Writers’ Trust Awards $219,000 to Canada’s Writers
Deborah Campbell, Yasuko Thanh, Eden Robinson, Brian Brett among night’s big winners
Toronto – November 2, 2016 – Tonight in Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio, the Writers’ Trust of Canada hosted one of the richest literary prize-giving nights in Canada, presenting seven literary awards and $219,000 to Canadian writers. Awards were presented both for individual works and career achievement, and rewarded accomplishments in the fields of fiction, nonfiction, short fiction, poetry, and literature for young readers.
Deborah Campbell (Vancouver) was awarded the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction for A Disappearance in Damascus: A Story of Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War, a personal account of the author's time spent in Syria reporting on Iraqi refugees, and her subsequent quest to locate her kidnapped “fixer” and friend.
Yasuko Thanh (Victoria) received the $25,000 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize – celebrating its 20th anniversary this year – for her debut novel, Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, a vivid account of love, rebellion, and colonial power based on the Hanoi Poison Plot of 1908.
The $10,000 Writers’ Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize went to Colette Langlois (Edmonton) for “The Emigrants,” the author’s first published story, which tells parallel tales of loneliness, one from a colony on Mars in 2070, the other from a Saskatchewan farm in 1885.
Four authors received awards for their contributions to Canadian literature:
Gregory Scofield (Sudbury, ON), author of seven acclaimed collections of poetry, the most recent of which, Witness, I Am, has just been released, was presented with the $25,000 Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize;
Alan Cumyn (Ottawa), the author of five novels for young readers, won the $20,000 Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People;
Brian Brett (Salt Spring Island, BC), a journalist for four decades and the author of 12 books including poetry, memoir, and fiction, won the $20,000 Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life;
Eden Robinson (Kitamaat, BC), author of two novels and one collection of stories, as well as a new novel forthcoming in 2017, took home the $25,000 Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award.
The event, which was attended by 300 guests from the literary, arts, and media communities, was emceed by the host of CBC Radio One’s q, Tom Power.
Below are the prizes presented, with comments from the jurors. Full jury citations are available on each prize page. Downloadable images of finalists and winners can be found below.
Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction ($60,000)
Awarded for literary excellence in the category of nonfiction.
Winner: Deborah Campbell for A Disappearance in Damascus: A Story of Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War (Knopf Canada)
“Campbell’s account…, written with compelling prose, nuanced context, and intimate narration, illuminates the dangers of life and work in a conflict zone.”
Ian Brown (Toronto, ON)
for Sixty: A Diary of My Sixty-first Year: The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning?
Random House Canada
Matti Friedman (Jerusalem)
for Pumpkinflowers: An Israeli Soldier’s Story
Signal/McClelland & Stewart
Ross King (Oxford, UK)
for Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies
Bond Street Books/Doubleday Canada
Sonja Larsen (Vancouver, BC)
for Red Star Tattoo: My Life as a Girl Revolutionary
Random House Canada
Each of the four finalists received $5,000. The winner and finalists were chosen by a jury composed of writers Carolyn Abraham, Stephen Kimber, and Emily Urquhart. They read 95 books submitted by 50 publishers. The prize was presented by sponsor The Hon. Hilary M. Weston.
Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize – 20th anniversary presentation ($25,000)
Awarded for the year’s best novel or short story collection.
Winner: Yasuko Thanh for Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains (Hamish Hamilton)
“With compelling narrative drive, Yasuko Thanh imbues Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains with atmosphere and resonance, and creates mesmerizing characters.”
Michael Helm (Dundas, ON)
for After James, McClelland & Stewart
Anosh Irani (Vancouver, BC)
for The Parcel, Knopf Canada
Kerry Lee Powell (Moncton, NB)
for Willem de Kooning's Paintbrush, Harper Avenue
Katherena Vermette (Winnipeg, MB)
for The Break, House of Anansi
Each of the four finalists received $2,500. The winner and finalists were chosen by a jury composed of writers Lauren B. Davis, Trevor Ferguson, and Pasha Malla. They read 135 books submitted by 55 publishers. The prize was presented by Steve Maich, senior vice president, digital content and publishing, at Rogers Communications Inc. and 2016 prize juror Pasha Malla. It has been sponsored by Rogers Communications since its inception in 1997.
