EACH YEAR the Journey Prize Anthology brings us a selection of fine stories that most of us would never see otherwise, stories that first appeared in one of the smallcirculation literary journals that are one of Canada's great hidden treasures. The stories are selected "blind": that is, the judges do not know who the authors are nor where the stories first appeared. One story is chosen to receive the $10,000 journey Prize from funding provided by the American author James Michener.
If it is differences of opinion that make a horse race, literary contests are no different; literary judging is not an exact science. This year's prize went to a memorable novel excerpt by Rozena Maart of Ottawa, but there were at least eight entries included in The journey Prize Anthology No. 4 (McClelland & Stewart, 256 pages, $16-99 paper) that I personally liked as well or even better.
The runners-up Dianne Juttner Perreault and Steven Heighton both contributed worthy stories -- Heighton, by the way, was the only writer to have two stories in the book -- but the accomplishment doesn't stop there. Michael Mirolla is a real storyteller, and so are Eden Robinson, L. Rex Kay, Carmelita McGrath, David Bergen, Maria A. Billion ... and I could go on. When I looked at notes I had made while reading, I found that I had written over and over again: this story is one of my favourites.
Sandra Birdsell and her jury are to be complimented on their choices. Never mind the ranking. In this competition, the real winner is the reader.