Burning Rock Collective, The
The Burning Rock Collective is a group of Newfoundland-based writers who have published two short-story collections, Extremities (1994) and Hearts Larry Broke (2000). The group grew from a creative-writing course at Memorial University of Newfoundland taught by writer and English professor Lawrence Mathews. While the name seems to imply a conglomerate of likeminded authors, the Burning Rock is a rather fluid group whose "membership" varies. By most accounts, the group meets on a semi-regular basis to share ideas and works-in-progress. When reading the "Acknowledgements" section of a novel or short story-collection produced by one of the members, one is certain to find the names of some if not all the members of the collective.
Members of the Burning Rock Collective include Michael WINTER, who served as editor-in-chief of Extremities and won the Winterset Award for Excellence in Newfoundland Writing for This All Happened (2000); Lisa MOORE, who has been twice nominated for the SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE for Open and Alligator; and Ramona Dearing, author of So Beautiful. Other members of the Burning Rock Collective include, or have included: Claire Wilkshire, Mark Ferguson, Beth Ryan, D.J. Eastwood, Jim Quilty, Jessica Grant and Martha Wells. The collective continues to expand.
Though not committed to a specific mandate or writing philosophy, the Burning Rock Collective seems to spawn short-story collections, Winter's novels and Moore's Alligator being the most notable exceptions. Among the best collections are Lawrence Mathew's The Sandblasting Hall of Fame (2003), Beth Ryan's What is Invisible (2003) and Jessica Grant's Making Light of Tragedy (2004). The opening story of Grant's collection, "My Husband's Jump," won the 2003 Writers' Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize.
It is impossible to define a "typical" Burning Rock story, but most of these authors produce highly detailed works in which both the everyday and the extraordinary are examined and often revealed to be surprisingly similar. The work of the Burning Rock Collective marks a significant shift in writing in Newfoundland. Rarely do these authors focus on the history, mythology or outport existence so central to popular "Newfoundland novels" such as Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, Wayne JOHNSTON's The Colony of Unrequited Dreams or Patrick Kavanagh's Gaff Topsails. Most of the characters created by Burning Rock writers are decidedly modern and definitively urban. In particular, the works of Moore, Winter and others capture the reality of a contemporary Newfoundland not defined by the fishery or folksy villagers. Works produced by the Burning Rock Collective, whether they capture life in a modern, increasingly urban Newfoundland, or focus on characters and places unrelated to the island, continue to challenge and redefine the notion of Newfoundland literature.