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Bookworms unite to celebrate Toronto

November 11th, 2012 · No Comments

Supporters gathered at the Toronto Book Awards to celebrate the city

By Jacqueline Schifano

Bibliophiles united at the Toronto Reference Library for the 38th annual Toronto Book Awards.

On Oct. 11, Andrew J. Borkowski’s collection of short stories, Copernicus Avenue, took the top prize at the awards honouring literary works that are evocative of Toronto.

“We don’t celebrate the city as we should,” said the evening’s host, CBC radio’s Matt Galloway. “Tonight we celebrate the city that we’re in and the individuals who celebrate this city in print.”

A collection of short stories set within the Polish community of Copernicus Avenue, based on the Roncesvalles area, Borkowski said his book “represents a whole community.”

“It’s really filled a need in the Polish community,” he said. “It’s an area that has been overlooked in the past…and with this award, this book, it’s kind of making up for lost time.”

Borkowski said that winning this award “really put the seal” on what has been a very positive reaction to his debut book.

“Frankly, I’m surprised because I never win anything,” he said. “I guess you can say I’m a novice at it.”

These glimpses into different parts of the city are the focus of the award, and the Award’s committee chair, Kristine Thornley, said that serving as a judge had really made her read more about Toronto.

“[Being a judge] is a lot of work. It is a lot of books to read,” said Thornley, who served in her third and final year as a member of the judging panel.

Borkowski’s book was chosen by the panel of judges who narrowed down the five finalists from nearly 100 submissions.
Submissions for the awards are works of fiction or non-fiction and can be for both adults and children.

The variety of the material and wide selection of novels is one of the most important aspects of the awards, said Thornley.

“It’s a diverse selection of books for a diverse group of people,” she said.

The selection of finalists included Paramita, Little Black, a collection of poems by Suzanne Robertson, Writing Gordon Lightfoot: The Man, the Music and the World in 1972 by Dave Bidini, the novel Six Metres of Pavement by Farzana Doctor, Borkowski’s winning short stories, Copernicus Avenue, and the collection of Michele Landsberg’s columns documenting the evolution of the feminist movement, Writing the Revolution.

The awards, which are presented in partnership with the Toronto Public Library, present each finalist with a $1,000 cheque with an addition $10,000 going to the winner.

Following the success of his book, Andrew J. Borkowski is looking forward to writing both a prequel and a sequel to Copernicus Avenue.

“If anyone had told me coming out of university at 22 that it would take me 35 years to write my first book, I probably would have tried to quit right there, but I wouldn’t have been able to,” he said. “Writing has to be what you want to do, what you have to do, and somehow you’ll find a way to do it.”

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