Margaret Laurence Lecture Series

Tomson Highway, 2018 Margaret Laurence Lecturer

Intimate, frank, and revealing in tone, The Margaret Laurence Lecture Series invites Canada's most prominent authors to discuss the theme of “A Writer's Life." The 2018 lecture was given by Tomson Highway at the Canadian Writers' Summit on June 15. Listen to the lecture:

Tomson Highway
was born in a snow bank on the Manitoba/Nunavut border to a family of nomadic caribou hunters. He grew up in two languages, Cree, his mother tongue, and Dene, the language of the neighbouring nation. A playwright, novelist, and pianist/songwriter, Highway is best known for the plays, The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapusakasing, as well as the novel Kiss of the Fur Queen. Last year he published From Oral to Written, a study of Indigenous literature published in Canada between 1980 and 2010. He divides his time between his cottage near Sudbury, Ontario, and Gatineau, Québec.

Past Lectures

Among others, MacLennan, Gallant, Findley, Mitchell, Berton, and Atwood have all shared candid stories of how they became writers. These lectures give us unprecedented access to our nation's literary luminaries—insights into their work, the profession of writing, and the cultural history of Canada. The Writers’ Trust provides a $5,000 honorarium to each speaker.

Writer, essayist, and editor John Metcalf's 2017 lecture details what makes good writing work with numerous examples, and reveals a touching anecdote about an intervention from Margaret Laurence herself that inspired him to encourage and guide several generations of younger writers.

Jean Little 2016 Margaret Laurence LectureListen to Jean Little's 2016 lecture, or read the full transcript, to learn how she overcame many obstacles to become a renowned writer of children's books. Joined by sister Pat de Vries, Jean candidly remembers her parents' early encouragement alongside cheeky banter and witty anecdotes, including her memory of meeting a young and nervous Margaret Laurence.

Listen to Guy Gavriel Kay's 2015 lecture, where he returned to his hometown of Winnipeg to argue that the value of a writer’s life lies in the words they give us, not the life they lead. He cautioned his fellow writers against seeking shortcuts, gurus, or trivializing their craft, and underlined the supreme value of the written word.

vanderhaeghe_guyRead Guy Vanderhaeghe's 2014 lecture, which includes a professional blessing from Margaret Laurence herself. Vanderhaeghe describes how his early life of over achievment circuitously led to a passion for history and literature, and thanks his mother for being his luckiest break.

Lorna CrozierListen to Lorna Crozier's 2013 lecture. Inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke, Crozier entitled her lecture "Letters to a Younger Writer," and framed it as a series of ten letters written by a younger poet. Over the course of her 45 minute lecture, she shared stories of what mattered most to her and passed on words of wisdom to aspiring young writers. 

Dionne Brand
Listen to Dionne Brand's 2012 lecture, an ode to what is written and what is withheld, what is said and what is left unsaid. In her lecture, "Versos 11," Brand explores the recursive nature of the left-hand page while recreating past memories using masterfully rhythmic language.   

Read complete transcripts of past lectures by Mavis GallantAlistair MacLeod, and Farley Mowat.   

A Writer's Life_Margaret Laurence Lecture Anthology


An anthology of the lecture series was published in May 2011 by McClelland & Stewart to coincide with the 25th anniversary. For anyone who loves great literature—or aspires to write it—this is an essential collection, full of insight, wisdom, humour, and candour from Canada's most important and beloved literary figures.  



  • 2019 Olive Senior
  • 2018 Tomson Highway
  • 2017 John Metcalf
  • 2016 Jean Little
  • 2015 Guy Gavriel Kay
  • 2014 Guy Vanderhaeghe
  • 2013 Lorna Crozier
  • 2012 Dionne Brand
  • 2011 Graeme Gibson
  • 2010 Marie-Claire Blais
  • 2009 Elspeth Cameron
  • 2008 Josef Skvorecky
  • 2007 Margaret Atwood
  • 2006 Antonine Maillet
  • 2005 Rudy Wiebe
  • 2004 Audrey Thomas
  • 2003 Alistair MacLeod
  • 2002 Janet Lunn
  • 2001 William Deverell
  • 2000 Peter C. Newman
  • 1999 P.K. Page
  • 1998 Al Purdy
  • 1997 Edna Staebler
  • 1996 W.O. Mitchell
  • 1995 Farley Mowat
  • 1994 Pierre Berton
  • 1993 June Callwood
  • 1992 Timothy Findley
  • 1991 Maria Campbell
  • 1990 Roch Carrier
  • 1989 Dorothy Livesay
  • 1988 Mavis Gallant
  • 1987 Hugh MacLennan





Woodcock Fund


Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing


September 19 for books published between June 201 and September 18, 2018


Recommended Reading List

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