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Meet the 2021 Finalists!

The Writers’ Guild of Alberta is excited for the finalists for the 2021 Alberta Literary Awards and the Cities of Edmonton and Calgary Book Prizes.

Each year, the Alberta Literary Awards, the City of Edmonton and The City of Calgary recognize and celebrate the highest standards of literary excellence from Alberta authors. Details for the Virtual Readings with the Finalists and the Alberta Literary Awards Video Presentation are posted below. Details for the presentation of The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize will be available at calgary.ca/calgaryawards

The WGA would like to send our congratulations to those whose work is among this year’s finalists! We look forward to celebrating your creativity and hard work, and we will do all we can to spread the word about the wonderful writing you did in 2020. 

Virtual Readings with the Finalists

For those unable to join us for the Virtual Readings with the Authors, you can watch both videos here:

Virtual Reading with the Finalists 1 – Readings from: Katie Bickell, Timothy Caulfield, Tyler Enfield, Lee Kvern, Annette Lapointe, Clem Martini, Peter Midgley, Beth Sanders, Barbara Scott, Gina Starblanket & Dallas Hunt.

Virtual Reading with the Finalists 2 – Readings from: Omar Mouallem, Natalie Meisner, Bertrand Bickersteth, Gabe Calderon, Kat Cameron, Ellen Chorley, Jannie Edwards, Will Ferguson, Alexandra Latos, Amy Leblanc, Harnarayan Singh, Kim Smith, Stephanie Tamagi, & Debby Waldman.

Alberta Literary Awards Video Presentation



The Alberta Literary Awards video presentation will take place Wednesday, June 9! Check back for more details!













Meet the 2021 Finalists!

Click on the tabs to learn more about this year’s finalists!

R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature (Picture Books) 

(Sponsored by Under the Arch Youth Foundation at The Calgary Foundation)

  • Alison Hughes (Edmonton) – The Silence Slips In (Orca Book Publishers) Alison Hughes has published 18 books for young people, with translations into Korean, Dutch, Turkish and French. She won the Writers’ Union of Canada Writing for Children Award and has been a finalist for the Governor-General’s Literary Awards, the Alberta Literary Awards, and nine times for provincial children’s choice awards, including Ontario’s Silver Birch. Her short fiction has been short- and long-listed for the Writers’ Union Short Fiction Competition and the CBC Literary Awards. She has degrees in English literature and law and works as a Writing Advisor at the University of Alberta.
  • Natalie Meisner (Calgary) – My Mommy, My Mama, My Brother, and Me (Nimbus Publishing) Natalie Meisner is an award winning playwright, multi-genre author from the South Shore of Nova Scotia.  She is also the current Poet Laureate of Calgary.  Her work often deploys the power of comedy for social change.  BADDIE ONE SHOE (Frontenac) is a collection of odes to renegade women who fight the powers that be with laughter. LEGISLATING LOVE: THE EVERETT KLIPPERT STORY (University of Calgary Press) illuminates the life the last Canadian to be jailed for homosexuality. Her play BOOM BABY about young maritimers working in the oil patch won both the Canadian National & the Alberta Playwriting Award. Her play SPEED DATING FOR SPERM DONORS (Playwright’s Canada Press) non-fiction book Double Pregnant: Two Lesbians Make a Family (Fernwood) and children’s book My Mommy, My Mama My Brother & Me (Nimbus) are all based on the true story of a two-mom, biracial family finding community.  Meisner is a wife and mom to two great boys and a full Professor in the Department of English at Mount Royal University where she works in the areas of creative writing, drama and gender/ sexuality studies.   

    Website: www.nataliemeisner.com | Facebook: Natalie Meisner  | Twitter: @natalie meisner  | Instagram: natalie.meisner
  • Kim Smith (Calgary) – Boxitects (Harper Collins) Kim Smith is the New York Times best-selling illustrator of over 30 picture books including the Builder Brothers picture book series (HarperCollins); the PopClassics picture book adaptations of popular films including Back to the Future, Home Alone, and Elf (Quirk Books); and the Ice Chips chapter book series (HarperCollins Canada). Kim’s first authored and illustrated picture book, Boxitects (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Harper Collins), was released in 2020. She lives in Calgary, Alberta.

