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The Writers’ Guild of Alberta Announces the 2023 Golden Pen Award Recipient

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, Candas Jane Dorsey, Cecelia Frey, Bob Stallworthy, Vivian Hansen and Chris Wiseman.

This year’s recipient is Joan Crate.

Joan Crate was born in the NorthWest Territories and, after finding homes in various towns and cities in B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan, she has lived in Calgary for a total of 20 years, bookending the 15 years she lived in Red Deer. She writes poetry and fiction and has dabbled in academic essays and creative nonfiction. The band U2, of whom she’s a big fan, featured her poem “I am a Prophet” on screen in their last Canadian tour. Over the years, she’s won several writing awards, most recently:

  • Winner of the Princemere Poetry Contest, 2020
  • Winner of the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary Book Award, 2016
  • Short listed for the Frank Heygi Award, 2016
  • CBC’s Ten Books you must read list, 2016
  • Short listed for Aesthetica Award, 2019 and 2015, Vallum 2016, the New Guard 2019
  • Short-listed for the WGA Poetry Award, 2010

She lost her partner of 38 years at the beginning of the pandemic and since then, he seems to have taken over her poetry. She had work appear in five anthologies and on CBC radio during the pandemic. Currently she’s working with Many Mothers Scriptwriting collective.


Joan has published 5 books:

  • Black Apple (novel) Simon and Schuster, 2016
  • SubUrban Legends (poetry) Freehand Press, 2009
  • Foreign Homes (poetry) Brick Books, Dec. 2000. Second printing 2003
  • Breathing Water (novel) published by NeWest Press, October 1989
  • Pale As Real Ladies (poetry) published by Brick Books, August 1989. Second printing 1991. Third printing 1994. Fourth printing 2004, Fifth printing, 2006, Sixth printing 2010, Seventh printing, 2023

INTERVIEWED BY: (partial list)

  • University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Oct. 2020 (online)
  • Saskatoon Public Library, Sept. 2020 (online)
  • WGA magazine with J.Jill Robinson, 2017
  • Global TV, Toronto, June 2016
  • Calgary Herald, April 2016
  • CBC Radio, Calgary, April 2016
  • Canadian Living, March 2016
  • National Post, March 2016
  • CBC Radio National March 2016


Joan was involved in organizing and participating in a writing and editing group while a student at University of Calgary. She also served as Vice-President, President and Past-President with Nancy Holmes for the Calgary Reading Series in the 90’s, chopping vegetables and buying wine for the receptions as well as booking readers, applying for grants and taking care of arrangements. She served as co-editor of poetry for the now defunct Dandelion magazine.

While employed (for 15 years) at Red Deer College, now Red Deer Polytechnic, she ran a reading series that featured writers from all over Canada, as well as local writers and started student-centred readings for her Creative Writing students.  

She has served two terms at different times as Member at Large for the Writers’ Guild of Alberta and presently is involved in peer reading and editing.

The Golden Pen Award is supported by Aritha van Herk.


Saturday, June 3
6:00 pm – 10:00 pm MDT
Fort Calgary, 750 9 Ave SE

The 2023 Golden Pen Award will be presented to Joan Crate at the Alberta Literary Awards Gala on Saturday, June 3rd in Calgary. Awards will be given in nine other categories, as well.

Tickets for the Awards Gala can be purchased here through the Writers’ Guild of Alberta website.

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