Open a copy of the 47-year-old Canadian literary magazine EVENT, and you’ll find poetry and prose by well-known authors alongside debuts by emerging writers. EVENT editors are passionate about discovering and showcasing new literary talent. They look for exciting fiction, honest and lyrical poetry, and compelling real-life narratives, as well as book reviews.
Last year, noting an increasing interest in genre writing, EVENT editors launched the “Let Down Your Hair Speculative Writing Contest” that challenged writers to think beyond the boundaries of realistic fiction and poetry in 1,800 words or fewer. Poet Amber Dawn, who judged the contest, notes that the short word count leaves no room for complicated world-building, and “the emphasis has to be on highly imaginative, voice-driven moments.”
The winning pieces appear in the fall 2018 issue (47/2). “One is a post-apocalyptic tale of a family in a bunker, the other a lyrical story where the narrator has a vision of a giant crab,” Editor Shashi Bhat notes. “These pieces really liven up EVENT’s aesthetic, and we’ve noticed an increase in speculative writing in our regular submissions as well. In fact, all of the fiction in the fall issue features speculative elements.”
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EVENT pieces can be playful and witty. They can also be serious and profound. Regardless, editors look for work that surprises, writing that feels fresh and original and relevant to a diverse readership devoted to thought-provoking poetry and prose.
EVENT’s annual non-fiction contest, established in 1987, is the longest-running contest of its kind in Canada. “We continue to find some amazing writing through this contest, including our 2016 winner, ‘So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish’ by M. Bayless (45/3), which went on to win a Canadian Magazine Award for Best Literature and Art Story.
“It’s a compelling examination of memory and the pursuit and loss of one’s passions, following the narrator’s experiences with cognitive decline and, surprisingly, taking care of fish,” Bhat explains. “We loved the unexpected parallels it drew.”
EVENT publishes an annual “Notes on Writing” issue, soliciting short personal essays from notable Canadian writers with the request that they give readers a glimpse into their writing lives. Issue 47/1, published in June 2018, features an essay by poet Benjamin Hertwig, “On Violence & Memory.” Bhat considers it one of her favorite EVENT pieces. “It touches on his experiences as a soldier in Afghanistan and has received some very heartfelt feedback,” she explains. “The piece has a real honesty and lyricism and humility to it that really resonates with readers.”
The fall 2018 issue (47/2) includes two poems by Tawahum Justin Bige, standout submissions because of both the style and content of Bige’s writing. “He’s an emerging writer who’ll be one of the featured readers at the annual Aboriginal Voices event we hold every fall in New Westminster, B.C.,” Bhat says. “His poems, ‘star lodge’ and ‘Toy Soldiers,’ have such an energy to them. They’re innovative but not gimmicky; they have substance. ‘Star lodge’ juxtaposes planetary imagery with Indigenous cultural imagery; ‘Toy Soldiers’ is an unsettling family portrait.”
The Fall 2018 issue also includes a short story by Frankie Barnet called “Again, the Sad Woman’s Soliloquy.” In it, characters take a fictional drug called “Youth,” described as “pills that would make us feel like babies again.” “The piece is magical, poignant, and a little irreverent, accomplishing an impressive range in a story that’s only five pages long,” Bhat says.
Advice for potential contributors
Bhat urges potential contributors to read back issues, available on the website, as well as in libraries and by subscription. Additionally, EVENT editors offer reading services for writers. For a small fee, they provide a 700-1,000-word analysis of a manuscript, explaining the strengths and weaknesses of the writing with respect to characterization, voice, style, and structure. Manuscripts submitted to this service are considered for publication in a future issue.
Regardless of whether you opt for the reading service, general submissions, or contest entry, EVENT editors are open to any subject matter and writing style. “When I read EVENT submissions, I want to be surprised and moved,” Bhat explains. “Barnet’s story and Bige’s poems, for example, are very different, but what they have in common is their freshness and emotional depth.”
Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the author of Avenging the Owl (Sky Pony, 2016) and Better with Books: 500 Diverse Novels to Open Minds, Ignite Empathy, and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Teens (Sasquatch, 2019). Web: melissahart.com.