In a digital event last night, The Writers' Trust of Canada announced Jillian Christmas as 2021 winner of the $10,000 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers. The prize, a unique one in the CanLit landscape, celebrates queer writers in the early stages of their career, with a focus on identifying exceptionally promising literary talents. Past winners and nominees include Zoe Whittall, Casey Plett, Joshua Whitehead, Kai Cheng Thom, Vivek Shraya, and many other beloved authors.
In a statement, Christmas acknowledged the experience of joining the exceptional list of past winners, saying "I am so honoured to be a part of this lineage of LGBTQ2SIA+ writers who have created phenomenal and beloved works".
Christmas, an Afro-Caribbean poet, is the author of The Gospel of Breaking (Arsenal Pulp Press). She works as an educator, writer, curator, and consultant in Vancouver, where she was previously the Artistic Director of Verses Festival of Words.
The digital event was hosted by Nancy Jo Cullen, herself a past Dayne Ogilvie winner and a former Open Book writer-in-residence, and both the shortlist and the eventual winner were chosen by a jury composed of writers Daniel Allen Cox, Eva Crocker, and Danny Ramadan.
They praised Christmas' work, saying it "strikes at the very core of what it means to be human. [Christmas is] a writer of exceptional skill who circles back on memory and consciousness, she challenges us, through her own compassion and vulnerability, to confront oppression and to imagine new possibilities for justice and belonging. The Gospel of Breaking is an unforgettable book that speaks to lineages of Black queerness while showing how poetry and cadence can inhabit a body. Christmas’ voice is a deeply necessary one."
Finalists Kama La Mackerel and jaye simpson each received $1,000, with the jurors praising La Mackerel's "sensuous and fiercely political exploration of gender, familial love, and the intergenerational impacts of colonization" and simpson's "masterful, unpredictable, and artistically undeniable" writing.
The prize was established in 2007 by Robin Pacific to honour her late friend, Dayne Ogilvie, a respected editor, writer, literary manager, and passionate lover of all the arts. The award is open to writers of any age in the early stages of their writing careers. An anonymous donor supported the 2021 prize.
For more information on Christmas, the Dayne Ogilvie, and the Writers' Trust programming, visit the Trust's website.