The 2015 Bristol Short Story Prize has been won by Canadian writer Brent van Staalduinen ’01 for his haunting story, “A Week on the Water.” Van Staalduinen is an alumnus of Redeemer’s English program, and teaches creative writing as a part-time instructor at Redeemer.
The Bristol Short Story Prize is an international writing competition open to published and unpublished writers. Van Staalduinen’s story is included in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology, Volume 8, which features the 3 winning stories plus 17 other shortlisted stories. The Bristol Short Story Prize was founded by the editors of the quarterly cultural magazine Bristol Review of Books in 2007.
Sara Davies, chair of the judging panel, says that A Week on the Water is “a story that perfectly illustrates the art of narrative understatement. On the surface it’s about fishing, but as it unfolds in measured, controlled prose, its real, horribly dark subject emerges.”
In an interview following the award announcement, van Staalduinen describes his reaction to hearing his story, out of 2,400+ entries, had won the prize. “I work part time at the Hamilton Public Library and I was behind the desk at the Locke Street branch—our smallest—when I learned about the win, so although I was bursting, I had to tone my reaction down. I do recall saying, ‘Wow! Oh, wow!’ a lot, which means that in addition to keeping things sedate, any sense of verbal eloquence I might possess had completely deserted me.”
Van Staalduinen has just completed his own time as a student in the University of British Columbia’s MFA program. He says about teaching writing: “Shepherding others through the writing process continually reminds me how much I have yet to learn.” Dr. Deborah Bowen, chair of the English department at Redeemer, says, “We’re really excited that Brent will be teaching for us this winter. It’s a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn from a successful young author, and to imagine what they themselves might accomplish in the future as graduates of our writing program.”
Saints, Unexpected will be released this April. The novel, van Staalduinen’s first, is available for preorder. Its release for preorder was accompanied by this teaser:
“When fifteen-year-old Mutton is robbed at gunpoint while working in her mother’s Hamilton thrift store, the thief makes off with an item that Mutton knows isn’t meant for him, hurling Mutton and her family into a summer of remarkable and heartbreaking events. From fighting unscrupulous developers to first loves to the anguish that comes from never knowing what your final words to a loved one might be, Saints, Unexpected reminds us of the magic that comes with each opportunity to begin again.”