James H. Gray Award for Short Nonfiction

(Supported by Marilyn and Bob Stallworthy)

  • Tim Bowling (Edmonton) – “The Floating Library” (Queen’s Quarterly) Tim Bowling’s work in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction has been shortlisted for over forty civic, provincial, national and international awards. He lives in Edmonton.
  • Omar Mouallem (Edmonton) – “January 8, 2020”  (Edify Magazine) Writer and filmmaker Omar Mouallem has worked for The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, CBC and WIRED. Over the course of his 15-year media career, he’s edited magazines, ghostwritten bestselling memoirs, hosted several podcasts, and co-created a documentary about mental health in the oil patch. He recently founded Pandemic University, a virtual school in support of writers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and will publish a travelogue titled Praying to the West: How Muslims Shaped the Americas with Simon & Schuster in fall 2021.
  • Deborah Waldman (Edmonton) – “The Boys of Summer” (Tablet Magazine) Debby Waldman was born and raised in Utica, NY. She has a journalism degree from Syracuse University and an MFA in creative writing from Cornell. She has been a newspaper reporter, university writing instructor, and visiting assistant professor. Since moving to Edmonton in 1992, she has freelanced for publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, People, Parents, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and Sports Illustrated for Kids. She has written five children’s books and co-written two parenting books. She and her husband have two young adult children who no longer live at home, and a dog that does.

Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story

(Sponsored by the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society)

  • Gabe Calderon (Edmonton) – “Andwànikàdjigan” (Arsenal Pulp Press) Gabe Calderon is nij-manidowag & îhkwew (two spirit) transgender, queer and intersex, Mi’kmaq/L’nu, Algonquin/Omamiwinini, Scottish and French Canadian thriving with disAbilities and neurodivergence. They currently live in Treaty 6’s Amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton) as an author, poet, mixed media artist, activist and educator. Gabe has achieved several short story awards, namely the Indigenous Arts and Stories in conjunction with the Governor General’s Awards in 2019 and is the runner up for the Canadian Festival of Spoken Work 2019. Most notably known as the author of: Andwànikàdjigan in the anthology: Love After the End (shortlisted for a Lamba 2021) published by Arsenal Pulp Press.
  • Lee Kvern (Calgary) – “Players” (Grain Magazine) Lee Kvern is an award-winning author of short stories and novels. Her short stories have garnered the CBC Literary Award, Western Magazine Award, Hazel Hilles Memorial Short Fiction Prize, and the Howard ‘O’ Hagan Award.  Afterall selected for Canada Reads (regional) and nominated for Alberta Books Awards. The Matter of Sylvie nominated for Alberta Book Awards and the Ottawa Relit Award. Lush Triumphant finalist 2018. Best of the Net nomination 2018. Her work has been produced for CBC Radio, published in Grain, Event, Descant, Air Canada enRoute, Tishman Review, Globe&Mail, subTerrain, Loft 112, Radical Books. On-line: Joyland.ca, Foundpress.com, LittleFiction.com
  • Stephanie Tamagi (Edmonton) – “Fur Hat” (Exile Quarterly) Stephanie Tamagi is a Pushcart Prize publisher-nominated writer living in Northern Alberta. Her work has previously appeared in Other Voices, Blank Spaces, Just Words, The Avalon Literary Review, and EXILE Quarterly. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and her first novel.

Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry

(Sponsored by Stephan V. Benediktson)

  • Bertrand Bickersteth (Calgary) – The Response of Weeds: A Misplacement of Black Poetry on the Prairies (NeWest Press) Born in Sierra Leone, Bertrand Bickersteth grew up in Edmonton, Calgary, and Olds, Alberta. After an English degree at UBC, Bertrand continued studying in the U.K. and later taught in the U.S. A return to Alberta provided him with new insights on black identity and most of his writing has been committed to these perspectives ever since. His poetry has appeared in several publications, including most recently The Antigonish Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, and The Fieldstone Review. He has also been published in The Great Black North and the forthcoming anthology The Black Prairie Archives (2020). In 2018, he was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize. He lives in Calgary, teaches at Olds College, and writes everywhere.
  • Kat Cameron (Edmonton) – Ghosts Still Linger (University of Alberta Press) Kat Cameron is the author of two collections of poetry: Ghosts Still Linger (University of Alberta Press, 2020) and Strange Labyrinth. Her collection of short stories, The Eater of Dreams (Thistledown Press), was shortlisted for the 2020 Danuta Gleed Literary Award. She lives in Edmonton on Treaty 6 territory and teaches writing at Concordia University of Edmonton.
  • Amy LeBlanc (Calgary) – I know something you don’t know (Gordon Hill Press) Amy LeBlanc is an MA student in English Literature and creative writing at the University of Calgary and Managing Editor at filling Station magazine. Amy is the author of a poetry collection called I know something you don’t know (Gordon Hill Press, March 2020) and a novella entitled Unlocking (University of Calgary Press, forthcoming June 2021).  Her work has appeared in Room, PRISM International, and the Literary Review of Canada among others. Amy’s next chapbook Undead Juliet at the Museum is forthcoming with ZED Press in spring 2021. She is a recipient of the 2020 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artist Award.

Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Award

  • Jannie Edwards (Edmonton) – “Meditations on Tenderness in a Time of Plague” – Jannie Edwards writes from Treaty 6 territory. An Emeritus of MacEwan University, she has published three collections of poetry and has collaborated on many artistic projects  and mentorships. Most recently, Jannie has been working with visual artist Sydney Lancaster on Make=Believe, a project centred on a five-acre homestead near the historic Victoria Trail: a dialogue  that explores creating art from living trees and ideas, researching the history of the land, and thinking about the intertwined  relationships of stewardship and ownership, home, naming and attentiveness.
  • Peter Midgley (Edmonton) – “Bird” – Peter Midgley is a freelance editor and the author and translator of several scholarly books, children’s books, plays, magazine articles, and poetry—including, let us not think of them as barbarians, published by NeWest Press. He lives in Edmonton.
  • Barbara Scott (Calgary) – “Black Diamond” – BARBARA SCOTT has had the great good fortune of devoting most of her adult working life to creative writing: as an author, editor, and teacher. Her book The Quick won the City of Calgary Book W. O. Mitchell Book Prize, and the WGA Howard O’Hagan Award for Best Collection of Short Fiction. In 2015 she received the Lois Hole Award for Editorial Excellence. Her first novel, The Taste of Hunger, will be published by Freehand Books in fall of 2022.

Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama

(Sponsored by Alberta Views Magazine)

  • Ellen Chorley (Edmonton) – Everybody Loves Robbie – Ellen Chorley is an Edmonton-based playwright, producer, performer and arts educator. She is the current Festival Director of Nextfest, Edmonton’s annual emerging arts festival. Ellen also teaches playwrighting and acting at the Foote Theatre School (Citadel Theatre) for ages 8-18.  She is thrilled by this nomination, thank you so much Writers Guild of Alberta!
  • Matthew Mackenzie (Edmonton) – Bears – Matthew Mackenzie is a multi-award-winning Métis playwright from Edmonton, Alberta. Artistic Director of Punctuate! Theatre, Matthew is the founder and an Artistic Associate with Pyretic Productions, an Artistic Associate with Alberta Aboriginal Performing Arts and Canadian Liaison of the Liberian Dance Troupe. Matthew has had nearly a dozen of his works produced across Turtle Island.
  • Clem Martini (Calgary) – Cantata – Clem Martini is an award-winning playwright, novelist, and screenwriter with over thirty plays, and thirteen books of fiction and nonfiction to his credit, including the W.O. Mitchell Award-winning Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness, The Unravelling, and The Comedian. He teaches in the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary.

Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction

(Supported by Vivian Hansen)

  • Timothy Caulfield (Edmonton) – Relax, Dammit!: A User’s Guide to the Age of Anxiety (Penguin Canada) Timothy Caulfield is a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, a Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health, and Research Director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. His interdisciplinary research on topics like stem cells, genetics, research ethics, the public representations of science and public health policy has allowed him to publish over 350 academic articles. He has won numerous academic, science communication, and writing awards and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. He contributes frequently to the popular press and is the author of two national bestsellers: The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness (Penguin 2012) and Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash (Penguin 2015). His most recent book is Relax, Dammit!: A User’s Guide to the Age of Anxiety  (Penguin Random House, 2020). Caulfield is also the host and co-producer of the award winning documentary TV show, A User’s Guide to Cheating Death, which has been shown in over 60 countries, including streaming on Netflix in North America.
  • Harnarayan Singh (Chestermere) with Michael Hingston (Edmonton) – One Game at a Time (McClelland and Stewart) Born and raised in small-town Alberta, Harnarayan Singh has risen through the broadcast ranks as a prominent media personality in Canada’s favourite sport, challenging the status quo along the way. 

