I was struck by the optimism of this issue's cover art. "The Yellow Road." The woman steps brightly onto the yellow road and throws aside her umbrella, an image as carefree as that of Mary Tyler Moore tossing her beret into the Minneapolis sky. What lies on the road ahead is unknown, but she has decided to approach the unknown with confidence and faith rather than fear, as does the artist. Sharmini Thiagarajah. She explains. "In this piece I wanted to represent the feelings I had while preparing to graduate from art school. Rather than focussing on the fears of stepping out into the big world, I wanted to capture the excitement of starting a new journey."
We face transitions throughout our lives: a new job, divorce, motherhood, relationships, death. The road represents transition, for it takes us from here to there. Transitions are not always easy. Sometimes the road is dark and long and we forget that there was ever a destination. The death of a loved-one always prompts a difficult transition. How do we adjust to living without them? This theme is explored in works such as "Ocean Sounds" and "Snow Stopped the Town."
Some transitions, such as developing from girl to teenager, from teen to adult, are unavoidable. Sometimes we sense the transition before it happens, such as the building tension a family endures before the parents split. These passages are examined in the stories "Goldfish" and "Up the Clyde on a Bike" and "Trains."
However difficult or exciting the transition, our internal approach can profoundly affect our experience of moving from the known to the unknown.
Also in this issue, we are proud to feature the winners of our 2002 Fiction and Poetry Contest. We received 150 submissions from across North America: there were many great pieces and we had difficult choices to make. Two members of our editorial collective read all of the short stories and selected the finalists. while local poet Clelie Rich narrowed down the poetry. The final decisions were made by two guest judges: author Gayla Reid for fiction and poet Joelene Heathcote for poetry.
I had the pleasure of notifying our contest winners, and I received a few surprises as I made my calls. Second-place fiction winner Carol Matthews was the first person I contacted; she was thrilled, and curious to know who the other fiction-winners were.
When I told her Patricia Rose Young placed first and the honourable mentions included Clea Young, she began laughing. "That's amazing!" she said, "Patricia is a member of my writing group and Clea is her daughter!" When I called Patricia, she told me she hadn't even told her daughter she was entering Room's contest because she didn't want to discourage her from entering too. Besides being an amazing coincidence, this demonstrates that the support and encouragement of a writing group or those close to us can be invaluable. Congratulations to a very happy writing group on Vancouver Island!
Gayla Reid describes Patricia's first-place story. "Up the Clyde on a Bike," as a story of complete emotional integrity: "Unadorned, unsentimental prose that captures a family at the breaking point." says Reid. Gayla likes the way the narrative unfolds in Carol's second-place story, "Trains": "It has the sensual energy of first love discovery. I also like the way time and place are sharply drawn and authentic."
Joelene Heathcote appreciates "the straightforward narrative and its lack of pretense" in "He Wants Me to Describe It", first-place poem by Adrianne Kalfopoulou. Joelene describes how each stanza offers fresh images that smack of love's brevity and abandonment. For example, "Our kids in a bakery/calling to us to taste how quickly the meringue/melts on the tongue, how sweet it is."
In the second-place poem. "Snow Stopped the Town." by Debra Franke. Joelene values the subtle relationship between the physical loss of a loved one and the sense of being lost in a snowstorm. "The poem builds toward the notion of having no 'road map' to direct us in dealing with death ... and the alignment of human sorrow with a winter storm is particularly clear in the lines 'how young pines/leaned, nearly collapsing under weight of snow.'
Honourable mentions for poetry include Marilyn Gear Pilling's "On Reading Margaret Atwood s "Negotiating With the Dead." and "A Possible Suttee" by K. Louise Schmidt. Honourable mentions for fiction went to Clea Young for "The Wind Takes Down," Paula Rush for "Confession," and Cathleen With for "Channih Counts."
Congratulations to our winners and thanks to everyone who entered. We are also grateful to our judges for making the difficult final decisions.
Debra Franke is a graduate of Queen's University, and lives in Courtice, Ontario where she writes poetry and short fiction. Her poetry was recently published in lichen, A Time of Trial anthology, and Signatures anthology, and her story "Carnaby and Clover" won the 2002 Toronto CAA short story competition.
Adrianne Kalfopoulou teaches creative writing and English literature at the University of LaVerne in Athens, Greece. She is the author of Wild Greens, her first poetry collection (Red Hen Press, 2002), and a chapbook, Fig, which won the 2000 EDDA Women's Poetry Chapbook contest from The Sarasota Poetry Theater Press. Adrianne has also published a book of criticism on female discourses in American culture, The Untidy House (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2000).
Carol Matthews has worked as a community worker and as an Instructor and Dean at Malaspina University-College. Her short stories and essays have appeared in various journals and newspapers, including Canadian Writers' Journal, Out of Bounds, The New Quarterly, and The National Post, and she is the editor of Victor's Verses, a collection of dog poetry recently published by Outlaw Editions. She lives on Protection Island, BC.
Sharmini Thiagarajah (cover artist for this issue) is a graphic designer and illustrator with a diploma in Graphic Design and Illustration from Capilano College, and a BSc in Biology from Simon Fraser University. Born in Sri Lanka, she also lived in the Middle East before finally settling in Vancouver, Canada. Her love of nature and fond memories of tropical climates are expressed through a palette of rich, warm colours in her paintings.
Patricia Rose Young has published eight books of poetry, most recently Ruin and Beauty (Anansi, 2000). She lives in Victoria, BC.