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3 Writers Named as 2023 Residents at Writers' Trust Berton House Retreat in Dawson City, Yukon

Image showing 2023 Berton House writers Charlie Petch, Maria Saba, and Gord Grisenthwaite

2023 Berton House writers Charlie Petch, Maria Saba, and Gord Grisenthwaite

Writing retreats are always a sought after space for authors, providing focus, isolation, time, and motivation. Canada boasts a number of well-known retreats, including the Banff Centre for Creativity, Artscape Gibraltar Point, and Sage Hill, amongst many others.

However, the most unusual—and for many writers, intriguing—retreat in the country has to be Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon. Named for the late Pierre Berton, a household name and massive bestselling nonfiction author throughout the second half of the 20th century in Canada, the retreat is hosted in Berton's own childhood home and has been welcoming writers since 2008. 

Today, the Writers’ Trust of Canada announced the three writers who will travel to stay and write at Berton House Writers in 2023. Each will stay in the house for two months, receiving a stipend for expenses and travel in order to focus solely on their literary work. Berton House resident writers also plug into the local literary community, often offering readings and workshops that have proved popular with the small and vibrant arts community in the area. The Trust has also recently committed to host Indigenous authors in October and November each year to honour the traditional time for storytelling for the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, traditional territory upon which Berton House is located. 

Authors Carleigh Baker and Greg Bechtel, and Dawsonite filmmaker Lulu Keating selected the 2023 Berton House residents from numerous applications the Trust received.

2023 Berton House Resident Writers:

  • Maria Saba (Ottawa, Ontario, Winter Resident)
  • Charlie Petch (Toronto, Ontario, Summer Resident)
  • Gord Grisenthwaite (Kingsville, Ontario, Fall Resident)

Maria Saba is a writer, storyteller, and arts educator. Writing in both Persian and English, she has published three books of nonfiction. Her short story manuscript, “My First Friend,” was a semi finalist for the Iowa Short Fiction Prize. The title story of the same collection was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2017 and won Scoundrel Time’s Editors’ Choice Award in 2018. Sabaye Moghaddam’s novella, The Secret of Names, was long listed for the Disquiet Literary Prize in 2020. She also won the PEN Canada Scholarship for Writers in Exile and the Wallace Stegner Grant for the arts. Born in Iran, Sabaye Moghaddam now lives in Ottawa.

Charlie Petch is a spoken word performer, musician, and playwright. They were Poet of Honour for the speakNORTH festival in 2017. In 2020, they won the Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award for lifetime achievement in spoken word from The League of Canadian Poets. Petch’s debut poetry collection, Why I Was Late, was named one of the best books of 2021 by The Walrus and won the ReLit Award the following year. Their film, Medusa’s Children, premiered with OperaQ in 2022. Petch lives in Tkaronto (Toronto).

Gord Grisenthwaite is an Indigenous writer from Lytton First Nation. He worked as a graphic designer before completing his MA in English literature and creative writing from the University of Windsor. His short fiction and poetry have appeared in publications like The Antigonish Review and PRISM international. His short story, “The Fine Art of Frying Eggs,” won the John Kenneth Galbraith Literary Award in 2013. In 2021, Grisenthwaite’s “Splatter Patterns” was shortlisted for the CBC Short Story Prize and his debut novel, Home Waltz, was shortlisted for a Governor General’s Literary Award. Grisenthwaite lives in Kingsville, Ontario.

The three 2023 writers will be the first to live in the house after a series of renovations that took place last year and were funded by the Yukon Government, and which focused on improving both accessibility and comfort in the house. The Writers' Trust is currently working to secure ongoing funding for the operations of the retreat. 

Past guest writers include Lawrence Hill, Kim Fu, and Charlotte Gray. 2022 resident writer Paul Seesequasis said of Berton House, “I have found both the house, and its location in Dawson, inspiring. It is truly a rare and unique place for writers to create and dream, surrounded by an inspired vista. I hope this residency continues to inspire many writers in the coming years.”

For more information about Berton House and the Writers' Trust of Canada, visit them online here