HARBOUR GRACE, N.L. — Two writers living in Harbour Grace received awards at the recent Arts and Letters 2018 Awards Program.
Susie Taylor and Colleen Soulliere both have extensive careers as writers under their belts. Now, they are also 2018 Arts and Letters award recipients as well, with Soulliere being presented with one of the four senior short fiction awards, and Taylor receiving one of three senior non-fiction awards.
The Arts and Letters Awards Program sees Newfoundlanders and Labradorians recognized for their work in literary, music, visual arts and digital multimedia categories, all split into junior and senior sub-categories. The event this year saw dozens of artists of all sorts receive awards, with prize money awarded totalling upwards of $43,000.
Taylor and Soulliere both described their respective awards as an honour, adding that it was a good feeling to be recognized for something they love to do.
However, the awards the two received this year were a little different than what they’re used to, as they both were awarded in categories that are out of the norm for their writing. While Taylor usually focuses on fiction, Soulliere described herself as more of a non-fiction writer, however it was Taylor who was awarded for her non-fiction piece titled “An Inconvenient Heart,” and Soulliere awarded for her fiction story titled “Driving lessons.”
This change in genre came as a bit of a personal challenge to the two, as the idea of taking on a writing project that goes outside the lines of what they’re used to served as a good way for them to explore other forms of writing, they agreed.
“It’s a challenge to sort of step outside your comfort zone and write something that you’re not used to, but sometimes as a writer, you need to challenge yourself, and that’s what we did,” Taylor said of the awards. “To be recognized for your writing is an honour on its own, and to challenge yourself like that and still see it pay-off is a pretty great feeling.”
Taylor and Soulliere have been together for a number of years, dating back to their time as post-secondary students. Now, Soulliere works in St. John’s and Taylor has taken on writing full-time from their home in Harbour Grace. It’s here where she has the alone time to focus on her writing and brainstorm new ideas, whereas Soulliere utilises her hour-long daily drives from Harbour Grace to St. John’s to do the same.
They told The Compass this dynamic has worked well, adding that the lifestyle provides a healthy mix of time alone, and time together, where they can proofread one another’s writings and offer constructive criticism.
As well, the two have taken part in some collaborative efforts over the years, such as a food blog they ran together, with Soulliere doing the writing, and Taylor taking over the photography side of the project.
“We’ve always done our own, individual writing, of course,” Soulliere said. “And I think we work well together when it comes to that – she’s always got advice for me and I’m the same with her, but things like our food blog were a lot of fun for us as well. We liked that a lot, so it was nice to be able to actually work on something together and see a final product. Hopefully we’ll get back to that someday.”
With such a lengthy history with writing between the two, they say the passion for it is still burning strong, and although some days are more productive than others, the two said they’re quite content with the way things have panned out for them thus far.
Taylor is currently preparing for the release of her first published novel. Although the title is still in the works, she is expecting a spring 2019 release date, reiterating the fact that writing is a lengthy, but rewarding, process.
“Nobody writes to become rich and famous, they write because they love to write,” Taylor said. “A lot of hard work, and countless hours goes into this, but that just makes it all the more rewarding in the end, and I think that’s important to remember for anyone who wants to write – don’t get discouraged. Take risks, live your life, and get some good life experiences.”
Soulliere also had some sound advice for up and coming writers, noting in particular that reading is an important aspect of being a talented writer.
“I think that’s something people often forget – reading is so important, especially for writers,” she said. “That way, you can open yourself up to new ideas by reading things you love, as well as things you hate. That’s what helped me a lot, personally.”