A short story by a Red Deer writer that leads off with a marble statue walking into a coffee shop captured a nomination for the 2022 Alberta Literary Awards.
Thirty-six finalists were announced by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta this week, including C.J. Lavigne who is a finalist for the Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story for her story Cenotaph which was published in Augur Magazine.
Lavigne said the story evolved from those first images of the statue getting in line for a coffee, and the barista’s “completely over it” reaction.
“It kind of just sprung from there and it ended up being a story about grief and loss, and broken relationships,” said the Red Deer writer known for her speculative fiction, the genre that includes sci-fi, fantasy and horror.
Lavigne’s novel In Veritas won Speculative Fiction Book of the Year at the 2021 Alberta Book Publishers Awards.
She wrote Cenotaph last summer and said she found it easier to write short stories during the pandemic.
“There’s that sort of low-grade, numb anxiety that comes from the pandemic, and then there’s added pressure of world news. I just find it really hard to concentrate on longer projects,” Lavigne said.
But just like a lot of people, she needed a creative outlet during such a dreadful time.
“Some people make sourdough bread, and I write short stories. I think it probably comes from the same impulse. It’s just that urge to bring something new out into the world.”
Lavigne, who has a master degree in English literature, said for her, writing speculative fiction is like walking a really fine and poorly defined line between genre and literary fiction.
“Genre fiction, in general, is starting to lose some of the stigma that it’s had for decades. There’s the notion that genre fiction was written for commercial purposes, and literary fiction was written for art. Thankfully we are starting to move away from that and appreciate both that literary fiction can be written to make money, and that genre fiction can be art.”
Lavigne is one of three finalists for the O’Hagan award. The other finalists are Ben Lof, of Edmonton, for Naked States published in The Malahat Review, and Rod Moody-Corbett, of Lethbridge, for Malady Head, published in Soft Punk Magazine.
“I’m really thrilled about it and it’s in a list of some very impressive works, and I wish good luck to everyone,” Lavigne said about her first Alberta Literary Awards nomination.
“Especially during the pandemic, we’re all just toiling away quietly in the privacy of our homes so it’s really nice to occasionally get an indication that hey someone’s read my work and they liked it.”
Alberta Literary Awards will be presented at the Alberta Literary Awards Gala on June 11. For more information on the finalists visit writersguild.ca.