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The History of Fresh Fish Award for Emerging Writers

Brian O’Dea, an author and former television producer, is best known for his remarkable journey from drug smuggling to literary success and philanthropy. Born in Newfoundland, O’Dea’s life took a dramatic turn as he became involved in the drug trade in the United States. However, his story didn’t end there; instead, it transformed into a narrative of redemption and contribution to the literary community, particularly in his home province.

In 2006, O’Dea established the Fresh Fish Award for Emerging Writers, a biennial award aimed at recognizing and supporting promising talent in Newfoundland and Labrador’s writing community. The significance of the Fresh Fish Award extends beyond monetary value. It offers emerging writers a platform for recognition and validation, crucial for their development and success in the literary world. The vision for the award was to provide financial support and inspire writers to continue honing their craft, echoing a journey of personal and professional growth.

The choice of “Fresh Fish” for the award’s name also holds symbolic significance, rooted in O’Dea’s experiences. During his time in prison in the United States for drug-related charges, O’Dea encountered the term used to describe newly arrived inmates. Drawing from his experiences as a “fresh fish” in the literary world upon his return to Newfoundland, O’Dea reappropriated the term to symbolize new beginnings and opportunities for emerging writers. His dedication to the arts and his belief in the power of storytelling to transform lives are evident in his philanthropic endeavours.

The award, administered by the Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador with support from the Literary Arts Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, provided a significant cash prize and editorial services to the winning author. O’Dea’s substantial investment in the award, along with his dedication to fostering unrecognized talent, has helped elevate the literary landscape of the province.

Through the Fresh Fish Award, O’Dea has provided a lifeline for aspiring writers, offering them financial support, encouragement, and recognition. His journey from adversity to advocacy is a testament to the transformative power of literature and the importance of supporting emerging voices in the literary landscape. His legacy as the patron of emerging writers in Newfoundland and Labrador continues to inspire future generations of storytellers to share their tales with the world.