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Prix littéraire Antonine-Maillet-Acadie-Vie: Inspiring Insights from Two Recipients

Tuesday November 20, 2018

Prix littéraire Antonine-Maillet-Acadie-Vie: Inspiring Insights from Two Recipients

The 20th annual award ceremony of the Prix littéraire Antonine-Maillet-Acadie-Vie was held on October 4, 2018. We sat down recently with Annie-Claude Thériault, winner of the Prix Annuel in 2017 for her novel Les filles de l'Allemand, and Hélène Harbec, winner of this year's Prix Quinquennal and grande dame of Acadian literature.

Interviews with Annie-Claude Thériault (A.-C.) and Hélène Harbec (H.H.)

Hélène Harbec
Annie-Claude Thériault

UNI: What is it that motivates and inspires your writing?

H.H.: In some ways it's still a mystery to me, but mainly I write because it's my way of being present in the world. I write in order to feel a part of things, to take the time to live. I write because I feel a great sense of freedom when I'm writing. I write to find the silence and density of both living and invisible things. I go into a little room, both literally and figuratively "my room" a place where the world opens up and I can just sit for hours and write.

A.-C.: I write because I have a deep love of words, and also because it's my way of expressing my view of the world. It's an always nuanced, always ambiguous, always a little unconventional way of exploring the human condition.

UNI: What does winning an award in recognition of the quality of one of your works, or your life's work, mean to you?

A.-C.: It's a moment to be treasured, one of those rare moments in life. It's exhilarating! To think that my writing "which started out as a private passion" speaks to other people, resonates with them, reaches them, excites them? To me, that was not even possible. It was unthinkable. If I hadn't won the youth award, I don't know if I would have had the courage to continue writing for the public.

H.H.: First and foremost, receiving an award like this is a true joy. I feel moved, touched and filled with gratitude. I want to thank everyone! I'm grateful that people considered my work, liked it and chose it . The fact that these people are from our region is very important, because to me it's confirmation that our society recognizes the value of local literature. The satisfaction of being chosen for this award is something that stays with me. It's wonderful encouragement, and I feel privileged to be able to work as a writer.

UNI: What is it like for you to see your name associated with an award named after Antonine Maillet?

A.-C.: Knowing that this was an Acadian award bearing the name of one the great women of the arts was very emotional for me. First, because this award bears a woman's name, which is not something one often sees in literature, and second, because it was presented to me in front of my family and on the very land that inspired my novel.

H.H.: It couldn't be more appropriate for this award to be named after Antonine Maillet, the great Acadian novelist and playwright and recipient of the Prix Goncourt, who has used her colourful style and love of the spoken word to express the world views of characters very close to us all. It's important to always remember where we come from and to pay tribute to those who came before us.

UNI: What impact does a literary distinction like this have on your creative process?

H.H.: Many literary works never get the recognition they deserve, much less awards. Authors don't write to get awards, but it's certainly wonderful encouragement when it does happen. To me, this recognition bolsters a person's self-confidence in the face of all the doubts associated with the creative process. It also helps to draw attention to a person's work, to raise public interest and get more people reading it. When the time comes to apply for creation grants or a creative residency, being able to confirm that a work or a life's work has been recognized in this manner certainly provides an advantage.

A.-C.: Of course, we don't write in order to seek awards. But they are without a doubt tremendous recognition all the same. This recognition serves as a platform, a reassuring hand on the shoulder, a whisper of kind words in moments of doubt (which are constant). Writing takes time. Writing often seems futile: a house of cards, just one more voice added to all the noise. A literary distinction is a reminder that this is all untrue. That it's important to take the time. That it's not futile. That we all have our own voice, a voice that can touch hearts and create an oasis of calm amid all the noise.

UNI: What advice would you give to authors who are hesitant to share their work with others?

H.H.: If an author feels hesitation, it may be because the work is not finished yet. It's not enough to have a good idea; you have to write and then keep on writing. You need to have a mindset, a love and great determination to work with words. And so I would tell this person who's hesitating to start trusting what she is feeling. You have to keep on writing until you feel that you've told the story to the best of your ability, in your true voice and in the true voice of the characters in the story. Another suggestion would be to get a more experienced author to read your work. And I would tell younger authors to simply take a deep breath and submit their work for the Prix littéraire Antonine-Maillet-Acadie Vie - Volet Jeunesse! Who knows? It could be the beginning of an exciting adventure.

A.-C.: Face the unknown. Write. Read. Show your work to others. Write and read some more. Publishing doesn't have to be the ultimate goal of writing, although it provides excellent motivation for striving to improve one's writing, because it means coming up with a creation that pleases not only you but also your readers.

To enter the 2019 literary competition:

Deadline for submissions: December 31, 2018

Review the competition rules, complete the entry form and mail your submission to:

Prix littéraire Antonine-Maillet-Acadie Vie
295 St-Pierre Boulevard West
Caraquet, NB  E1W 1B7

Good luck to all!

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