Two new monthly literary prizes, worth $1,000 each, have been announced by Toronto fundraising consultant Rahim Ladha.
Spark – a new monthly literary prize for Canadian queer, trans, two-spirited, Black, or Indigenous writers – is accepting submissions for its initial $1,000 prize. Unpublished poetry, prose, fiction, and creative non-fiction of any length is eligible. The first submission deadline is July 1 and the first prize will be awarded on July 15.
On June 11, Ladha announced a second literary prize. Echo will also award $1,000 per month for disabled writers, including those who are “physically/invisibly disabled, d/Deaf, blind, neurodivergent, chronically ill or suffering from mental health issues.” The first submission deadline is Aug. 1 and the first prize will be awarded on Aug. 15.
Winners of both prizes will be published on the website ShootForTheMoon.art. From his home in Toronto, Ladha talked about why he is committing $34,800 of his own money per year to supporting Canadian QT2S-BIPOC writers.
Why are you starting this prize?
In terms of talking to writers in the past year or so, I was trying to gauge what’s missing. There was a #RacismInCanLit hashtag. I was looking it up and it was clear that someone needed to do something.
I am not exactly rich. But I feel like if you have a little bit then you should give it. I am very much a go-all-in-and-see-what-happens kind of person. And so far the response has been great.
We will be incorporating as a non-profit. I will just take care of the financing and put it into the hands of people that I trust.
As you move toward becoming a non-profit, are there other people or organizations that you are going to bring in to help fund it?
I guess that is going to be up to the board of directors. I have experience in fundraising, but man, it’s exhausting work. I have done so much of it, now I am very much in a, “No, you should give to this without me asking you” sort of mindset. It shouldn’t have taken me to do this. It should have taken someone far wealthier.
In addition to ShootForTheMoon.art, will the submissions be published anywhere else?
I would want to have some sort of print anthology but in order to do that I would want to make sure that the artists are thoroughly and properly compensated.
What else have you done professionally? Or what is your day job when you are not awarding literary prizes?
Right now I am just doing fundraising consulting work. I am coasting along right now. I am doing a lot of life-drawing modelling work. I am working on my own theatre pieces. And the consulting work pays the bills.
I’ve been in fundraising for the last 10 years or so. I was working basically as a door-to-door canvasser for the CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) foundation. I think I raised $600,000 or $700,000 just going door to door in the city of Toronto.
How do these prizes resonate with you personally?
I wanted to be a writer when I was younger and I did it a lot. I’ve always had an admiration for people who can put words together. And also I just have the passion to make sure that artists can actually pay their rent and are able to make a living. I really feel like it changes things on all levels in society when you have artists flourishing and thriving.
This interview has been edited for clarity purposes.