The Writers’ Guild of Alberta is pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 Alberta Literary Awards and the Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize. This year’s award winners were announced at and in-person gala in Edmonton on June 11th. The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize will be presented at The Calgary Awards on June 15th.
This celebration marks the 40th 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.
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.
Our juries deliberated on more than 300 submissions to select winners in the following categories. Finalists represent excellence in literary work written by Alberta authors and published or created in 2020-21.
The winners of the 2022 Alberta Literary Awards are:
The 2022 Alberta Literary Awards Winners
R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature
(Sponsored by the Under the Arch Youth Foundation at The Calgary Foundation)
Lorna Schultz Nicholson (Edmonton) – When You Least Expect It, Red Deer Press
Jury Remarks: A truly engaging read, Nicholson transports readers into the world of competitive rowing while masterfully weaving a story that explores tragedy and grief. A touching story with well-developed characters, When you Least Expect It, captures the human journey, as it shifts and develops in unexpected ways, and emphasizes the power of determination and perseverance. A page-turner book well suited for teen readers.
James H. Gray Award for Short Nonfiction
(Supported by Marilyn and Bob Stallworthy)
Lisa Martin (Edmonton) – “The Wounded Man,” The New Quarterly
Jury Remarks: Lisa Martin’s “The Wounded Man” unfurls like a patchwork quilt shaken out in slow motion. A complex and expertly crafted reflection on childhood trauma and the ways it shapes us, each piece of “The Wounded Man” is a complete and moving vignette that, like patchwork, connects the reader to the specific and the personal: the house with broken bottle stucco, the cold, concrete floor of the basement, the fake blood made of ketchup that turned a girl into a Bible character. Stitched together, they create a rich and multifaceted exploration of what we can make from our stories, the ways this can help us heal, and the courage it takes to try.
Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story
(Supported by the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society)
Jury Remarks: “Malady Head” was beautifully constructed and lyrically written (“…bellies no broader than the drip of a pen…”) and took me back to summers at the beach; I became so lost in this story I would have happily kept reading. I loved the tension Corbett gives us in the main character, “A waft of smoke pivoted over my face. I ducked my chin but made a point of not blinking or shooing away.” and the quick, early glimpse into his family life. The dialogue is precise, and the world is well-constructed; this story is an excellent example of how English can be used. From the build-up to the sweet release on the bird less beach, with the “…slow slush of waves calmly recoiling…”. I’m in that story and can smell the salty air; this is the perfect coming-of-age tale.
Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry
(Sponsored by Stephan V. Benediktson)
Rayanne Haines (Edmonton) – Tell the birds your body is not a gun, Frontenac House
Jury Remarks: By melding compact poetry, sharp prose poems and rich poetic essays, Rayanne Haines takes readers on a journey through present and past trauma, with a clarity and honesty that is deeply moving. Her words are raw and real, crushing and hopeful. Haines offers us not only a beautifully crafted exploration of the many layers of grief and healing, but also a powerful testament of resilience and strength. Tell the birds your body is not a gun is a generous sharing of how one can hold pain gently, with the care it deserves.
Equally elegant as it is emotional, Tell the birds your body is not a gun houses testimonial poems written from a place of grief. Haines crafts memories that linger between the concrete and abstract, while keeping a consistent tone throughout her collection. The stories and thoughts depicted in this collection reflect their form—minimal, unbridled, honest and with ample whitespace left for reader’s contemplation. Tell the Birds reads like a fluid journal, adhered by emotion, whit and perseverance in times of adversity.
Tell the birds your body is not a gun is an incredible exploration in form and an invitation to witness a very specific time in the author’s life. These poems and essays show the reader what collective familial healing can look like, the fierceness of a mother’s love, and the difficult unknownness of mental health struggles.
Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Award
(Supported by the Haynes Family – In Memory of Dr. Sterling Haynes)
Jessica Waite (Calgary) – “In Defense of Grief”
Jury Remarks: The complexity of composition made this the standout winner. Love and grief entangle to explore the depths of a love of a lifetime, even when that love is different than what we had envisioned for ourselves. The piece explores the way we expand each other in love and what follows when we lose that connection. The author’s insightful conclusions and intricate language capture Prolonged Grief Disorder and the power of synchronicity.
Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama
David van Belle (Edmonton) – Love is Magic
Jury Remarks: Love is Magic is a thrilling, highly theatrical play that captures the angst of the pandemic and lifts it into the realm of the mystic and the transcendental through its absurd yet gut-wrenching dark comedy. It’s an unruly and poetic fusion of the personal with the political that inhabits and transcends this “time” through the bodies and souls of a husband and wife in need of salvation. The stuck-at-home straight-jacketed trap of endless days morphs into a startling performance that is ultimately about the magic needed to reimagine imperfect love, life, and the way forward. The play is a reflection of the time we are in and the struggles that everyone, especially families, are having with Covid: losing a relative, money issues, strain on the family by being inside together for so many months in a row. The incredibly strong characters make us laugh and feel moved by their strange situation. And the magic in the piece makes this play, well . . . magic.
(Supported by Vivian Hansen)
Trina Moyles (Peace River) – Lookout: Love, Solitude, and Searching for Wildfire in the Boreal Forest, Random House Canada
Jury Remarks: Lookout is a powerhouse of high-stakes adventure, love and romance, and evocative nature writing. Author Trina Moyles grapples with the weighty themes of wildfire, climate change, and violence against women, while never losing the tremendous momentum of her narrative. A gifted storyteller, she successfully experiments with form to convey mood.
Short Story Collection Award
Lori Hahnel (Calgary) – Vermin, Enfield & Wizenty
Jury Remarks: Vermin is a collection of stories that spans place and time, exploring the themes of loss and longing from the perspectives of women and girls who are trying to find their way in the world. Whether looking for love or running from it, they are true to life characters who grow on the page. Hahnel deftly weaves music throughout her stories, hit songs and cultural references that add another contextual layer to the depth of her collection. Each story in Vermin searches the dark corners of a character’s life, revealing fears and insecurities, and beautiful moments of connection.
Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction
Omar Mouallem (Edmonton) – Praying to the West: How Muslims Shaped the Americas, Simon & Schuster
Jury Remarks: Omar Mouallem’s search for faith and its place in his life and the histories of the place into which he was born is as honest as it is urgent. Praying to the West is a thought-provoking book, written in clear prose and from a position of deep empathy and accommodation. It is funny, poignant, and informative. The discussions of faith and ways of belonging are topical: How do we belong here, in this place, now? In his travels and ruminations about his faith, Omar Mouallem takes the reader to places seldom considered, and makes them rethink their own relationships to faith. Praying to the West is not just about how Islam has shaped and changed the author, but how it has shaped the Americas, and how the Americas, in turn, have shaped Islam. This book is of vital importance to understanding our contemporary world.
Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction
Theresa Shea (Edmonton) – The Shade Tree, Guernica Editions
Jury Remarks: Nuanced, emotional, complex — The Shade Tree is an engaging work of fiction that unfolds systemic racism, slavery, and feminism. Theresa Shea pushes boundaries in this coming-of-age story. A brutal but compelling journey of two sisters, one who savagely exploits her privilege while the other awakens too late to the knowledge that she is also an accomplice to social injustice.
The 2022 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize
Glen Huser – Burning the Night, NeWest Press
Jury Remarks: Burning the Night artfully blends the present and the past, the personal and historical, as protagonist Curtis takes a deep dive into the history of a possibly queer relative and comes face to face with his own repressed identity. Through subtle writing, Huser asks the reader to pay careful attention to subtext, as what is left off the pages of history is just as important as what is recorded.”
The 2022 City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize
The winner of The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize will be revealed at The Calgary Awards on Wednesday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. alongside the full list of Calgary Awards recipients. The announcements will be livestreamed from Calgary.ca/calgaryawards.
W.O. Mitchell award finalists include:
- Julie Sedivy – Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self (Harvard University Press)
- Jaspreet Singh – My Mother, My Translator (Vehicule Press)
- Neil Surkan – Unbecoming (McGill-Queen’s University 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.
Alberta Literary Awards in the News
- CBC Books: Omar Mouallem, Jaspreet Singh and Glen Huser among winners of the 2022 Alberta Literary Awards
- Edmonton Journal: Edmonton dominates Alberta Literary Awards, Glen Huser takes Edmonton book prize
- My Grande Prairie Now: Peace River Author captures 2022 Alberta Literary Award
- My Grande Prairie Now: “A huge honour”: Peace River Author receives Alberta Literary Memoir Award
- Calgary Herald: Complex relationships at heart of new W.O. Mitchell Book Prize novel
The 2022 Alberta Literary Award Sponsors, Supporters and Funders
The Writers’ Guild of Alberta gratefully acknowledges the supporters and sponsors of our 2022 Alberta Literary Awards:
- Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society
- Stephan V. Benediktson
- Vivian Hansen
- The Haynes Family – In Memory of Dr. Sterling Haynes
- 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