Last night, at an event hosted at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music, 18 emerging writers were honoured as the Writers' Trust of Canada welcomed all the nominees for the 2020, 2021, and 2022 editions of the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. Because no in-person events or celebrations were possible when the 2020 and 2021 prizes were awarded, the Trust chose to celebrate the nominees from the past two years, most of whom were in attendance. The focus of the evening then shifted to this year's award, with three writers nominated in the poetry category and three in the short fiction category.
Following short and impactful reading by the six nominees, host and past finalist Irfan Ali called upon a representative from the RBC Emerging Artist programme, which sponsors the prize and supports emerging artists in numerous disciplines, to announce the winner in each category.
Patrick James Errington took home the poetry prize for "If Fire, Then Bird", a poetry cycle the jury praised as packed with "sonorous, sensory-rich language [and poems that] move with undeniable grace and attention... remarkable definition, clarity, and surprise."
In short fiction, Teya Hollier won for "Watching, Waiting", which was lauded as "a tender, skillful, and moving storytelling achievement [that] deftly navigates familial and spatial geographies of shame, solidarity, and race".
The other finalists in poetry were Eimear Laffan, nominated for for “My Life, Delimited” and Christine Wu, nominated for “Selections from Familial Hungers”, and in short fiction, Jen Batler for “Ectopia Cordis” and Emily Paskevics for “Wild Girls".
The two winners will receive $10,000 each courtesy of the RBC Emerging Artists programme, while the four remaining finalists will each receive $2,500. Tenille K. Campbell, Michael Prior, and Suzannah Showler served as the 2022 poetry jurors and Erin Frances Fisher, Angélique Lalonde, and Derek Mascarenhas as the jurors for the short fiction prize, which is open to writers who have no yet published a book length work and are not under contract to do so.
Ali, as host, thoughtfully invoked the spirit of Bronwen Wallace, for whom the award is named, several times during the ceremony, even quoting from her timeless poem "Lonely for the Country". Wallace was just 44 when she passed away in 1989. She had already published four acclaimed poetry collections that are still beloved today, and had written enough that two more books of poetry and a short fiction collection were published after her death. Her good friend, the award-winning poet Carolyn Smart, founded the prize and has worked with the Writers' Trust of Canada on its administration since it was first presented, to Michael Crummey, in 1994. Other past winners and finalists include Shashi Bhat, Alissa York, Alison Pick, and many others who have gone on to publish widely in poetry and prose.
For more information, or read the nominated and winning stories from this year and all recent years, visit the Writers' Trust website.