‘An incredible honour’: Kitchener author wins Governor General’s Literary Award

Kitchener author Erin Bow.
Kitchener author Erin Bow. Provided

A Kitchener author has is receiving a Governor General’s Literary Award for her novel Stand on the Sky.

Erin Bow says she was elated when she was told that she received honours in the Young People’s Literature – Text category.

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“I yelled loud enough to wake up everyone in the house,” she said, “including my mother and her partner who have an apartment, an entirely separate apartment, on a different floor.

“So I was quite loud. It was just astonishing.”

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Bow says she had read the other four books that she was nominated against and was facing some pretty stiff competition.

“They are all just outstanding. I read them before I knew who had won. I really was biting my nails, but also kind of excited for everyone,” she explained.

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”So to be singled out from among them is an incredible honour and, you know, sort of a career-changing, life-making event.”

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Bow is one of 14 authors who were announced as winners in seven different categories. Each category had an English and a French winner.

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette will hand out the awards at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Dec. 12.

Bow says that Stand on the Sky, which is targeted for readers aged 8 and over, is about a nomadic family of Kazakhs who live in the western edge of Mongolia.

A young girl’s brother falls ill, and when her immediate family takes the boy to get medical treatment, the girl is left in the care of her extended family.

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Bow says that the girl ends up caring for a baby eagle who has been orphaned.

“It’s about finding your place in a family,” she says.

“It’s about the relationship between the girl and the eagle. And most importantly, I think it’s about the two siblings.”

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Austrian poet Handke, Polish author Tokarczuk win Nobel prizes for literature
Austrian poet Handke, Polish author Tokarczuk win Nobel prizes for literature

Bow actually travelled to Mongolia to research the book.

“I lived in Mongolia for the summer of 2015 with a Kazakh nomad family, tried to learn to milk goats, didn’t go well, tried to learn to milk yaks, that’s worse,” she says. “But they had eagles. They had an eagle just taken from its nest.”

She said the experience helped to polish an idea she had been working on.