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Wednesday, 25 February 2015 15:49

Swift Current writer receives two Sask. Book Award nominations

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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A recent phone call provided Swift Current writer Peggy Worrell with some great news about her debut collection of short fiction.

Her first book of 17 short stories, titled Proudflesh, has been nominated in two categories for the 2015 Saskatchewan Book Awards.
“Really the Saskatchewan Book Awards weren’t part of my reality until I received this phone call with word of my nominations,” she said.
She is one of five nominees in the First Book Award category and to her surprise she was also nominated in the Book of the Year category with five other authors, which made her nomination even more special.
“It certainly does, especially the Book of the Year was really an honour to be on the shortlist for that,” she said.
The Saskatchewan Book Awards is the only book award program in Canada focused on recognizing writers from a specific province.
“I’ve lived in Saskatchewan my entire life and so to be acknowledged in my home province does mean a lot me,” she said. “My book has been described as a prairie manuscript and even though not all of the stories are set on the prairies I’ve heard that description. So I guess it’s a goodset for a Saskatchewan award.”
Worrell has been a social worker, but is now semi-retired. She grew up on a farm in the Yorkton area and lived in Nipawin for 30 years. She stayed in Prince Albert for a few years and Swift Current has been home since 2005.
“I work part-time and I do have time to write,” she said. “I’m blessed in that way. I did work as a social worker for40 years, so maybe I deserve a little time to do what I want to do.”
She now considers writing to be her vocation, but as a first-time author she has been on a steep learning curve.
“It starts with the writing and then submitting to a publisher, which takes a lot of courage and working with an editor and then actually seeing your book in print,” she said. “The prospect of winning an award is so distant on the horizon that it really hasn’t even been discernible to me. Until I received this phone call I haven’t even given it any thought at all but I’m very happy about it of course.”
The announcement of the 2015 Saskatchewan Book Awards nominees took place simultaneously in Regina and Saskatoon on Feb. 13. She attended the announcement on the University of Regina campus.
“It was a totally new experience for me to be at something like that,” she said.
Although the event lasted for less than an hour, she was impressed with the presentation format. Some of the books were displayed on easels while others were set out on tables and covered with cloth.
“So then the emcee, who was one of the winners last year, literarily just read the list from beginning to end of each category and the names of the nominees and then these cloths were removed,” she recalled. “All the books were exposed and they looked really beautiful. Then it kind of broke up and you could go round and talk to people and look at the books and pick them up and handle them and so it became a social occasion after that.”
The 17 short stories in her book were written over a period of seven years. She explores themes such as goodness, happiness and blessings, but the stories are also about death, loss and disillusionment.
“I think sometimes people who know me are surprised at the work because some of it is dark and some of it is sexually explicit and some of the characters are rude or coarse and that doesn’t fit with their perception of me,” she said. “I have received some really heartwarming e-mails and notes saying that people have found that the work has resonated with their own life experience and they found that to be helpful.”
The official launch of Proudflesh took place in Swift Current in April 2014. Since then she had been on an extensive book tour to communities across the province. She did a book reading in Edmonton and she will also be doing readings during visits to Calgary and Ottawa.
“I have been invited to three book clubs who have chosen to read my book,” she said. “I really loved that because then I can talk to a group of people who have read the work and that really is a huge pleasure for me. They seem to find it interesting because then they get some background as to where the ideas came from, whether based on experiences I had or experiences I heard about in my work or just something that came out of my imagination.”
Her new status as a Saskatchewan Book Awards nominee might result in additional invitations to do book readings, which she will be happy to do.
“I like public speaking and reading and teaching, so I’m comfortable in front of an audience,” she said. “I don’t think of it so much in terms of selling books. I think of it more in terms of getting the work out there and communicating the ideas in the stories to a group of people and the public who are interested.”
She has been working on a number of writing projects since the manuscript for Proudflesh went to print. She completed three short stories and one was included in the most recent anthology by the Prairie Quills Writers Group, which was launched in November 2014.
She and her grandchildren co-wrote a collection of children’s stories that are for and about aboriginal children in foster care.
“I’m shopping for a publisher for those stories, which are honest and raw and hopeful,” she said.
She is also envisioning a new adult collection of short fiction that will be planned from start to finish, which is a completely different approach to the short stories she wrote over many years for Proudflesh.
“My new collection of short fiction will be a novel in chapters,” she said. “So it will be more an organic whole and I’m just starting to imagine what that will look like.”
The awards ceremony for the 2015 Saskatchewan Book Awards will take place at the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina on April 25. The event has grown from four awards at the first gala dinner in 1993 to the current award process.

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