    Since his “Bonino, Bonino, Bonino” call on Hockey Night Punjabi during the Pittsburgh Penguins 2016 Stanley Cup run and with over 700 games of experience as an NHL broadcaster, Harnarayan’s story has spread throughout the hockey world, allowing him to host games and commentate ‘Play-by-Play’ for Sportsnet in English on a national level. As the NHL aims to grow the game in new markets and diversify its fan base, Harnarayan symbolizes the power sport has to unite people. 

    His growing list of accomplishments includes broadcasting over 700 NHL games and being named a recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal by the Governor-General of Canada. Harnarayan is the winner of the Brian Williams Media Award from the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, along with an ambassadorship for the Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup. He serves on the NHL’s Fan Inclusion Committee as well as a part of the Herb Carnegie Initiative, with the focus of making the sport a more welcoming place for everyone. Harnarayan also serves on the board of HEROS, a charity which uses hockey as a mentorship tool for at-risk youth. 

    His recent memoir, ‘One Game At A Time’ – My Journey From Small-Town Alberta to Hockey’s Biggest Stage became an instant national bestseller, providing inspiration to countless others through his journey of defying the odds. Harnarayan lives in Calgary with his wife and two young children.
  • Gina Starblanket (Calgary) with Dallas Hunt – Storying Violence: Unravelling Colonial Narratives in the Stanley Trial (ARP Books) Dr. Gina Starblanket is Canada Research Chair in the Politics of Decolonization and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary. Gina is Cree/Saulteaux and a member of the Star Blanket Cree Nation in Treaty 4 Territory. She is co-editor of the 5th edition of Visions of the Heart: Issues Involving Indigenous People in Canada and has publications in the Canadian Journal of Political Science, the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, and Constitutional Forum. Her research focuses on Indigenous and Canadian politics, and takes up issues surrounding treaty implementation, gender, Indigenous feminism, decolonization, and Indigenous resurgence.

Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction

  • Katie Bickell (Sherwood Park) – Always Brave, Sometimes Kind (TouchWood Editions) Katie Bickell is the author of Always Brave, Sometimes Kind, a debut novel shortlisted for the Alberta Literary Award’s George Bugnet Award for Fiction. Previous chapters from this novel have won the Alberta Literary’s Howard O’Hagan Award, the Alberta Views Fiction Contest, the Writer’s Guild of Alberta’s Emerging Writer Award, and have been published in various literary journals. Katie is also a two time Alberta Foundation of the Arts Artist’s Grant recipient, and the owner of the Always Brave Creative, an agency offering resume preparation, website and brand design, and manuscript consultation. Learn more at katiebickell.com
  • Will Ferguson (Calgary) – The Finder (Simon & Schuster) Will Ferguson is the authors of four novels, including 419, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize. A three-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, he had been nominated for both a Commonwealth Prize and an International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His most recent novel, The Shoe on the Roof, was an instant national bestseller. Will Ferguson lives in Calgary.
  • Annette Lapointe (Grande Prairie) – … And This Is The Cure (Anvil Press) Annette Lapointe has lived in rural Saskatchewan, Quebec City, St John’s, Saskatoon, Winnipeg (where she earned her PhD), and South Korea. She now lives in Treaty 8 territory, on the traditional lands of the Beaver people, and teaches at Grande Prairie Regional College.  She has previously published two acclaimed novels (Stolen and Whitetail Shooting Gallery), and a short story collection (You Are Not Needed Now). Her latest novel is And This is the Cure.

