Zehra Naqvi and Anna Ling Kaye win $10K RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for emerging writers

The prize recognizes promising unpublished writers in short fiction and poetry.

The prize recognizes promising unpublished writers in short fiction and poetry

Zehra Naqvi (left) and Anna Ling Kaye are the winners of the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for emerging writers. (Writers' Trust of Canada)

Zehra Naqvi and Anna Ling Kaye are the winners of the 2021 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers.

They will each receive a $10,000 prize.

The award was established in 1994 in memory of poet and short story writer Bronwen Wallace. It is currently sponsored by the RBC Emerging Artists Project.

Naqvi won for her poetry collection, The Knot of My Tongue. Her previous poem, forgetting urdu, was the winner of ROOM Magazine's 2016 poetry contest.

"I wrote these poems as if I was in conversation with you, because it is in your company that my tongue loosens and I find my voice," she said in a statement.

Naqvi was born in Karachi and raised in Vancouver. She studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and is currently teaching in the U.K., while working on her first book.

"The Knot of My Tongue compel us to unpack the complexities of that seemingly simple act," said the jury in a statement.

 "In a voice that is equal parts theologian, autobiographer and linguist, Naqvi calls us to consider the possibilities and impossibilities, the power and failures of the written word."

The poetry category was judged by Irfan Ali, Domenica Martinello and Jacob McArthur Mooney.

The short fiction award went to Kaye for East City, a story of displaced lives in a Chinese manufacturing metropolis. 

Kaye is a writer and editor based in Vancouver who grew up in countries across Asia. She is a columnist on CBC Radio. Her fiction has been shortlisted for the 2015 Journey Prize.

"Anna Ling Kaye renders their world in crisp, efficient prose, guiding the protagonist, Lan Lan, as she finds work — and friendship — on the assembly line in a doll factory," the jury said.

"This story is both attentive to its own specifics and filled with the universal shadows of human experience, gesturing outward at the stark reality of life for migrant workers around the world."

The fiction category was judged by J.R. McConvey, Zalika Reid-Benta and John Elizabeth Stintzi.

The finalists for the 2021 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award will also receive $2,500 each and the opportunity to be mentored by an established editor. 

The Bronwen Wallace Award is administered by the Writers' Trust of Canada.

The Writers' Trust of Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to advance, nurture and celebrate Canadian writers and writing through programs including awards, fellowship and mentorship opportunities. 

It gives out seven prizes in recognition of the year's best in fiction, nonfiction and short story, as well as mid-career and lifetime achievement awards.

The organization gave out more than $970,000 to support Canadian writers in 2020.

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