The Writers’ Guild of Alberta is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Alberta Literary Awards and the Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize. We are also thrilled to name the recipient of the 2020 Golden Pen Award for lifetime achievement. This year’s award winners were announced in an online video release on June 4th. The video is available to watch on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.
This celebration marks the 38th 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 220 submissions to select winners in the following eight 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.
For more information, please contact the Writers’ Guild of Alberta at (780) 422-8174, by email at [email protected], or visit writersguild.ca.
The 2020 Alberta Literary Awards Winners
R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature (Sponsored by the Under the Arch Youth Foundation at The Calgary Foundation)
Sue Farrell Holler (Grande Prairie) – Cold White Sun, Groundwood Books
Jury remarks: Cold Winter Sun is purposefully spare, yet wonderfully vivid, the language of this book brings to life the settings, characters and emotions of a young protagonist’s life from political upheaval in Ethiopia, through abandonment at a wintry Calgary bus station and into the struggles of making his way, without guidance, in an unfamiliar world. The writing is vivid, often raw, and the protagonist’s story lingers far after the final page.
Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction
Richard Van Camp (Edmonton) – Moccasin Square Gardens, Douglas & McIntyre
Jury remarks: a collection of stories that is by turns funny and sorrowful, but always charming. This latest collection of stories reaffirms Van Camp’s growth into a consummate writer of short fiction. The stories are fun and accessible on the surface, yet deeply layered and complex in their aesthetic structure. Van Camp is a master at equally balancing the comic, the tragic, the speculative, the fantastic and the real in this sublime short story collection.This collection is enthralling, exciting, and wholly original – this is a vital book.
Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction
Naomi K. Lewis (Calgary) – Tiny Lights for Travellers, University of Alberta Press
Jury remarks: This book is a powerful meditation of identity in a travel memoir. Naomi Lewis upends the conventions of travelogue and quest narratives in her frank and vulnerable book. Her lack of confidence, her anxieties, her lack of a sense of direction, and her unruly, uncooperative body, are woven with the story of her grandparents, a lost diary, the loss of memory, and the interrogation of Jewish identity. The longer one sits with the book, the more layers are revealed.
Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama (Sponsored by Alberta Views)
Tara Beagan (Calgary) – Honour Beat, J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing
Jury remarks: Tara Beagan is a force to be reckoned with within Canadian theatre. Honour Beat is a powerful, tender, and deeply compassionate journey through love, loss, and the power of family. The power of forgiveness, redemption, and resilience is beautifully rendered in Honour Beat. A deeply humane story of identity and family, Beagan’s emotional and intellectual generosity leads the audience to growing our own capacity for forgiveness and care.
Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry (Sponsored by Stephan V. Benediktson)
Billy-Ray Belcourt (Edmonton) – NDN Coping Mechanisms, House of Anansi
Jury remarks: A tour de force – a feat of strength. Belcourt interrogates intimacy, kinship, and Canadian identity through docu-poetics and an inimitable lyric voice that turns history on itself. This collection is about recognition, who sees and who is being seen, who causes violence and who experiences it. These poems are about the different kinds of death, yes, also about staying alive—the dance between signifier and signified, how to exist in a world that wants to symbolize your presence or kill you. NDN Coping Mechanisms is a generosity of language, the writing vibrant.
James H. Gray Award for Short Nonfiction
- Paulo da Costa (Calgary) – “Learning To Shave, Learning To Leave,” The Fiddlehead
Jury remarks: This poetic essay explores the richness of a father/son relationship in language that is tender, emotionally vibrant, and physically sensual. A lyric antidote to toxic masculinity, this beautifully crafted and fully realized essay results in something much larger than a simple combination of its carefully worded parts. It’s a lovely examination of fatherhood, and what is passed down through generations, and how different generations express love.
Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story (Sponsored by the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society)
- Ali Bryan (Calgary) – “The Big Man in Cargo Shorts,” Alberta Views
Jury remarks: Ali Bryan captures the rhythms of children’s thought and speech, the memorable details of school life, and the class dynamics that exist even among elementary-aged students. It’s a challenge for any writer to depict the voices and private interactions of children without coming off as twee or sentimental. This story does so expertly, using a strange encounter to tenderly explore depict the idiosyncratic reactions and observations of a group of kids. As they discuss the Big Man who’s passed out on their playground, their interactions reveal the class system they live in, their limited expectations, and their kindness. The ending is perfect.
Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Award (Supported by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta Board of Directors)
- Julie Sedivy (Calgary), “Telescoping”
Jury remarks: A vivid and penetrating meditation on the way we experience life, loved ones, death and time. With its distinctive point of view, its seamless incorporation of a wide range of sources, its apparently rambling, yet carefully chosen structure, and its thoughtful meditations on aging, time, and mortality, “Telescoping” offers all the considerable pleasures of a classic personal essay. It is graceful, poetic, and truly a pleasure to read.
The 2020 WGA Golden Pen Award for Lifetime Achievement (Supported by Aritha van Herk)
This year’s recipient of the Golden Pen Award is:
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 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.”
The 2020 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize Winner
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. This year’s winner for the City of Edmonton Book Prize is:
Marina Endicott – The Difference, Knopf Canada/Penguin Random House
In the words of this year’s jury, “In The Difference, Marina Endicott brings readers on a sweeping voyage aboard sailing and steamer ships in 1912 and 1922. With lush language, vivid imagery, and deliberate pacing, the reader is deeply immersed with the sounds, sights and smells of a lost time. In this world of fast news, fast reads, fast travel, fast everything, here we are required to slow our breath to be in rhythm with the slap-slap of the waves and the emptiness and bounty of the ocean. This is a beautiful, wondrous book that feels like it was written in a long-ago era yet is entirely new and fresh. It examines questions about forgiveness and atonement that resonate deeply today.”
The 2019 City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize Recipient
The winner of The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize will be revealed at Council Meeting on Monday, June 15 at 9:30 a.m. alongside the full list of Calgary Awards recipients. These announcements will be livestreamed from Calgary.ca/calgaryawards.
W.O. Mitchell award finalists include:
- Sharon Butala for her story collection, Season of Fury and Wonder, published by Coteau Books (2019) + Freehand Books (2020 edition)
- 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
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 $5000 Book Prize is a partnership between the WGA and The City of Calgary.
For more information including finalist bios, excerpts from works and jury comments, please visit writersguild.ca/finalists-for-the-city-of-calgary-w-o-mitchell-book-prize-announced/.
The 2020 Alberta Literary Award Sponsors and Supporters
The Writers’ Guild of Alberta would also like to offer our thanks to all of our award sponsors, supporters, and funders! We look forward to next year’s gala and the WGA’s 40th anniversary to be held in person and we need your help. If you are interested in becoming an award sponsor, gala sponsor, or donor, please contact Carol Holmes.
The Writers’ Guild of Alberta gratefully acknowledges the supporters and sponsors of our 2020 Alberta Literary Awards:
- Alberta Views
- Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society
- Stephan V. Benediktson
- Under the Arch Youth Foundation
- WGA Board of Directors
- Aritha van Herk
The Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize is sponsored by:
- City of Edmonton
- Edmonton Arts Council
- Audreys Books