The 2021 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize Finalists

  • Tyler Enfield – Like Rum-Drunk Angels (Goose Lane Editions) Tyler Enfield is an Edmonton-based writer, photographer, and film-maker. His most recent book, Like Rum-Drunk Angels, is the 2021 winner of the Western Writers of America Award. His previous novel, Madder Carmine, won the High Plains Book Award and was a finalist for the Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize. He is also the co-writer and director of Invisible World, (produced by the National Film Board), winner of three Alberta Film Awards. He lives with his wife and two daughters.
  • Beth Sanders – Nest City: How Citizens Serve Cities and Cities Serve Citizens (POPULUS Community Planning Inc.) Beth Sanders MCP RPP is the author of Nest City: How Cities Serve Citizens and Citizens Serve Cities. She is an award-winning city planner, including the International Integral City Meshworker of the Year in 2013. She has worked for municipalities across Western Canada, including as general manager of planning and development in Fort McMurray, in the heart of the oil sands, when it was the fastest growing municipality in North America in the mid-2000s. In 2007 she founded POPULUS to shepherd efforts to make city habitats that serve citizens well. Beth is a fourth-generation settler of English, Irish and Norwegian descent living in the territory of the Treaty 6 First Nations and the homelands of the Métis people. She makes herself at home in Edmonton, a welcoming city where the first footsteps that marked this place belonged to the Cree, Dene, Saulteaux, Nakota Sioux, Blackfoot, Métis and Inuit. 
  • Anne Wheeler – Taken by the Muse: On the Path to Becoming a Filmmaker (NeWest Press) Born in Edmonton, Anne Wheeler studied Mathematics and Music at the U. of A. before joining a film collective in the early seventies, that focused on political documentaries. In 1979 she made A War Story, a feature documentary based on her father’s war diaries.  By the eighties she was writing and directing dramas including Loyalties, Bye Bye Blues, The Diviners, The War Between Us, Mother Trucker, Better than Chocolate, The Horses of McBride and Anne with an E.  Proudly Canadian, she has been recognized by numerous national and international awards including seven honorary doctorates and the Order of Canada. She is the first woman to receive a Lifetime award from the Director’s Guild of Canada.

    “Anne Wheeler is a fabulous filmmaker; her films are probing, truthful, fearless and an adventure to watch. Her storytelling in Taken by the Muse is equally captivating. It’s been a while since I read an autobiographical work that moved me as this one has. It captures an important era in the lives of women determined to create themselves, with much experimentation and no apologies. It demonstrates, to our delight, how Anne Wheeler became the respected and beloved artist that she is.” ALICE WALKER author of The Colour Purple

The 2020 City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize Finalists

  • Bertrand Bickersteth – The Response of Weeds: A Misplacement of Black Poetry on the Prairies (NeWest Press) Born in Sierra Leone, Bertrand Bickersteth grew up in Edmonton, Calgary, and Olds, Alberta. After an English degree at UBC, Bertrand continued studying in the U.K. and later taught in the U.S. A return to Alberta provided him with new insights on black identity and most of his writing has been committed to these perspectives ever since. His poetry has appeared in several publications, including most recently The Antigonish Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, and The Fieldstone Review. He has also been published in The Great Black North and the forthcoming anthology The Black Prairie Archives (2020). In 2018, he was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize. He lives in Calgary, teaches at Olds College, and writes everywhere.
  • Will Ferguson – The Finder (Simon & Schuster) Will Ferguson is the authors of four novels, including 419, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize. A three-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, he had been nominated for both a Commonwealth Prize and an International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His most recent novel, The Shoe on the Roof, was an instant national bestseller. Will Ferguson lives in Calgary.
  • Alexandra Latos – Under Shifting Stars (Raincoast Books) – Alexandra has considered herself a writer her entire life. In fact, she won an award when she was only five years old for her story about a “dorphaned” bear. As a kid she liked climbing trees, walking to the drugstore to buy notebooks for her next story, and forcing family members and friends to act in her plays. Alexandra graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance, but after a few stints in various treasury departments, she quickly realized the finance world wasn’t for her (the stocks app is still the most under-utilized app on her phone). She returned to university to earn a Bachelor of Arts in English and a certificate in Technical Writing. Though she still picks up a technical writing contract here and there, her true passion remains creative writing, which she manages to fit in between taking care of her kiddos. Alexandra has published Young Adult and New Adult fiction. She’s currently working on an Adult novel through a grant process with Alberta Foundation for the Arts. She lives with her husband, two (soon to be three) tiny tornadoes, and two black cats, one of whom thinks he’s a dog. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @alexandralatos.

With Gratitude

The Writers’ Guild of Alberta gratefully acknowledges the supporters and sponsors of our 2021 Alberta Literary Awards:


Alberta Literary Awards Funders


Sponsors for the Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize

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