For all the writers who've received rejection slips to the effect of "Too political, we don't do morals, try non-fiction," there is hope. Fernwood Publishing launched the Beacon Award (beaconaward.ca) for social justice fiction, last week at Outside the Lines. The idea came from Anne Bishop, a community worker and author of several non-fiction books. She in turn was inspired by American writer Barbara Kingsolver, who started the $25,000 Bellwether Prize for "literature of social change." Alas, only US citizens are eligible for that wad, but Bishop figured even a modest Canadian version would help fill a niche. "Anne approached Errol Sharpe and I about the idea," says Beverly Rach, a production coordinator at Fernwood. "Because Fernwood had recently acquired Roseway Publishing, the link was established."
Fernwood is known for uncompromising, progressive political non-fiction, and Roseway is now its fiction imprint. "It's a way of building a body of fiction that can help move readers to take action, using ideas and information as well as feeling and imagination," says Rach.
Rach hopes to receive manuscripts from people of all backgrounds. "We are especially interested in attracting manuscripts from those who have historically had limited access to publishing," she says. "It won't be an easy task, but we aim to do our best and grow over the coming years."
The Beacon Award comes with $1,000 prize and publication. The first deadline is February 1, 2011.