An emerging writer in Inuvik is already in the running for a literary award.
Deanna Jacobson’s Hockey and Hot Chocolate – a short story following a 10-year-old hockey player who experiences struggles and personal growth in the arena after she moves to a new town – has been shortlisted for an Indigenous Voices Award in the Unpublished Prose in English category.
“My instructor provided information about the Indigenous Voices Awards and encouraged me to submit my short fiction piece to them,” said Jacobson. “When the deadline date came, she gently prodded me again to enter my piece.
“So, I thought I may as well take a chance.”
Jacobson said she wrote the short story as part of a Creative Writing class. Initially her focus was on the protagonist’s mother, but as the story developed on paper and in her head it shifted more to the on-ice experiences of the main character.
Since submitting the work for judging, she’s continued to refine and polish the story. She is one of three finalists in her category.
Established in 2017 as a means to support and nurture the work of Indigenous writers across Turtle Island and wholly funded by donations, the Indigenous Voices Awards (IVAs) began as a crowdfunding campaign by Robin Parker and Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Setting their initial fundraising goal at $10,000, the pair blew past that tenfold by raising $116,565 in just four months. Since then, the trust fund has been sustained on donations from numerous individuals and organizations.
Intended to support artistic communities and discourage the individualism normally associated with awards, the IVAs offer contestants opportunities for mentorship, collaboration and professional assistance where possible. It also provides cash prizes to authors and has given out $70,000 to Indigenous authors since 2017. There are 27 authors shortlisted this year across nine categories. Submissions can be written in a traditional Indigenous language as well as in English and French.
It has served as a platform for emerging writers to showcase their work, and several writers who were unpublished at the time they were shortlisted for an IVA have since gone on to become published and accomplished authors, including Smokii Sumac, Brandi Bird, Elaine McArthur and Francine Cunningham.
Jacobson added she has ideas on how to develop her story further, but was waiting to see what the outcome of the Awards ceremony is. She is also working on a few other short stories and a piece of nonfiction and plans to refine those over the summer.
“Congratulations to all of the finalists! I am very excited to learn of so many Indigenous authors and emerging Indigenous writers,” she said. “I want to thank my Instructor, Jamella Hagen, who consistently provided positive feedback on many of my written pieces. It was her continuous prodding and encouragement that convinced me to submit my written pieces to the literary world, and finally, to the Indigenous Voices Awards.
“I am also grateful for the inspiration and wisdom gained from my fellow classmates, who tirelessly workshopped many of my fiction and nonfiction pieces. Quyanaqpak (Thank you very much)!
“Last, but not least, I must extend my sincere gratitude to the jurors and staff of the Indigenous Voices Awards. The staff have been a wonderful, helpful team; and I am thrilled that my story, “Hockey and Hot Chocolate” captured the juror’s hearts.”
Winners of each category will be announced June 21 with an online gala.