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Finalists for The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize Announced

April 7, 2020

Finalists for the W.O. Mitchell Book Prize Announced

Calgary – The Writers’ Guild of Alberta is pleased to announce the finalists for The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize, recognizing outstanding books published in 2019.

“We are delighted to announce this year’s W.O. Mitchell Book Prize finalists,” said Carol Holmes, Executive Director of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. “This award recognizes and celebrates Calgary’s literary talent. We need good books now more than ever. This year’s finalists are outstanding voices in literature and I am grateful for the work they have given us.” 

The City of Calgary established the W.O. Mitchell Book Prize in honour of the late Calgary writer W.O. Mitchell to celebrate literary achievements by Calgary authors. The Book Prize is organized in partnership with the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. This $5,000 prize will be awarded as part of The Calgary Awards later this year (date to be confirmed). This year’s three finalists are: 

Season of Fury and Wonder by Sharon Butala (Coteau Books)

In Butala’s world the season of fury and wonder is season of old age. The stories in this book are the stories of women who have had experiences; women who have seen much of life and felt the joy of success but also the sting of shortcomings; women who hold opinions and have come to conclusions about the lives they’ve lived. Not only is each story an observation on aging, each pays tribute to a classic work of literature that has had an impact on Butala’s writing.

Tiny Lights for Travellers by Naomi K. Lewis (University of Alberta Press)

When her marriage suddenly ends, and a diary documenting her beloved Opa’s escape from Nazi-occupied Netherlands in the summer of 1942 is discovered, Naomi Lewis decides to retrace his journey to freedom. Travelling alone from Amsterdam to Lyon, she discovers family secrets and her own narrative as a second-generation Jewish Canadian. With vulnerability, humour, and wisdom, Lewis’s memoir asks tough questions about her identity as a secular Jew, the accuracy of family stories, and the impact of the Holocaust on subsequent generations.

Dear Scarlet: The Story of my Postpartum Depression by Teresa Wong (Arsenal Pulp Press)

In this intimate and moving graphic memoir, Teresa Wong tells her struggle with postpartum depression in the form of a letter to her daughter Scarlet. Both heartbreaking and funny, Dear Scarlet captures the quiet desperation of those suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and the profound feelings of inadequacy and loss. As Teresa grapples with her fears and anxieties and grasps at potential remedies, coping mechanisms, and her mother’s Chinese elixirs, we come to understand one woman’s battle against the cruel dynamics of PPD.

Jury Comments:

Season of Fury and Wonder, Sharon Butala

“Butala’s stories engage us in the fine act of paying attention and insist upon the complexity of women’s lives. These searing stories lay bare the lives of old women, leaving out no painful detail. Readers emerge shaken but grateful for Butala’s boldness. We need more stories like these. We all need to read more about being old.  Stylistically, there are no pyrotechnics. Butala channels and responds to well-known short stories, subtly imitating the style of the original and re-examining the premises in a contemporary setting. The fireworks here are subtle; the conversation between writers across the decades, enchanting. Season of Fury and Wonder is a beautifully paced, carefully crafted collection of stories.” (City of Calgary book prize jury)


(“The Departed” was originally published in Grain magazine, and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.)

Tiny Lights for Travellers, Naomi K. Lewis

Tiny Lights for Travellers is a poignant memoir about religious identity, persecution, failed marriage, and the secrets that lurk in family closets. This story of a reluctant, fearless traveller is a captivating journey into the past and a compelling search for both freedom and belonging. Lewis’ journey into herself follows the same physical, but not the same psychological, journey as that of her grandfather. This carefully structured parallel delights the reader and the interplay between the grandfather’s diary and the author’s own experiences is beautifully done. Lewis’ often self-deprecating humour and her unblinking honesty make for lucid and haunting prose. Tiny Lights for Travellers is a rollicking ride from melodrama to empathy, crafted with taste and control.” (City of Calgary book prize jury)


(Tiny Lights was a finalist for the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Award for nonfiction.)

Dear Scarlet, Teresa Wong

“Teresa Wong’s ability to tell her story of postpartum depression with humour and arresting honesty, in simple and direct words and images, is a significant achievement. Despite its simplicity, the language verges on poetic in places. Dear Scarlet makes the most of the richness of the graphic novel format, while also drawing on other genres and styles, like the epistolary novel. The simple pen and ink drawings are highly effective in conveying depression and loneliness, as well as the clear path towards recovery. Dear Scarlet is a poignant love letter to us all.” (City of Calgary book prize jury)


(Dear Scarlet was longlisted for Canada Reads)

All work posted on this page is with permission from the authors. Copyright remains with the creators.

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