Off the Page is an exclusive new series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear regularly on the NMA blog during the winter and spring of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning writer Alex Leslie.
NMAF: You won a 2008 National Magazine Award in Personal Journalism for “Pre-History,” a moving memoir of childhood published in Prairie Fire and a piece that had previously won that magazine’s creative non-fiction contest. How did that piece evolve from your desk to the Prairie Fire contest and ultimately to a National Magazine Award?
Alex: The piece was written for a workshop led by Andreas Schroeder, and I wrote it over the course of about two months. I submitted it to the Prairie Fire contest because Mark Anthony Jarman was the non-fiction judge that year and I admire his work. Prairie Fire nominated the piece for the NMA and let me know that it was in the running.
NMAF: How did it feel to win a National Magazine Awards, and what has it meant for you as a young writer to win?
Alex: I think every award and publication helps in terms of visibility and other opportunities coming up. I was surprised to win the National Magazine Award as it was the first time I was nominated (the next year my short story “Catalogue of the Coast” got an Honourable Mention in the fiction category). As a young writer every gesture of support is very meaningful because writing is ultimately utterly solitary.
NMAF: Since then you’ve also won a CBC Literary Award and you’ve been focusing on fiction. Where are you in your writing career now and what are you working on?
Alex: My first book of short stories, People Who Disappear, will be published by Freehand Books in April. I’m looking forward to reading from the book in several cities — Vancouver, Calgary, Regina and Toronto. Freehand has been amazing to work with. I’m also guest editing the Queer issue of Poetry Is Dead, a Vancouver poetry journal; I’ll be looking for submissions of Queer poetry and experimental prose by Canadian writers. I’m working on a second collection of short stories right now and I just did my first reading outside of Canada, at an offsite reading for the Seattle MLA conference.
Alex Leslie is a Vancouver-based writer and the author of the blog Stories That Happen Elsewhere. Her forthcoming collection of short stories, People Who Disappear, will be out in April from Freehand Books. You can read more about Alex and her work at her Award-Winning Creators Profile page.