Last evening in Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre, the Writers’ Trust of Canada awarded $114,000 to Canadian writers at the 11thannual Writers’ Trust Awards. Comprising five awards for literary merit and a sixth for volunteerism, the Awards provide the occasion for one of the richest literary prize-giving events in Canada.
Vancouver Island-born novelist Patrick deWitt was awarded the $25,000 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for The Sisters Brothers, a story that pays homage to the classic western, but with a darkly comic twist. The Writers’ Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize went to Miranda Hill, the author of “Petitions to Saint Chronic,” a short story about strangers keeping vigil in a hospital waiting room for a man who has miraculously survived a fall from a high-rise.
Three authors received awards for their excellence in literature: Newfoundland-born novelist Wayne Johnston received the $25,000 Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award; Fredericton novelist David Adams Richards received the $20,000 Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life; and Gulf Islands novelist Iain Lawrence received the $20,000 Vicky Metcalf Award for Children’s Literature.
An additional award for dedication to the writing community was presented to Alma Lee, founding artistic director of the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival and founding executive director of the Writers’ Trust. The event was hosted by CBC Radio One broadcast journalist Shelagh Rogers.
“The Writers’ Trust is proud to champion the finest writing produced in Canada,” said Peter Kahnert, Writers’ Trust Chair and senior vice-president, corporate communications and marketing, Raymond James Ltd. “These literary prizes come with cash rewards, but more importantly they alert readers to great talent connecting them to the absorbing and insightful tales of our country’s best storytellers.”
Below are the prizes presented, with comments from the jurors. (Complete jury citations are available at writerstrust.com, along with biographical information and high-resolution images.)
Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize ($25,000)
Winner: Patrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers (House of Anansi Press)
“The Sisters Brothers is a book unlike any you may read during this or the coming years. Unforgettable.”
- Clark Blaise, The Meagre Tarmac (Biblioasis)
- Michael Christie, The Beggar’s Garden (HarperCollins Publishers)
- Esi Edugyan, Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen Publishers)
- Dan Vyleta, The Quiet Twin (HarperCollins Publishers)
Each of the four finalists receives $2,500. The winner and finalists were chosen by a jury composed of Emma Donoghue, Rabindranath Maharaj, and Margaret Sweatman. They read a total of 120 books from 53 publishers. The prize is sponsored by Rogers Communications Inc.
Writers’ Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize ($10,000)
Winner: Miranda Hill, “Petitions to Saint Chronic” (The Dalhousie Review)
“This is writing of the highest order, packed with insight, empathy, and suspense. It will live on in the memory of all who read it.”
- Seyward Goodhand, “The Fur Trader’s Daughter” (PRISM international)
- Ross Klatte, “First-Calf Heifer” (The New Orphic Review)
Each of the three finalists receives $1,000, and the journal publishing the winning entry receives $2,000. The winner and finalists were chosen by a jury composed of Alexander MacLeod, Alison Pick, and Sarah Selecky. They read a total of 85 stories from 32 journals. The prize is made possible by James A. Michener’s donation of his Canadian royalty earnings from his 1988 novel Journey. McClelland & Stewart has published a selection of this year’s entries in The Journey Prize Stories 23.
Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award ($25,000)
Winner: Wayne Johnston
“Wayne Johnston writes about the ordinary and extraordinary people of Newfoundland with great empathy and without a shred of sentimentality. His books are made to last.”
Awarded to a writer in mid-career for a body of work. The winner was chosen by a jury composed of David Bergen, Joan Clark, and Miriam Toews. The prize is sponsored by the Writers’ Trust of Canada Board of Directors, Amazon.ca, Wendy Pitblado, and David Ellins.
Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life ($20,000)
Winner: David Adams Richards
“Whether we call him our Tolstoy, Camus, Melville, or Blake, tonight we are delighted to call this year’s winner of the Matt Cohen Award simply our David Adams Richards.”
Awarded to a writer dedicated to writing as a primary pursuit, for a body of work. The winner was chosen by an award committee composed of Patsy Aldana, Graeme Gibson, and Wayne Grady. The prize is sponsored by Marla and David Lehberg.
Vicky Metcalf Award for Children’s Literature ($20,000)
Winner: Iain Lawrence
“He builds on the traditions of Treasure Island and other boys’ adventure stories, [writing] tales of excitement, suspense, fear, and sometimes sorrow.”
Awarded to a writer of children’s literature for a body of work. The winner was chosen by a jury composed of Deirdre Baker, Ronald Jobe, and Julie Johnston. The prize is sponsored by the Metcalf Foundation.
Writers’ Trust Award for Distinguished Contribution
Winner: Alma Lee
“Alma Lee is a treasure. Her dedication has made the Canadian writing community stronger and her passion continues to draw us together.”
Awarded to an individual or organization for long-standing involvement with the Writers’ Trust and the Canadian literary community.
The Writers’ Trust Awards are made possible through generous support from corporate, foundation, and individual sponsors. The national print media sponsor, The Globe and Mail, provides additional support. The project is partially funded by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage Canada Book Fund. Partners supporting the program are Authors at Harbourfront Centre, Ben McNally Books, CBC Radio One, CityTV, Ecentricarts, Maclean’s, Push Design, Quill & Quire, Steam Whistle Brewing, Sutton Place Hotels, and The Walrus.