Tomson Highway & Katherena Vermette Win Big on Formidable List of 2021 Writers' Trust Award Winners
This afternoon, the Writers' Trust of Canada announced the winners of six major literary awards, totalling an incredible $330,000 in prize money going to Canadian writers.
JJ Lee hosted the livestream, with Hon. Hilary Weston announcing her named prize. Writers' Trust co-founder and prize namesake Margaret Atwood introduced the fiction prize and announcing its winner. Atwood acknowledged the new funding from philanthropist Jim Balsillie, as well as paying tribute to her late partner, the writer Graeme Gibson, with whom she shares the naming of the prize and who was also a Writers' Trust co-founder.
Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
Tomsom Highway for Permanent Astonishment
Highway, the iconic Cree playwright and novelist whose powerful memoir captured the biggest nonfiction prize in the country this year, thanked his editor, Martha Kanya-Forstner (quipping that editors, not writers, must be "the most intelligent people in the world") and his agent, Jackie Kaiser, and Weston herself, who he praised for supporting and encouraging Canadian writers.
The Writers' Trust Engel Findley Award
Dimaline, whose book The Marrow Thieves has been an international smash hit, thanked her Georgian Bay Metis community, the jury, and the Trust, and quoted prize namesake Timothy Findley's famous answer to Shelagh Rogers when she asked him why he writes, which was "against despair". Dimaline said "I would add to that, 'against despair and towards joy".
The Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize
The Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize winner Chan, who has written five acclaimed collections, joked that the prize was especially welcome given "the huge sales that come with poetry". In his thanks he highlighted the writing community in Calgary in particular, naming numerous writers and the staff of the literary magazine Filling Station
The Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People
Bailey, whose work, spread over three decades, was praised by the jury as "infused with cheek and, above all, joy", said she was "dazzled" to have won the prize, calling past winners "heroes" of hers. She thanked her agent, Hilary McMahon, and her editor, Tara Walker at Tundra Books, for all they've done to support her.
The Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life
Itani, who has published a staggering 18 books since her debut in 1978, said she was thrilled to have her work recognized by her peers and reflected on her 49 years of writing experience, with some years "rougher than others". She said she has "always felt privileged to be a writer" and paid homage to her mother's family of storytellers and numerous supporters, including W.O. Mitchell, under whom she studied. She also thanked her late husband, Ted, who passed away just earlier this year.
The Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
Katherena Vermette for The Strangers
Vermette included the jury and the donors in her thanks, as well as her agent, editor, and publishing team. She thanked her family, saying "not only those people I have come from, but also those people who I have brought into my family in this lifetime... I come from really kickass people."
For more information on the Writers' Trust's awards and programmes, visit their website.