Books

3 awards for underrepresented writers in Canada launched by fundraising consultant Rahim Ladha

A Toronto-based fundraising consultant creates three literary awards valued at $63,800.
Rahim Ladha, a Toronto-based fundraising consultant, launches three literary awards valued at $63,800 annually (Sabrina Ayton)

Rahim Ladha, a Toronto-based fundraising consultant, has announced the launch of three literary awards, with a total annual value of $63,800.

A Twitter hashtag started by Yilin Wang highlighting racism within the literary community in Canada is what sparked Ladha's initiative. Through #RacisminCanLit, he saw writers' accounts of unpleasant encounters they've had in the industry.

"When I saw that hashtag pop up and saw those stories, even though I didn't know any of these people, I was like 'somebody's got to step-up a little bit,'" said Ladha.

Ladha spent the next while consulting with these writers on how to deal with these disparities.

One of the results was Nova, a quarterly literary and animation prize recognizing works by queer women, femmes, trans and non-binary writers and illustrators in the science fiction and fantasy genres in North America. The top prize is $5,000.

"In terms of sci-fi and fantasy work, you don't actually see a lot of opportunities, especially for women and trans individuals, and it just matters to people to have those kinds of avenues open," said Ladha.

This award comes on the heels of Ladha's launch of Spark and Echo, two monthly literary awards aimed at underrepresented writers in Canada. While Spark is meant to showcase the work of queer, two-spirited, Black and Indigenous writers, Echo highlights the works of writers with disabilities.

Spark and Echo each have a top prize of $1,000. The selected works will also be published on the website ShootForTheMoon.art.

With no theme, word limit or submission fee for either award, writers at any stage in their career are asked to submit works of poetry, prose, fiction and creative non-fiction. They are allowed one submission per month and are eligible to win the top prize once every 12 months and a maximum of two prizes every twelve months.

Ladha is currently funding the awards using his own savings and resources.

"I think for me it's just very important — whatever you have — to give back to the community as much as possible. I grew up around a lot of people who were very kind and generous to my family. We grew up poor. And I figured if there were ever opportunities to help other people in similar ways then I would do it," said Ladha.

He plans to incorporate as a nonprofit next year and generate funding for the prizes through other means, with the goal of continuing these awards over a longer period. Ladha is the sole judge for the awards, but he says that's going to change as he wants to remove himself from the decision-making process.

The submission deadline for Spark and Echo is the first day of each month, with the prizes announced on the 15th of each month. Nova takes submissions on the first of every third month.

While writers are asked to send unpublished work, they are free to also submit elsewhere for consideration.

"These prizes [are] not just about being able to support [writers] financially, but it's also about directing a spotlight on these particular writers and giving them more of an opportunity. At the end of the day, that's all I really want to do."

Ladha says he is open to suggestions from the writing community on how to improve the awards.

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