Stenson wins Great BC Novel contest
October 05th, 2018
In 2013, Bill Stenson was a finalist for the 2nd Great BC Novel Contest. In 2017, Mother Tongue Publishing of Salt Spring Island B.C., announced Stenson had won its 4th Great BC Novel Contest, as judged by Audrey Thomas, for Ordinary Strangers, his novel about a daughter who wonders why there are no baby pictures of her in the family album. It is a sophisticated novel about unsophisticated people.
It opens with a couple driving to Fernie in the early 1960s, stopping at Hope where they lose their dog — and discover instead a crying toddler in the woods. Unable to have children of their own, they proceed raise the girl they name Stacey, giving her a birthdate and remaining secretive about her lost-‘n’-found origins. Audrey Thomas describes this story about the road to forgiveness as funny, horrific and sad. “The story,” she says, “will make you think hard about what it means to be a family.”
Born in Nelson, B.C., novelist Bill Stenson attended a one room schoolhouse on Thetis Island and grew up on a small farm in Duncan. He taught English and Creative Writing at various high schools, the Victoria School of Writing and the University of Victoria, and with Terence Young he co-founded and co-edited the Claremont Review, an international literary magazine for young adult writers.
Bill Stenson’s first short story collection, Translating Women, and two novels, Svoboda and Hanne and Her Brother, were published by Thistledown Press. Also, a finalist for the Prism International Fiction Contest and the Prairie Fire Short Fiction Contest, Stenson has published stories in Grain, The Malahat Review, The Antigonish Review, filling Station, Blood and Aphorisms, Wascana Review, Prairie Fire, Toronto Star, The New Quarterly, Prism International and the Nashwaak Review.
His first fiction collection of 18 stories, Translating Women (Thistledown, $18.95 2004), contained fifteen of the stories previously published in various periodicals. “Not every man would find Muriel a real looker,”; he writes in his title story. “That’s where the power of translation comes in. Muriel’s not the kind of woman you approach aesthetically straight on. It’s the way she flips her hair, the turn of her cheek, the pause she’s perfected before important sentences.”
It was followed by a novel, Svoboda (Thistledown, 2007), about the complexities of living within the Doukhobor culture of British Columbia during its turbulence of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s when some factions of the sect gained notoriety in the headlines for civil disobedience, and the majority of Doukhobors were widely and unfairly mistaken as radicals as a result.
Hanne and Her Brother (Thistledown 2016) is Bill Stenson’s novel about Hanne Lemmon who, at age sixteen, moves beyond her isolated, home-schooled life in the Cowichan Valley with a protective father to seek independence and love within the very different landscape of Eastend, Saskatchewan.
Bill Stenson lives with his wife, poet Susan Stenson, in the Cowichan Valley and writes every day. “Bill drinks coffee, smokes his pipe and does something to do with writing every single day. Some habits are better than others.”
DATE OF BIRTH: February 28, 1949
PLACE OF BIRTH: Nelson, B.C.
EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Teacher
Review of the author’s work by BC Studies:
Translating Women (Thistledown Press, 2004). 1-894345-77-0
Svoboda (Thistledown, 2007)
Hanne and Her Brother (Thistledown 2016) $19.95 978-1-77187-114-3
Ordinary Strangers (Mother Tongue 2018) $23.95 978-1-896949-70-3
Author photo by John Hemmings