The Writers’ Guild of Alberta is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 Alberta Literary Awards and the Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize. 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.
For more information, please contact the Writers’ Guild of Alberta by email at [email protected], or visit writersguild.ca.
The winners of the 2021 Alberta Literary Awards are:
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 2021 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize
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.
The 2020 City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize
The winner of The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize will be revealed at Council Meeting on Monday, June 21 at 11:45 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:
- Bertrand Bickersteth – The Response of Weeds: A Misplacement of Black Poetry on the Prairies (NeWest Press)
- Will Ferguson – The Finder (Simon & Schuster)
- Alexandra Latos – Under Shifting Stars (Raincoast Books)
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.
The 2021 Alberta Literary Award Sponsors, Supporters and Funders
The Writers’ Guild of Alberta gratefully acknowledges the supporters and sponsors of our 2021 Alberta Literary Awards:
- Alberta Views Magazine
- Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society
- Stephan V. Benediktson
- Vivian Hansen
- Marilyn and Bob Stallworthy
- Under the Arch Youth Foundation (at The Calgary Foundation)
The Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize is sponsored by:
- City of Edmonton
- Edmonton Arts Council
- Audreys Books