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Sunshine Coast-based book awards announce top shelf finalists

Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society will announce winners during Art and Words Festival
Members of the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society gather in Davis Bay to deliberate on entries to the group’s inaugural book awards.

The Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society has announced the finalists in its inaugural book awards for B.C. authors. 

The literary organization initiated the competition through an invitation to publishers earlier this year. The contest garnered national interest and drew submissions of more than 100 qualifying titles for consideration. 

Five local writers have been shortlisted in the category of Sunshine Coast Voices. Theresa Khiskan’s autobiographical essays in Blue Portugual and Heather Conn’s memoir No Letter in Your Pocket were nominated alongside fiction and verse by Catherine McNeil (emily & elspeth), Lenore Rowntree (See You Later Maybe Never), and David Phillips (Poems). 

The awards include 12 categories that altogether comprise 52 finalists. McNeil’s fusion of poetry and prose was also shortlisted in the category of Diverse Voices, while Theresa Khiskan’s Blue Portugal appeared alongside other nonfiction finalists. Phillips’s chapbook was among nine shortlisted volumes of poetry, including a third appearance by McNeil’s work. 

Cathalynn Cindy Labonté-Smith, the society’s president, said that the book awards were conceived following its Art and Words Festival in 2022. 

“The festival’s Beachcombers 50th Anniversary Contest was great,” Labonté-Smith observed, “but I didn’t want to do the same kind of short story contest again. I wanted something a little bit bigger. We wanted to include a blend of traditionally published books and independent presses, and overcome the stigma surrounding self-published writers.” 

The new awards complement the BC and Yukon Book Prizes, begun in 1985, and the Whistler Independent Book Awards, which were established in 2016 to recognize excellence in Canadian self-publishing. 

A 25-member jury was empanelled from the ranks of the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society, the North Shore Writers Association, and Labonté-Smith’s personal network. (She herself is the author of Rescue Me: Memoirs of Search and Rescue, published in 2022.) 

“I thought to be fair, we needed judges outside of our enclave,” said Labonté-Smith. 

Jody Wilson-Raybould, who this August will deliver the Rockwood Lecture at the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, was nominated in the category of Indigenous Voices for her book True Reconciliation. Métis author Michelle Poirier Brown also appears in the category, listed for her poetic memoir You Might Be Sorry You Read This. 

Winners will be announced on Aug. 12 during the second annual Art and Words Festival at the Gibsons Public Market. Author Vince R. Ditrich, himself included in the Humour category for his novel The Liquor Vicar, will officiate the ceremony. Ditrich shares the Humour category with Douglas Coupland’s novel Binge, which also earned a nod as one of the Fiction finalists. 

Each category’s winner will receive a $100 cash prize and holographic book cover decals. 

“Book awards help boost sales,” said Labonté-Smith, “and for authors who are nominated, it’s their chance to stand out, especially in the self-published category. The range of books we got, and the number of publishers who jumped in wholeheartedly, was a very pleasant surprise. Of course there were a few prominent publishers that didn’t participate, although some of their authors participated independently.” 

The awards also considered graphic novels and illustrated volumes. Vicky Earle’s sketchbook-style Exploring Vancouver Naturehoods and Michael Kluckner’s The Rooming House (composed as pictorial diary entries) earned nominations. The nonfiction category garnered the highest number of finalists, with 11 books listed. Among them is Fire Weather by John Valliant, who will also appear at this summer’s Festival of the Written Arts. 

The full list of categories and finalists for the Sunshine Coast BC Book Awards appears online at