Retired educator’s short story wins acclaim in literary awards competition

By on October 10, 2017

Osoyoos’ Tom Gee was honoured to find out his short story called Oh, My Poppa won an Honourable Mention in the 2017 Cedric Literary Awards. (Keith Lacey photo)

A retired Osoyoos educator is very pleased to have garnered acclaim in one of Canada’s most popular and fastest-growing literary awards.

Tom Gee, who spent more than 20 years working for the Ministry of Education in Alberta after a brief career in the Canadian military, earned an Honourable Mention in the Creative Non-Fiction category in the 2017 Cedric Literary Awards beating out hundreds of other entries in the process.

Gee’s entry entitled Oh, My Poppa was up against thousands of other entries in the Cedric Literary Awards, which are open to unpublished English and French-speaking authors of fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry and First Nations writers over the age of 50.

Launched in 2014, this awards program had originally open only to unpublished authors in British Columbia, but has expanded to Saskatchewan, Alberta and The Yukon over the past couple of years.

Gee, a remarkably fit man for age 77, said he had written a few short stories throughout the years but had never considered entering any kind of contest of awards program until recently.

A short story called “Snakes” was published in the Western Producer publication in Saskatoon a few years ago and seeing one of his short stories get published felt good, he admitted.

Gee, who grew up in Osoyoos but left as a young man and spent most of his career working in education in Alberta, said he read about the Cedric Literary Awards a couple of years ago and decided to enter another short story he had written a couple of years ago.

He contacted Veronica Osborn, executive director of the Cedric Literary Awards, and she convinced him to enter.

“I told her I had written this a couple of years ago and she told me that I qualify and I should enter,” said Gee.

Oh, My Poppa is a short story that shares memories of his father and some of the key moments in his life, said Gee.

“It’s about my father, but also about several key incidents in my life and I managed to combine them into one narrative,” he said.

“It’s very personal and I never wanted it released as I went through a divorce 11 or 12 years ago and my former wife still lives in this community and I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. But my current partner is a former artist and a part-time writer and she really liked what I had written and really encouraged me to enter this contest.”

His father was a military man and was in the air force for many years before returning to Osoyoos and working at the former Emery Motors before dying of a heart attack when Gee was only 15 years of age.

Garnering an Honourable Mention against hundreds of other aspiring writers does feel good, Gee admitted.

“I never in my wildest dreams imagined it would get any recognition,” he said. “I was contacted a few weeks ago and told my short story was a finalist …and just found out it captured an Honourable Mention. It does feel good for sure.”

Gee was only a teenager when he attended Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.

After graduation, he joined the Naval Air Academy in Halifax and had planned on a long and successful military career, but that soon changed.

The Minister of National Defence at the time visited Halifax and told the group of naval pilots there was a very bleak future in that particular department, so “I got out”, said Gee.

After receiving his Bachelor of Education degree in Calgary, he was hired as a teacher and spent seven years teaching in Cochrane and Airdrie, Alberta.

He was offered a position with the Ministry of Education in Alberta to head up the English Department for central Alberta in Grand Prairie and spent 10 years in that job.

He held various other senior management positions in the Ministry of Education for another decade before retiring in 1997 and moving back to Osoyoos.

Gee said he has “a few more short stories” he’s written over the years and would consider entering the 2018 Cedric Literary Awards as a result.

When asked if he has any inspiration to write new material, Gee said that’s not a top priority.

“I really don’t get the urge much anymore if I’m being honest,” he said.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

 

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