Philip Huynh - Fiction Judge
Malahat Review volunteer Emma Pickering talks with the 2021 Open Season Awards fiction judge—and 2011's Open Season Fiction winner—about what he’s looking for in a winning story, how a short story is like a stick of dynamite, and balancing work, family, and writing.
EP: What are you looking for in a winning fiction piece for the Open Season Awards this year?
PH: At a minimum I’m looking for a story that distinguishes itself in some manner of craft – crackling dialogue, well-wrought sentences, vivid imagery – these are the bones and sinew of a good story. The great ones also have personality – an indelible voice, or an unforgettable character or two that pulls me completely into their lives, so that their moment becomes a part of my memories. So craft is a must, personality is a plus, and if your story also has novelty – whether it’s an idea, an approach, or something else that catches me off guard – well, that might get you over the top.
So give this contest your best shot. Give me the piece that you workshopped ten times over and have honed to perfection. Or give me that story you love but have shoe-boxed from prying eyes because you think it’s too weird and no one will understand it. You never know, you might be doing the world a favour.
EP: In 2011 you won the Open Season Award for Fiction for your story, “The Investment on Dumfries Street.” How does it feel to now be a judge this year for that same genre and contest?
PH: The Open Season Awards started it all for me. I still remember dropping the manuscript into the red Canada Post mailbox by my local Shoppers (do people still do that?) and having no idea where it would lead – to my first story published in a major literary journal, which eventually became the opening story in my published collection. I got to work with my first editor, Rhonda Batchelor, did my first interview, and was even invited to Victoria by the journal to do my first reading. So to be able to come full circle as a judge is such a huge privilege. It’s also a responsibility that I do not take lightly, because I know what an important opportunity winning this is for an emerging writer.
Read the rest of Philip's interview on TMR's website.