Stories of personal journeys win travel prizes

English & Film Studies instructor and English student win $12,000 trips for their powerful portrayals of human struggle

Melissa Boisvert - 04 February 2016

Rebecca Fredrickson (instructor in English & Film Studies) and Tomas Andel (English major) were recently awarded the Cécile E. Mactaggart Travel Awards for Narrative Writing. These exciting awards are given annually to an undergraduate student and a teaching staff member in the Faculty of Arts. The winners receive up to $12,000 each to fund travel that will provide a stimulating educational and cultural experience.

We caught up with the winners find out more about their winning stories and their travel plans.

Rebecca Fredrickson, Instructor in English & Film Studies

Fredrickson's story, Jeanne Hébuterne and the Outside Dog, is a story of a barista in a small town hostel in British Columbia. The story was referred to as "a portrait of a fragile, unstable, yet engaging personality" by the adjudication committee.

A conversation with Fredrickson about her story:

  1. How would you describe your story? Is it influenced by real people or events?

This character gets saved from her bad decisions and self-destruction by an "outside dog," which is not a physical dog, but a strong feeling of proximity to a dog, a sense of a dog.

  1. What inspired you to write it?

I lived in an isolated cabin in the Kootenays for a few years, where the door wouldn't shut properly. Sometimes, I'd wake up in the morning, and a dog would be in the cabin. A black lab. He would come and go as he pleased. Then, when I was working on my dissertation, I started thinking about that dog and his powers of affect. That connection inspired the dog in this story, an incorporeal dog who emits some elusive but powerfully felt dog-like qualities.

  1. Where do you plan to travel with your prize money?

I'm planning to spend a term living in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

An excerpt from Jeanne Hébuterne and the Outside Dog:

When Tina was a girl, she thought coyotes were not dog-like, but tormented streamers, rolled knee-high in ditches with the tips of their tongues licking at the darkness. She'd lie in bed, putting her back against the wall to protect herself from Jeanne Hébuterne and the Outside Dog 3 the chaos, from what she thought were scrolls of flat crepe paper, unraveling toward the outside edge of the sky, frantic screams like sirens saying somebody might be dying. Sometimes she would try to picture them in the daylight, laying low in the ditches and rolling into the woods, but she knew they were too powerfully singular for anyone to look at directly.

Read the entire story here

Tomas Andel, English major

Andel's story, little with, is a tale about a disastrous trip abroad and a relationship coming to an end. The adjudication committee noted: "it has a beautiful bleakness and honesty. The writer gave us moments of poetry in his engaging descriptions of strangeness, alienation, and drinking really good Dutch beer in the middle of it all."

A conversation with Andel about his story:

  1. How would you describe your story? Is it influenced by real people or events?

It is loosely based on real events, but extremely dramatized to fit the need and style of the narrative. It is a surreal recollection of a particular place and state of mind from my past, in which real people serve as a loose basis for their corresponding characters. I guess it's the "dream" of what happened.

  1. What inspired you to write it?

I figured out that as far as "nonfiction" writing goes, if you want to work out your feelings towards a particular situation, nothing reveals your unconscious tendencies and assumptions more than writing a story about it. The insight you gain from seeing the kind of voice you write with, what you decide to include, and the imagery that keeps recurring unconsciously can give you a lot of clues into how you've decided to remember particular events in your life. You can discover a lot about yourself that way. It can be very therapeutic.

  1. Where do you plan to travel with your prize money?

I think I'm going to buy the first plane ticket, then see where it takes me. The first stop will be Iceland; after that, the idea is to cut east across central Europe to visit my home in Bratislava. Then I want to continue east and spend some time in South East Asia, and hopefully visit some friends in Australia before returning home.

An excerpt from little with:

We have not talked in several days. I cope by sitting in my car often. I teeter at red lights. I wonder whether it makes more sense to cancel our trip. It would mean unpacking. It would mean no respite before September; no relief from stale habit. No time to fix what's gone wrong between us. I become evening traffic in the morning, coasting, pale and burnt out. On fogged up windows, I imagine a better me; I make long lists of could'ves, shouldn'ts, can'ts and won'ts. I bite my lip, roll the windows down, erase.

Read the entire story here