"Fishtailing" makes a big splash in Canadian literature

Wendy Phillips’ graduated with a Master of Children’s Literature in 2006, but her thesis isn’t gathering dust on a shelf somewhere.  It’s a verse novel for young adults called Fishtailing, and it’s nominated for a 2010 Governor General’s Literary Awards, one of the biggest literature prizes in Canada. Being nominated in the category of Children’s Literature has “exceeded my wildest expectations,” says Phillips.

Fishtailing started as an assignment in Phillips’ Writing for Children course, and with encouragement from her peers and professor she developed it into a full-length story.  It is an unusual, compelling novel: written in verse, from the alternating perspectives of four students at a Vancouver high school.  After completing her degree, Phillips was encouraged to submit it for publication by her thesis defense committee.  “I still remember sitting at my card table in our house in eastern Australia, listening to the waves crash and the “mockers” sing and plotting out relationships between characters on a huge piece of chart paper,” she recalls.  Successful after only two attempts (Harry Potter was initially rejected by more than a dozen publishers), Fishtailing was published by Coteau Books in Regina.  Phillips worked on edits while on a teaching exchange in Australia.  Seeing the book finally published, she says, was the fulfillment “of a dream I’ve had since I was a child.”

Fishtailing is one of the 70 finalists selected from 1702 submissions for this year’s Governor’s General Literary Awards.  You can check out a complete list of the finalists here, then discuss your favourite nominees over at the GGLA Facebook page.  The Master of Children’s Literature is offered through the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (SLAIS) in the Faculty of Arts.

Wendy Phillips was awarded the Governor’s General Literary Award for Children’s Literature on November 15, 2010.  Congratulations Wendy!

Article Written by Michelle Reid
Article Published October 18, 2010