Winning the 2008 Writers' Trust / McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize was a thrilling time for writer Saleema Nawaz, “In terms of heart-stopping exhilaration, it rivaled only the joy of finding out that my first book was going to be published.”
Saleema had been collecting Journey Prize Stories anthologies and dreaming of one day appearing in those pages. “Every step of the process left me almost beside myself with a kind of dizzying happiness. From finding out Prairie Fire was nominating my story, to learning it would be in the anthology, to being shortlisted and finally winning, I could scarcely believe my good luck. (I still almost can’t!)”
“I had spent a long time writing the story, so it was a wonderful affirmation of all the effort I had been putting in. To work harder than you’ve ever worked before — and to have your work acknowledged in that very public way — is hugely encouraging for a writer. It’s special, too, because it almost never happens,” she says.
“I also felt as though I was forever becoming part of this tradition that I had revered and which stood for something important to me, connecting me to writers whose work and careers I admired.”
Before the nomination, Saleema had already been corresponding with an agent; after her story was shortlisted for the Journey Prize, the agency confirmed that they wanted to represent her. “We shook on it at the awards gala before the winners were announced.”
At the event itself, she also had the opportunity to meet writers she adored, like Miriam Toews and Michael Winter. “I met editors and agents, too, and all sorts of lovely book folks and left with my purse full of business cards.”
“And not insignificantly, the prize money allowed me to finish paying off my student loans! Being debt-free is a blessing not to be underestimated when it comes to the writing life.”
Saleema’s novel, Bone and Bread, published by House of Anansi Press, tells the story of two orphaned sisters living with their Sikh uncle in Montreal. Order your copy here.