature

Working alone, often for years, not knowing if their work will ever be published, writers push themselves forward in their solitary art without water cooler colleague breaks.

Happily, three Alberta Avenue area authors are receiving some well-earned recognition for their efforts.

The 2019 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize Shortlist nominations include Carissa Halton for Little Yellow House. The R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature (Picture Books) nominations include Catherine Owen for Day Cat, Night Cat (nominated for illustrations), and the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry nominations include Anna Marie Sewell For the Changing Moon. (Unavailable for comment.)

On June 8, the winners will be announced at the Alberta Literary Awards Gala.

Catherine Owen’s children’s book Day Cat, Night Cat, was nominated for Jenny Keith’s illustrations. | Supplied

Halton heard of her nomination a week before the press release. The nominations affirmed that her modern stories “speaking to life in Edmonton were interesting to the jury”.

Owen so aptly names nominations as nods from the community. “It is lovely to have Day Cat, Night Cat nodded at in Alberta, where the story was originally born and the illustrations were created.” Nominations also make people aware there is a book that may be worthy of their attention or dollars. Plus, Owen says, “Jenny Keith’s illustrations are phenomenal and deserve accolade!”

Peter Midgely, Halton’s editor, was the first to read the manuscript that took her one year to draft. He then took it through three years of editing/publishing and was a real support fighting for it with the committee and jury.

Before you think a picture book requires less time or devotion, Owen says,“Jenny and I worked on and off for 10 years on Day Cat, Night Cat. I had been an admirer of her work since I first met her in 2006. When I wrote the tale in 2008, I instantly knew she would be the one I wanted illustrating the story due to her love of cats and her exquisitely bright and textured encaustic style.” Owen says, “It was worth the wait!”

It was a lengthy labour and required considerable trust in the process. Owen says, “In the tenth year, we obtained Friesen as our press. We went with them because they approved our magical combination of artist and illustrator!”

Through her word wizardry, Halton strove to present her family’s experience of Alberta Avenue with all its beauty, complexity, tensions, and fun. “I wanted to introduce the rest of Canada to our city, our neighbourhood where the non-fiction stories often held multiple truths in the same space.” For example, “People feel safe and unsafe. People are annoyed at garbage outside and see it as an opportunity for art or a new free thing for their house.”

When “I didn’t know if anyone was going to care”, Halton said that the bigger connections between personal experiences of everyday stories and events spurred her on to write and kept her going. Halton called upon “sheer strength and strong will to finish.”

Only buying her heritage home off 118 Avenue less than a year ago, Owen says, “I already can see that residing just down the street from The Carrot and having many artsy neighbours will assist me to continue to flourish as a writer and performer. Words inevitably flow from engaged forms of energy.”

Artists like these three are a huge part of Alberta Avenue being recognized as a vibrant part of Edmonton. Creatives of the area, you all deserve to take a bow!

Featured Image: Carissa Halton, author of Little Yellow House, is nominated for the Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize. | Supplied