Frances Backhouse, Sylvia Olsen win city’s top literary prize

Greater Victoria writers Frances Backhouse and Sylvia Olsen won the city’s top literary prizes last night.

Backhouse received the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize for her non-fiction book, Children of the Klondike, published by Whitecap Books. The book was judged best in a general category that included poetry, fiction, non-fiction and biography. She was awarded a $5,000 cheque.

Backhouse’s book chronicles the stories of children who grew up between the discovery of Yukon gold in 1896 and the emergence of Dawson City as a post-gold-rush town in the early 20th century.

Olsen won the $5,000 Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize for Counting on Hope. Published by Sono Nis Press, her novel is about the complex relationship between a First Nations girl and a British girl during the British colonization of British Columbia. Alternating between prose and free verse, Counting on Hope also explores a naval assault on Kuper Island in 1863.

The awards ceremony, held at the Union Club, featured readings by all eight finalists for the prizes.

“I’m truly in shock,” Backhouse said, accepting her award. “There’s so many good writers in this city,” she said, adding she was humbled to be chosen for the prize.

Olsen said she loved inspiring young people with her novels.

“I get to be with teenagers and kids and get to see that inspiration,” she said. “I’m never going to grow up and write adult novels.”

The event was hosted by Jo-Ann Roberts of CBC Radio’s All Points West.

The Victoria Book Prize Society establishes the policy and criteria for the prizes, appoints the juries and administers the competitions.