O Canada!

Those of us who salute the Stars and Stripes sometimes forget about our good neighbors north of the border. The fact is, however, there are a lot of fine people up there enjoying useful and productive lives despite the icy blasts of winter. For February, therefore, I thought it might be nice to direct our attention, and warm thoughts, toward the Maple Leaf.

Specifically, let’s talk about the Leslie K. Tarr Award. It’s named for its first recipient, the late Leslie K. Tarr.

If you’re like me, you’re thinking this sounds like a puzzle in circular reasoning: if the award was named after him, and he was the first winner, then what award could he have won if didn’t yet exist? I’d love to clear up the mystery for you, but I wasn’t able to find out for certain. I have to guess it was previously called something else, but my research didn’t turn up anything definite about that.

I did learn that what is now called the Tarr Award was created in 1988, and until 2001 was administered by the God Uses Ink Christian Writers’ Conference, sponsored by Faith Today magazine and its publisher, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Faith Today sponsored the award from 2002 through 2004. Since then, Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto has been the sponsor. The award continues to be administered by The Word Guild. (More on that organization in a sec.)

I hope I haven’t lost you with all the dry details, because this is really quite interesting. Mr. Tarr was a prolific and influential writer, having been writer for and/or editor of three magazines with sufficient circulation that even I, who don’t get out much, have heard of them (Faith Today, Christianity Today, and Decision); he was a professor at Central Baptist Seminary; author of Shields of Canada, the biography of Baptist preacher T.T. Shields; and hundreds of articles that appeared in a whole bunch of other periodicals too numerous to list here (250 articles in The Toronto Star alone); all despite suffering for many years from a painful disability.

I don’t know about you, but I’m already inspired.

As we read about other winners of the award named for him, we see an abundance of impressive credentials. These are Canadian Christian writing pioneers whose careers and work have influenced many. Take, for instance, Janette Oke of Alberta (2004 Tarr Award winner), who invented the inspirational fiction genre in the 1970s. You’d be hard-pressed to find a writer on either side of the border who hasn’t felt her influence.

A candidate for the award must:
* Be a Canadian citizen;
* Demonstrate excellence in writing;
* Have contributed to the development of Christian writing and writers in Canada; and
* Have helped position the church in Canadian society, leading to a better understand of Christianity.

I think just being considered for the award would be an honor. If you know someone you’d like to nominate, you may write to: Tarr Award, The Word Guild, Box 487, Markham ON L3P 3R1. Your letter should say whom you are nominating, and why; also, include a brief background about yourself and your relationship, if any, to the nominee. You may also enclose supporting documents such as clippings, reviews, etc. Nominees do not need to be members of The Word Guild.

Speaking of The Word Guild, that sounds like a fine group too. According to their website (www.thewordguild.com), they’re an association of Canadian writers and editors who are Christian. They are committed to encouraging one another and fostering standards of excellence in the art, craft, practice and ministry of writing. Launched in 2002, the Guild has 325 members across Canada, including approximately 100 professional members (as of January ’08). The members write for both mainstream and Christian publications as well as for organizations, television, radio and the Internet, or just for their own pleasure. Although they represent a wide cross section of ages, experience, background, denominational affiliation, etc., the community is united in the desire to use their writing to glorify God and further His kingdom.

In addition to the Tarr Award, The Word Guild presents an award for the Best New Canadian Christian Author, which gives first-time authors an opportunity to win a $1,000 cash prize, or a $1,000 advance and book publishing contract. Interested? Check out www.thewordguild.com/contestsawards/bestnewauthor.html.

Also, budding Canadian writers may enter the God Uses Ink Novice Writing Contest. The first prize award is free registration to attend the Write! Canada conference. Entrants in the three categories (teenagers aged 14-19, young adults aged 20-29, and adults aged 30 and over) must be unpublished. That is, they must never have been paid for anything they have written. Aspiring Canadian writers can look here for the entry guidelines. This year’s entries must be received by March 31.

I knew I had friends in Canada. Now I see I have a whole lot of brothers and sisters there, brethren of the pen as well as brethren of the faith. Let’s raise a mug of hot cocoa in a toast of appreciation to all the faithful scribes of Canada. We hope to see Tarr Awards presented for many years to come.