Kelly Hughes on a New Book Award


From the editor: Aqua Books has become a kind of permanent fringe festival in Winnipeg, hosting some 350 events a year including literary readings, jazz concerts, actual Fringe plays, staged readings of radio plays, and of course Kelly Hughes Live!, a live talk show that forces us to use a comma after an exclamation mark. There’s also a fine restaurant, thousands of used books, and, essential for poetry readings, a bar. All this in a 10,000 square-foot downtown location once known for toxic MSG levels in a “Chinese” lunch buffet.

Kelly Hughes at the podium, stone angel stage right; image by Michelle Palansky

TWR asked the garrulous proprietor of Aqua Books, Kelly Hughes, why he chose to advocate and sponsor a new provincial book prize, the Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction:

Michael Van Rooy was a gifted and driven writer who never missed an opportunity. When I was over the first shock of his unplanned exit, I started thinking about the best way to honour him. It didn’t take long. The idea of an award that he might actually win was the first thing that came into my mind. And one with his name on it? Even better. Michael understood more than most how the game works. It’s not enough to be a good writer. You have to be a brand.

And Michael branded himself willingly and cheerfully as a thriller writer. Not one to worry about being pigeon-holed in his writing, he was an unapologetic champion of “books that people actually read.”

We will never have any more Monty Haaviko stories. What we will have is the Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction, where Michael can oversee and encourage the next generation of writers writing thrillers, westerns, sci-fi and other “non-literary” books.


  1. Posted August 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    As an organisation who had the pleasure of just getting to know MVR before he passed away and got just a taste of his enthusiasm and energy for all things writing.

    It’s wonderfully appropriate that the spirit of encouragement he brought will be perpetuated in an award bearing his name.

    Congratulations and cheers to Kelly for establishing this award!

  2. Posted July 20, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    A fine, fine idea.

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Kelly Hughes

Kelly Hughes owns Aqua Books in downtown Winnipeg. His store sponsors both the Aqua Books Lansdowne Prize for Poetry and the the Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction.