The Writers’ Guild of Alberta administers the annual Alberta Literary Awards every year to recognize outstanding Alberta writing. We also administer several additional awards throughout the year. Visit each award’s page below for more information and submission guidelines.
Alberta Literary Awards
The Writers’ Guild of Alberta is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 Alberta Literary Awards. . This year’s award winners were announced in an online video release on June 9th. The video is available to watch on our YouTube channel.
This celebration marks the 39th anniversary of the Alberta Literary Awards and brought together writers from across Alberta.The Alberta Literary Awards were created by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta in 1982 to recognize excellence in writing by Alberta authors. This year, jurors deliberated over 250 submissions to select winners in the following categories.
The Writers’ Guild of Alberta is the largest provincial writers’ organization in Canada, and was formed in 1980 to provide a meeting ground and collective voice for the writers of the province. Our mission is to inspire, connect, support, encourage, and promote writers and writing, to safeguard the freedom to write and read, and to advocate for the well-being of writers.
READ 2021 GUIDELINES (PDF)
The awards are now closed.
The 2021 Alberta Literary Awards Winners
R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature (Sponsored by the Under the Arch Youth Foundation at The Calgary Foundation)
Alison Hughes (Edmonton) – The Silence Slips In (Orca Book Publishers)
Jury Remarks: Beautifully illustrated and lyrically written, this is the ideal book for a shy or anxious child who sometimes finds the world overwhelming. It’s also the perfect moment of stillness for a busy child who needs to pause and breathe. Hughes’ text acknowledges that even a happy occasion — a birthday party, for example — can be full of chatter and shrieks. And sometimes, we all need the silence to slip in. Opening this book feels like stepping into a warm and welcome pause, a chance to breathe and believe and be.
James H. Gray Award for Short Nonfiction (Supported by Marilyn and Bob Stallworthy)
Tim Bowling (Edmonton) – “The Floating Library” (Queen’s Quarterly)
Jury Remarks: While firmly rooted in the specific—transporting the reader wholly into the narrator’s memory of the 1970s, of western Canada, of his father’s fishing career, of a fishing boat’s small deck, of his family’s box of worn books turned away by the second-hand shop—this well-drawn piece also reaches the universal and moves the reader to think and to feel: the last line, a knee-buckler, leaves the reader to consider the passage of time and feel the weight of the decades—of life lived and lost. This is an expertly crafted, meaningful piece of creative nonfiction and demonstrates all the strengths of the genre.
Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story (Sponsored by the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society)
Lee Kvern (Calgary) – “Players” (Grain Magazine)
Jury Remarks: “Players” is a clever and stylish study of a teenager’s oscillating loyalty between her mother, her father, and her preferred brand of cigarettes. A witty, irresistible narrative voice carries the reader through an evening of petty family dramatics. Vulnerable, engaging, and funny—the distinct voice and style make this complicated and intimate story about family relationships shine.
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)
Jury Remarks: The Response of Weeds calls and responds to the power of the word. This exceptional collection probes place, race, and history through the manipulation of language. These formidable poems, each expressed in a powerful voice, use jazz and biography to destabilize the presumed history of a western province through its geographical features and flora.
Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Award
Barbara Scott (Calgary) – “Black Diamond”
Jury Remarks: This essay demonstrates how a skilful writer can take a relatively mundane subject—buying a made-to-order burger in a small town—and turn it into a sensory and emotional journey. The writer’s use of framing, detail and narrative voice makes “Black Diamond” a pleasure to read and guides the reader smoothly to a powerful ending. One juror writes, “I could not stop thinking about this essay.”
Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama (Sponsored by Alberta Views)
Ellen Chorley (Edmonton) – Everybody Loves Robbie
Jury Remarks: A bright, funny, tender evocation of youth that honours and celebrates its protagonists. Jurors loved its fluidity, its perception of the lives of teenagers, and the enormous joie de vivre contained in the script. It’s impossible not to get swept up in this love letter to theatre.
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)
Jury Remarks: This is an incredibly humourous, science-based guide to understanding the routines and decisions that permeate our daily lives. It’s not an easy endeavour to make scientific research so accessible to large audiences, but Timothy Caulfield does a thorough and entertaining job of debunking health and wellness fads that add nothing to your life yet drain your wallet. From celebrity pseudo-science to the stigmatization of gluten, this is an essential read in an age of information and sensory overload that influence every aspect of our day. This is a timely, important and relevant book for all of us.
Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction
Katie Bickell (Sherwood Park) – Always Brave, Sometimes Kind (TouchWood Editions)
Jury Remarks: This is a beautiful, character-driven exploration of contemporary life in Alberta. Katie Bickell shows her sophisticated skill as a writer by writing convincingly from multiple points-of-view and in constructing chapters that work as a novel and can be read as stand-alone stories. The prose itself sings. Always Brave, Sometimes Kind is a gritty love letter to the province as a place to call home.
The Alberta Literary Awards were created by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta in 1982 to recognize excellence in writing by Alberta authors. Entries are judged by an independent jury recruited by the WGA. Submissions are evaluated on originality, creativity, and quality of writing, as well as appropriate fit within a category.
The Writers' Guild of Alberta gratefully acknowledges the supporters and sponsors of our 2021 Alberta Literary Awards (listed below).
If you are interested in becoming an award sponsor, gala sponsor, or donor, please contact Carol Holmes.
Golden Pen Award
The Writers’ Guild of Alberta Golden Pen Award is presented to acknowledge the lifetime achievements of outstanding Alberta writers. Past recipients are W. O. Mitchell, Grant MacEwan, Rudy Wiebe, Myrna Kostash, Robert Kroetsch, Merna Summers, Aritha van Herk, Fred Stenson, George Melnyk, Alice Major, Betty Jane Hegerat, Greg Hollingshead, Cecelia Frey, Bob Stallworthy, and Vivian Hansen.
We cordially invite WGA members to submit nominations for the 2021 Golden Pen Award. Nominations for the 2020 award will be accepted until December 31, 2020.
Deadline: Nominations are now closed
The 2020 recipient was Vivian Hansen.
Vivian Hansen has published poetry, essays and memoir in Canadian journals and anthologies. She has three poetry books: Leylines of My Flesh (2002), A Bitter Mood of Clouds, and A Tincture of Sunlight (Frontenac 2013 and 2017). Vivian teaches creative writing with Mount Royal University, the University of Calgary, and Alexandra Writers Centre. She has work forthcoming in The New Quarterly and Prairie Journal. Vivian was one of the 2019-20 Writers in Residence with the Canadian Authors Association—Alberta Branch.
Her chapbooks include Never Call It Bird: A Melody of AIDS, and Angel Alley: The Victims of Jack the Ripper. Some of her past publications have included “Bedstemor, Woman of Letters” in Our Grandmothers, Ourselves, and “Flatline Across the Prairie” with Legacy Magazine. Recent nonfiction “Hundedagene and the Foxtail Phenomenon” was published with Guernica Editions in Coming Here, Being Here. A memoir, ‘Telling,” appears in Waiting (University of Alberta Press) Her essay “Where We Surfaced” is in the 2019 Short Éditions with the Calgary Public Library. “Design Charette for Blakiston Park” was published with Loft 112.
In 1988, Vivian co-founded the Calgary Women’s Writing Project, a non-profit society at the University of Calgary that promoted opportunities for women to develop writing and other communications skills. Under her stewardship and over its 14-year run, the Project’s Forum magazine gave women on campus and beyond a place to publish and read work that focused on women’s issues. Last year, a new editorial team revived the magazine and paid tribute to Hansen’s critical role as founding editor.
As a teacher, Vivian has also given her time both within and outside the university. She has taught erotica writing, poetry, and life-writing, for organizations as diverse as the University of Calgary Continuing Education, the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society, the Airdrie Over 50 Club, and the League of Canadian Poets. She has served as a mentor in the WGA’s mentorship program.
Her nomination letters proclaim:
“As a writer Vivian is brave and versatile. Her work is informed by compassion, acute awareness of history, deep understanding of psychological pain, exploration of levels of consciousness, and respect for resilience.”
“We must value people like Vivian, both in our profession and personally. She approaches every adventure with enthusiasm. She gives herself to every project. We all feel better knowing Vivian is involved.”
“Alberta writers owe Vivian Hansen a debt of gratitude for her tireless, steady contribution in building a vibrant and inclusive literary community in our province.”
Supported by Aritha van Herk.
The Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize
The Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize was established by the City Council in 1995 and is administered by the Writers' Guild of Alberta. The prize was renamed in 2011 after the late Robert Kroetsch, who was best known for his Governor General's Award-winning novel, The Studhorse Man. Entries are judged by an independent jury recruited by the Writers' Guild of Alberta. The winning author will receive a $10,000 cash prize. The award is sponsored by Audreys Books, the Edmonton Arts Council and the City of Edmonton. The winner will be announced and the prize awarded in the spring of 2021.
Tyler Enfield – Like Rum-Drunk Angels (Goose Lane Editions)
Jury Remarks: Tyler Enfield beckons to our Albertan roots of cowboy culture through his vivid depictions of a wilder west. Through evocative use of surprise and youthful romance, threaded with some magic and stunning landscapes. Like Rum Drunk Angels engages the reader in a fanciful trip at a time when we are all needing to escape. Enfield’s use of visually stimulating scene breaks within chapters allows the reader to get away – even if it’s just for a coffee break. This story is enchanting and will sweep you away.
Also on the 2021 list of finalists was Beth Sanders – Nest City: How Citizens Serve Cities and Cities Serve Citizens (POPULUS Community Planning Inc.) & Anne Wheeler – Taken by the Muse: On the Path to Becoming a Filmmaker (NeWest Press).
The winner for the 2020 City of Edmonton Book Prize was Marina Endicott – The Difference, Knopf Canada/Penguin Random House. Also on the 2020 shortlist were Audrey J. Whitson for The Death of Annie the Water Witcher by Lightening, (NeWest Press), and Billy-Ray Belcourt for NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes From the Field, (House of Anansi Press).
The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize
The 2020 W.O. Mitchell Book Prize was presented to Alexandra Latos (@alexandralatos) for Under Shifting Stars. This heartfelt novel follows twins Audrey and Clare as they grapple with their brother’s death and their changing relationships—with each other and themselves.
In the words of this year’s jury, “Under Shifting Stars is a book of beautifully crafted prose, finely drawn characters, and an intricate weaving of conflicts. Told in the alternating voices of twin sisters Clare and Audrey – each struggling with the complicated confusion of their world, the growing gap between them, and their profound grief at the death of their brother – the story covers the wide ground of friendships, crushes, bullying, and gender and sexual diversity with compassion, respect and clarity. The sisters are beautifully rendered, and their struggles toward self-discovery are authentic and tenderly drawn. Under Shifting Stars is catalogued as a novel for young adults, but in the hands of this skillful storyteller, it is an equally compelling, unforgettable read for adults.”
Also on the shortlist were Bertrand Bickersteth for The Response of Weeds, (NeWest Press), and Will Ferguson for The Finder, (Simon & Schuster).
Read more about this year’s City of Calgary Book Prize winner.
The winner of 2019 The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize was Sharon Butala for her story collection, Season of Fury and Wonder, published by Coteau Books (2019) + Freehand Books (2020 edition). The list of W.O. Mitchell award finalists also included Naomi K. Lewis for her memoir, Tiny Lights for Travellers,published by the University of Alberta Press; and Teresa Wong for her graphic memoir Dear Scarlet: The Story of my Postpartum Depression,published by Arsenal Pulp Press
For more information, please visit calgary.ca/ca/city-clerks/citizen-recognition-protocol/calgary-awards/calgary-awards.html.
Deadline: Submissions are now closed
Kemosa Scholarship for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Mothers Who Write
The Writers’ Guild of Alberta is happy to announce the launch of the 4th Annual Kemosa Scholarship for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Mothers Who Write!
Author Jeananne Kirwin is back again this year to help give voice to Indigenous mothers. Together, we share the vision of effecting positive changes in our community through stories.
Because of the generosity of our sponsors, we will award three scholarships this year: 1st place $3000, 2nd place $2000, 3rd place $1000.
We are so happy to welcome back Tlicho Dene author Richard Van Camp and introduce Jacqueline Guest as this year's judges!
Deadline: Submissions are now closed
If you are an emerging First Nations, Metis or Inuit writer and mother living in Alberta and are interested in applying for the Kemosa Scholarship, please send the following to [email protected]
1. A sample of your writing (no more than 15 pages) — either prose, poetry, nonfiction, fiction and/or illustrated literature, e.g. graphic novel, comic, etc.
2. A cover letter describing why the scholarship is important for you.
3. Previous entrants may resubmit, as long as you have not won a scholarship within 24 months.
4. The deadline for scholarship submission was December 18, 2020. Winners will be announced in mid-January.
The Writers’ Guild of Alberta and Nhung Tran-Davies are pleased to announce the winners of the 4th Annual Kemosa Scholarship for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Mothers Who Write.:
This year, there were many amazing entries for the Kemosa Scholarship, and it was a challenge for the judges to choose the winners from among them. After much thought and careful deliberation, here are this year’s recipients:
- First Place ($3000): Sierra Roberts
- Second Place ($2000): Teresa Jane Wouters
- Third Place($1000): Holly Gerlach
- Honourable Mention: Melissa Caillou
For more information or media inquiries, please contact us at [email protected].
We are so grateful to the Sponsors:
Nhung N Tran-Davies
As a Vietnamese immigrant to Canada, I am fascinated by the stories of this land and its people. In 2017, after speaking with renowned author Richard Van Camp and learning more about the struggles of Indigenous women, I was moved to found the Kemosa Scholarship for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Mothers Who Write.
As a writer and mother of three young children, I know how difficult it is to find time to write. Financial constraints can make this time even more difficult. Fortunately, I also work as a physician and therefore, I felt that I, in some way, could help my fellow aspiring writers focus on their creativity, to help give voice to Indigenous mothers who write.
In past years, the WGA has been able to offer various other awards. Here is a list of some of them.
Alberta Screenwriters Initiative
The Alberta Screenwriters Initiative (ABSI) was created in 2007 to facilitate the development of screenwriters in this province. The Initiative recognized the importance of story in the creation of filmed entertainment and the necessity to actively encourage and develop the voices of Alberta writers in film. This annual prize awarded avid Alberta screenwriters a first prize of $1000 and a professional workshop with a carefully matched experienced story editor or screenwriter. The 2nd and 3rd place winners received story notes and $500.00 and $250.00, respectively. The ABSI ran until 2015 and was sponsored by the Alberta Association of Motion Picture and Television Unions (AAMPTU).
Amber Bowerman Memorial Travel Writing Award
The Amber Bowerman Memorial Travel Writing Award ran from 2009 until 2014 in honour of Amber Bowerman, a talented, successful Calgary writer whose life met a tragic end at the age of 30. This award was offered to recognize a writer with an extraordinary story to tell about how their life was changed by what they saw, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched when they travelled outside of Canada or the United States of America. The winning tale inspired others to leave home and see the world, or make armchair travellers feel that they were also there under the same moon as the writer. The Amber Bowerman award was sponsored by Ann Campbell.
Henry Kreisel Award for Best First Book
The Henry Kreisel Award for Best First Book was introduced in 1994 to recognize Alberta authors with outstanding first books. This award ran until 2000 and was sponsored by The NeWest Institute for Western Canadian Studies (1994), Sandpiper Books (1995-6), Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe (1997-9), and Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe/Owl’s Nest Books (2000).
Sharon Drummond Chapbook Prize
About Sharon Drummond: Sharon Drummond lived in Calgary from 1976 until her death in 2005. She was dedicated to the craft of poetry. Her chapbook, Still the Rush, was published in 1999 and nominated for the Milton Acorn People's Poetry Award. Her first full-length book, Into This Room, was published in 2001. Her final book, Where it Began, was published posthumously by Black Moss Press in 2006. Sharon was a skilled writing instructor who taught at the Alexandra Writers' Centre and for the Calgary Board of Education. She was president of the AWCS and served on the executive of the Writers' Guild of Alberta. Sharon is survived by writing friends and colleagues throughout the province, and by her 3 greatest fans -- her daughters. The Sharon Drummond Chapbook Prize ran from 2013-2014.
Youth/Emerging Writing Contest
The Writers’ Guild of Alberta continues to cultivate connections with emerging writers and the youth writing community of our province. In 2017, a generous donation from one of our members has allowed us to award a special one-time prize for a writer between eighteen and thirty years of age. Katie Bickell won the Youth/Emerging Writing Contest for her short story “Angels in the Snow.”
Katie Bickell (katiebickell.com) lives in Sherwood Park with her husband and young daughters. Her work has been published in literary journals throughout North America and Great Britain, and won the 2015 Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story, the 2014 Alberta Views Fiction Prize, and the 2011 Voices of Motherhood Essay Prize. She is currently completing her first book with the support of an AFA literary grant.
Sponsors & Donors:
Stephan V. Benediktson
Marilyn and Bob Stallworthy