Marjorie Simmins wins Creative Nova Scotia Award

D’ESCOUSSE: A local author was one of the winners of Creative Nova Scotia Awards handed out recently.

Author Marjorie Simmins was one of three winners to receive the $5,000 Established Artist Recognition Award in the field of literary arts. This award honours those who have emerged from their initial training and development into established artists.

“That was a huge surprise, a huge honour, my jaw just dropped when I realized the company I was in, not just this year but in previous years,” Simmins told The Reporter.

Although awarded for her development as a writer, Simmins said she still feels like a beginner.

“It’s a funny thing, when someone says, ‘you have won an established artist award,’ it’s like they’re saying, ‘you’ve come so far along a certain path, isn’t that wonderful.’ It is, but in some ways, I always feel like I’m starting out. I take nothing for granted, every day writing is important to me. Like most artists, whatever it is you’re working on at the moment is the thing that you’re most excited about. Established is a term that I look at and go, ‘oh really?’ I feel as hungry now as I ever have, in terms of what I want to do creatively. It’s a huge honour, but it’s a bit of a surprise too.”

Looking back at a year where she suffered the loss of her husband Silver Donald Cameron, then dealt with the global pandemic, Simmins said there were other positive events like winning an Atlantic Journalism Award, along with Cameron’s final book Blood in the Water becoming a best-seller.

“I can’t help but be grateful that in this strange year, that good things are happening. It’s confusing for me because every time something good happens, I want to run and find Don and tell him. So I get a little confused there sometimes,” she said. “I’m thrilled about Don’s book, it has been an honour to get the word out about the book and the talk about it continues to be very, very encouraging.”

Simmins thanked the literary community, not just for the award, but its general support.

“I’ve had so many kindnesses extended to me from the writing community, and also from my home community here on Isle Madame,” she noted. “I’m very grateful for those things. It’s been a heck of a year.”

Simmins has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of British Columbia, a Certificate in Adult Education from Dalhousie University, and a Research Master of Arts in Literacy Education, at Mount Saint Vincent University.

She began her 30-year career as a freelance journalist in Vancouver, appearing regularly in the Vancouver Sun and writing for trade magazines.

Simmins is the author of Coastal Lives, a 2014 memoir about living on Canada’s East and West Coasts, and two years later, she wrote Year of the Horse, which details her life with horses in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. In the spring of 2020, Simmins’ third non-fiction book, Memoir: Conversations and Craft was published.

She also published numerous essays and articles in magazines and newspapers across Canada, and in the United States, and has stories in Canadian and American anthologies. She has won a Gold Medal at the National Magazine Awards and two Gold Medals at the Atlantic Journalism Awards.

Among the magazines Simmins has written for are: Canadian Living, Magazines Canada, United Church Observer, Halifax Magazine, Progress, Atlantic Business, and Saltscapes. She is a regular reviewer for The Antigonish Review and Atlantic Books Today. She has also written feature articles for The Reporter.

Simmins teaches memoir writing across Canada, at venues such as at the UBC Alumni Centre, in Vancouver in 2016; at StoryFest, in Hudson, Quebec in 2017; at Thinkers Lodge, Pugwash from 2014-2019; and the Fortress of Louisbourg in 2019. In September 2020, she took part in the Cabot Trail Writers Festival.

Simmins’s fourth title, Somebeachsomewhere: A Harness Racing Legend from a One-Horse Stable, is scheduled for publication in the spring of 2021, with Nimbus Publishing.

“It’s very much connected to Don, in my mind, because he and I did some of the research trips together down to Pennsylvania, to go to the horse auctions down there,” she said. “I think about that book and I smile, even though he didn’t get to read it. That’s the first book of mine that Don will not ready and that’s a bit hard.”

Simmins believes she was honoured not only as a writer, but also as a journalist and a teacher.

“I think perhaps that was why I was chosen, in that there were sort of three areas of my creativity that they felt I had done well with and I know that I sure feel lucky to have created those three areas because if you don’t feel like doing one thing one day, then you change over and do something else. God knows I am never bored and one thing feeds into the other.”

Simmins and other Nova Scotia artists were honoured for excellence in artistic achievement at the Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala in Halifax on November 14.

The gala was held virtually with the theme “Generations.” Seven major awards were announced including two prestigious awards, the $25,000 Portia White Prize and the $25,000 Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award.

The year marks the 15th Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala which is organized by Arts Nova Scotia and the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council. Collectively, the awards are worth $95,000

For more information about the 2020 Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award: http://nsmasterworks.ca/2020-finalists-announcement.

Adding that she recently started her fifth work, Simmins said her books and Blood in the Water are all available in Port Hawkesbury at the Fleur-de-Lis Restaurant, and she thanked the many residents of the Strait area who reached out to her following the passing of her husband.