Writers’ Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize ($10,000)
Awarded for the best short fiction published by an emerging writer in a Canadian literary magazine.
Winner: Colette Langlois for “The Emigrants” (PRISM international)
“‘The Emigrants’ interweaves two times and places, one a historic past, the other a possible future, to explore loneliness and home…The story blends a coolness of tone with great depth of feeling, and richly imagines what has come before and what is to be.”
Charlie Fiset for “If I Ever See the Sun”(The Fiddlehead)
J.R. McConvey for “How the Grizzly Came to Hang in the Royal Oak Hotel” (EVENT)
Each of the finalists received $1,000, and the journal that originally published the winning entry received $2,000. The finalists were chosen by a jury composed of writers Kate Cayley, Brian Francis, and Madeleine Thien. The prize is made possible by James A. Michener’s donation of his Canadian royalty earnings from his 1988 novel Journey. In association with the prize, McClelland & Stewart publishes an annual fiction anthology, The Journey Prize Stories, a collection of the stories that form the longlist for the prize. The prize was presented by juror Brian Francis.
Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize ($25,000)
Awarded to a mid-career poet in recognition of a remarkable body of work and in anticipation of future contributions to Canadian poetry.
Winner: Gregory Scofield
“From raw, urban truths to the solace of Cree cadence, from the heart beat of the drum to the wax poetics of a young Louis Riel, Scofield’s range of subject, work, and style dazzles.”
The winner was chosen by a jury composed of Jeffery Donaldson, Karen Solie, and Katherena Vermette. William Hewitt, executive director of prize sponsor the Latner Family Foundation, presented the prize.
Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People ($20,000)
Awarded in recognition of a body of work to a writer of literature for young readers.
Winner: Alan Cumyn
“Brilliantly exceeding the standards of fiction for the young, Cumyn’s novels for teenagers and children alike show a sure-handed mix of humour, poetry and melancholy, and an abiding commitment to a young person’s viewpoint.”
The winner was chosen by a jury composed of Deirdre Baker, Jeff Horvath, and Marthe Jocelyn, who also presented the prize. The prize is sponsored by the Metcalf Foundation.
Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life ($20,000)
Awarded to a writer dedicated to writing as a primary pursuit in recognition of a lifetime of distinguished work.
Winner: Brian Brett
“Brian has devoted nearly his entire life to writing, as poet, novelist, memoirist and journalist … a consummate example of one who has lived the writers’ life.”
The winner was chosen by an award committee composed of Graeme Gibson, Wayne Grady, Don Oravec, and Patsy Aldana, who also presented the prize. The prize is sponsored by Marla and David Lehberg.
Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award ($25,000)
Awarded to a mid-career writer in recognition of a remarkable body of work, and in anticipation of future contributions to Canadian literature.
Winner: Eden Robinson
“In a world where the legacies of colonial violence are alive and present every day, Robinson’s work resonates with crucial political and ethical questions that everyone needs to consider.”
The winner was chosen by a jury composed of Warren Cariou, Annabel Lyon, and Linda Spalding, and was presented by Douglas Knight, chair, Writers’ Trust Board of Directors. The prize is sponsored by the Writers’ Trust of Canada Board of Directors, Pitblado Family Foundation, and Michael Griesdorf Fund.
About the Writers’ Trust Awards
The Writers’ Trust Awards ceremony is made possible through generous support from corporate, foundation, and individual sponsors. Partners CBC Books, The Globe and Mail, and Indigo Chapters provide additional support. The project is partially funded by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage Book Fund. Other supporting partners are IFOA, Maclean’s, Push Design, Quill & Quire, Steam Whistle Brewing, and White Pine Pictures.
About the Writers’ Trust of Canada
The Writers’ Trust of Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to advance, nurture, and celebrate Canadian writers and writing through a portfolio of programs including ten national literary awards, a fellowship, financial grants, scholarships, and a writers’ retreat. Writers’ Trust programming is designed to champion excellence in Canadian writing, to improve the status of writers, and to create connections between writers and readers. Canada’s writers receive more financial support from the Writers’ Trust than from any other non-governmental organization or foundation in the country.
For more information and interview opportunities, contact:
Becky Toyne, 416-871-0502