The winners of our Indigenous Writing and Illustration contest 2018

Second Story Press announces the winners of its newest Indigenous Writing and Illustration contest. Two winners have been recognized for their writing for young readers, and one artist for their illustration.

ORIGINAL ANNOUNCEMENT DATE: March 14, 2018, Toronto—Second Story Press is thrilled to announce two winning authors and one winning artist for its 2018 Indigenous Writing and Illustration Contest. The jury has named the co-winners for writing as: Jodie Callaghan, a Mìgmaq woman from Listuguj, Quebec, for her story The Train; and Michael Hutchinson, a member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for his story The Case of Windy Lake. The winner of the illustration contest is Niki Watts, a Cree artist who lives in Bella Coola, British Columbia.

            The winning submissions were chosen by a jury comprised of Second Story Press publisher Margie Wolfe; writer Jan Bourdeau Waboose, who is First Nation Anishinaabe and the author of The Spirit Trackers; and writer, speaker and consultant Monique Gray Smith, who is of Cree, Lakota and Scottish ancestry and is the author of Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation.

            Jodie Callaghan’s The Train is a deeply moving picture book manuscript that conveys much about the pain and lasting legacy of residential schools. When young Ashley comes across her Uncle waiting at an abandoned train station near their community, she wonders why he is there. He tells her that this was where he and other children were put on a train and taken to residential school, with no goodbyes to their families and no sense of what awaited them. Juror Monique Gray Smith loved the relationship between Ashley and her Uncle. She was struck by the power of dialogue in which a few sentences captures the impact of Canada’s legislative decisions, like residential schools. When Ashley asks why the children were treated so terribly, her Uncle tells her simply “Because we were different”. And when he tells her “I am waiting for what was lost that day to come back to us.” the young girl tells him she will wait with him.

            Michael Hutchinson’s The Case of Windy Lake is a middle grade manuscript that the author describes as an Indigenous Hardy Boys. The story takes place on the fictional Windy Lake First Nation where a group of friends, known as the “Mighty Muskrats”, have set up a fort in an old school bus out of which they base their investigations into mysterious events in their community. The jury was struck by the story’s charm and originality, noting that it fills a needed space in children’s lit and successfully combines the kids’ mystery genre with some deeper themes. Juror Jan Bourdeau Waboose says Hutchinson “portrays native life and culture very well. He's very knowledgeable and respectful. Indigenous kids will relate to this, and so will those who aren't from those communities.”

            Niki Watts submitted a portfolio of beautiful illustration work done mainly in pencil, with a delicacy of line and realistic depiction of nature, animals, and people that immediately struck the jury. They liked that Watts noted in her bio that she believes that “art can be a catalyst for change and can be a voice for issues that need to be heard.” Juror Margie Wolfe was impressed by Watts’ ability, noting, “she has a great gift for drawing people, and particularly faces. It’s rare to find an artist who can capture such emotion. It’s something that is highly sought after for book illustration.” Second Story Press is looking forward to working with Niki Watts on a future book illustration project.

            In December 2014, Second Story Press announced its inaugural Writing Contest to celebrate its 25th anniversary and to build on its already strong list of diverse children’s books. In the fall of 2017 the press, known for publishing independent, feminist-inspired books for adults and young readers, announced that it was once again looking for contemporary writing for a young reader audience that reflects the experience of Indigenous peoples written by an Indigenous writer. This time the contest included a new category for illustration, open to Indigenous artists.