The Mavis Gallant Writing Award is an initiative of the Estate of Mavis Gallant and the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Cape Breton University. The recipients of the 2016 award were Grace McNutt, third year Bachelor of Arts student with an honours in History, and Erin Bragg, a fourth year Bachelor of Arts student with an honours in English. Both students were awarded a $1000.00 prize.
This writing award was established to honour Mavis Gallant who is one of Canada’s most important international writers. “It is in the spirit of Gallant’s love for Cape Breton Island and her courageous resolve to live independently as a writer that the Estate wishes to recognize excellent writing by CBU students,” says Jan Curtis Cultural & Creative Studies, School of Arts and Social Sciences. This is the only Mavis Gallant Writing Award globally that is sponsored by the Estate of Mavis Gallant.
Grace’s winning essay focused on the work of Jack Kerouac and the impacts of World War II on the American society. “Post Second World War America has always interested me because it was a period of tremendous change,” says Grace. “The United States walked away from the conflict as the new leaders of the West, with their economic and cultural influence extending to every corner of the globe.”
Although confident in her essay, was surprised to win the award. “The contest was open to every discipline and, with the calibre of CBU students, I knew the competition would be tough,” says Grace. “With the prize, I was able to visit my brother in Montreal over reading week and I went to Charlottetown for the first time. While in Charlottetown, I attended the Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference and presented my paper.”
Erin explored the physical and spiritual effects of creative expression, especially in the Orpheus poem by Denise Levertov. “I was very interested in how Levertov’s poem undertook a literal interpretation of the myth,” says Erin.
With over 40 submissions from a range of disciplines, Erin and Grace’s work were among many other great pieces. “Many of the essays were striking examples of undergraduate writing and worthy of an award,” says Jan. “I was able to be one of the judges, while reading through each essay the other judges and I were impressed by the depth of research, the facility with language and the remarkable energy of these submissions. The maturity and sensitivity of these students’ works are impressive.”
Along with the two major award winners, there were five honourable mentions: Celia Cameron, Samantha Ayers-Glassey, Emily Ramsey, Makayla Roberts, and Frank Sinclair. The next Mavis Gallant Writing Competition will take place in 2018.