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Trio of grads score big at Quebec literary awards

Concordians shine at 2023 Quebec Writers’ Federation Awards Gala
January 23, 2024
By Johanna Donovan, GrDip 10

Three Concordia alumnae — Katia Grubisic, MA 06, Edeet Ravel, MA 85, and Deborah Vanslet, BA 03 — were recently honoured at the 25th Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF) Literary Awards Gala

Held on November 13, 2023, at Cabaret Lion d’Or in Montreal, awards were presented for first book, spoken word, children’s and young adult literature, non-fiction, poetry, translation and fiction.

Discover more about the three Concordia winners:

Katia Grubisic: Cole Foundation Prize for Translation

Black and white portrait of a smiling woman with shoulder-length hair, earrings, and a nose ring, looking slightly to the left. Katia Grubisic, MA 06, took home the Cole Foundation Prize for Translation | Photo: J. Parr

Since earning her master’s degree in English in 2006, Katia Grubisic has worked as a freelance writer, translator and editor. She has also taught at Concordia and at Bishop’s University, in the community and for the Writers in CEGEPs program.

She has written an award-winning collection of poems, What if red ran out (Goose Lane Editions, 2008), and translated into English works by Marie-Claire Blais, Nicole Brossard, Martine Delvaux, Stéphane Martelly, Alina Dumitrescu and David Clerson.

Grubisic’s translation of Clerson’s first novel, Brothers, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. To See Out the Night, her translation of his collection of short fiction, Dormir sans tête, won the QWF’s Cole Foundation Prize for Translation. 

The QWF jurors noted how Grubisic’s translation is a gift to anglophone and francophone readers alike.

“I think that translators often have books we really like, authors we hope will make that leap to the other solitude,” says Grubisic.

Grubisic also topped off the gala by taking home second place in the Carte blanche Prize for her translation of an excerpt entitled “Relieved” from Marie-Claire Blais’s posthumous final novel, Augustino ou l’illumination.

“The act of writing teaches me what I think — it’s a way to work through my thoughts,” says Grubisic.

This was strengthened by the “solid cohort of remarkable young women” she studied with at Concordia, notably in a poetry class taught by Stephanie Bolster, professor in the Department of English.

“Having a trusted and trusting creative, intellectual and personal core group like that was talismanic somehow.”

Edeet Ravel: Janet Savage Blachford Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Black and white image of a person with curly hair wearing glasses and a floral patterned shirt, smiling at the camera. Edeet Ravel, MA 85, won the Janet Savage Blachford Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature | Photo: Agatha Lesnik

Tackling heavy subjects in accessible and tender ways, from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to world wars, is par for the course for Edeet Ravel who won the Janet Savage Blachford Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature at the QWF gala for her novel A Boy is Not a Ghost (Groundwood Books Ltd.). The touching tale follows young Natt through his exile to Siberia during the Second World War in an age-appropriate and sensitive way. 

Born on an Israeli kibbutz, Ravel moved to Montreal when she was seven years old. Since her master’s in creative writing at Concordia and PhD in Jewish studies at McGill, she has taught at both universities, as well as at John Abbott College. 

Ravel’s more than a dozen books and other collaborations have garnered numerous awards — a success that she partly credits to the support of one special teacher at Concordia, Terry Byrnes.

“He was the first person who took my writing seriously, encouraged me, gave me guidance and then arranged for two of my stories to be published,” says Ravel. “I don’t think I’d have embarked on a writing career without his faith in me. I still use his remarkable insights into the writing process and quote his teachings to this day. I simply can’t thank him and the program enough.”

Deborah Vanslet: Ian Ferrier Spoken Word Prize

Person with short hair wearing a blue turtleneck sweater, smiling at the camera with a warm, engaging gaze. Deborah Vanslet, BA 03, accepted the Ian Ferrier Spoken Word Prize at the QWF Gala | Photo: Kevin Calixte

“It was an honour and a thrill,” says Deborah Vanslet about co-winning the newly named Ian Ferrier Spoken Word Prize for her story “Laughter in the Rain.” 

To see “plain old true-life storytelling” included in the broad Spoken Word category and be in the running was enough for her, she says. 

“I was so happy to be a finalist. Storytelling is being recognized as a genre! Then the win just took it to new heights.”

Laughter in the Rain” explores a 1974 Neil Sedaka song of the same name, which played an important role in Vanslet’s search for identity in small-town Quebec.

The creation of the award-winning story was also made possible thanks to her time at Concordia.

Looking for new experiences and friends in the 1980s, she enrolled in some courses at the university, one of which — Women and the Fine Arts — she was initially reluctant to try. The encouragement of that course’s co-instructors, however, as well as the support of the late Helen Bambic-Workman and her multimedia lab, helped Vanslet find her voice as a storyteller. 

During her course and work at the lab, Vanslet figured out the Hi8 camcorder and video editor — one of the first accessible and easy-to-use cameras — and began recording and editing her stories. These first experiences eventually led her to produce independent videos, the Dykes on Mykes radio show at CKUT FM and Montreal’s Confabulation live storytelling shows and podcast. She now works as the production coordinator at Ada-X, a feminist artist-run centre.

“The Women and the Fine Arts class was a major turning point for me,” says Vanslet. “That’s how I started to perform stories. They were raw, but my teachers were like, just keep going! Keep telling the stories! I loved the community I built during my years at Concordia and in the MITE AVISTA multimedia lab.”

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