At the end of June I was so happy to go to Toronto receive this year’s Dayne Ogilvie Award for emerging LGBT writer from the Writers Trust of Canada. I was surprised to get the call that I’d won the Dayne Ogilvie but since then I’ve realized that I’ve been published for almost a decade – it’s 9 years since I sold my first short story to a literary magazine (RIP Descant)! Writing and publishing can be (is) a long, strange, somewhat isolated path and a somewhat relentless way to spend one’s time and so I am grateful for the chances I have to share my work in public, meet other writers and come together to celebrate writing. I was especially happy when I saw the Honours of Distinction went this year to Casey Plett and Vivek Shraya, who both gave amazing readings at the ceremony in Toronto; I look forward to seeing their next books. At the risk of sounding sentimental, this felt like a real milestone for me.
I was so glad to meet Robin Pacific, the founder and benefactor of this award, which she established in the name of her dear friend and editor Dayne Ogilvie. I have been fortunate to know several writers who have been recipients of the Dayne Ogilvie over the years and have come to recognize it as a special award in being both a community award and a helpful boost at this earlier stage of writing and publishing when it is easy to lose steam, lose focus or just lose heart. This award, both on a practical and a personal level, will help me in my work on my current manuscripts. That is the other thing about writing…it never really stops.
It was wonderful to meet judges Anand Mahadevan and Nancy Jo Cullen and I was truly moved by the support and feeling of celebration in the room. It was a packed house. How great to read from my book, The things I heard about you, that came out back in the fall, at this ceremony acknowledging my “body of work” so far. How strange and wonderful to be told I have a “body of work” (!). A special thank you to Amanda Hopkins at the Writers Trust of Canada for all her work on the event, the award, and arranging for me to come to Toronto.
Thank you to the three presses that have published my work – Nomados, Freehand, and Nightwood. Thank you to the many journals and to the editors of anthologies who have selected, edited and published my work and who continue to publish my work.
Some photos from the event (all photo credits to the Writers Trust of Canada):
Glad Day book table
With judge Anand Mahadevan, choreographer Jacob Niedzwieckie and my older sister Sabrina
With Honours of Distinction recipients Casey Plett and Vivek Shraya
Accepting award from award founder Robin Pacific
Reading with judge Nancy Jo Cullen in the foreground
With assured debuts in two genres, Alex Leslie melds remarkable acuity of vision with a refreshing eagerness for formal experimentation. She’s at once a writer’s writer and an accomplished teller of tales. People Who Disappear, her artfully gritty and ultimately uplifting story collection, presents fresh and nuanced portraits of West Coast living far from the affluence and rhythms of the city. In rendering the inhabitants of The things I heard about you’s enticing prose poems – solitary ferry rider, outlier schoolgirl, river’s edge creature, and pariah scrounger – Leslie displays a tremendous gift for compassion that’s equal to a talent for technique.