The Writers’ Guild of Alberta is pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 Alberta Literary Awards. This year’s award winners were announced at and in-person gala in Calgary on June 3rd.
The winner of the Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize was announced on May 3 as part of the Edmonton Arts Prizes. The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize winner will be announced at The Calgary Awards on June 14.
This celebration marks the 41st 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].
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 2021-22.
The winners of the 2023 Alberta Literary Awards are:
The 2023 Alberta Literary Award Winners
R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature
(Sponsored by the Under the Arch Youth Foundation at The Calgary Foundation)
Dena Seiferling (Calgary) — The Language of Flowers (Tundra Books)
Jury Remarks: The Language of Flowers, by seasoned illustrator and first-time author Dena Seiferling, is a heroine’s journey. Beatrice, a bumble bee, finds herself in a meadow filled with flowers who cradle her in their petals and speak to her with kindness. Beatrice learns to deliver messages of kindness from one flower to the next, but as the garden grows, Beatrice realizes she needs help. So she travels through the dangerous swamp to find more bees. Inspired by the Victorian practice of floriography, Seiferling’s flowers emote through face and form. Her carefully crafted prose, and illustrations awash in dusty rose and sepia tones, bloom with repetition and symmetry and startle with the unexpected. Seiferling’s story echoes the possibility of meeting others with curiosity and care, the importance of bravery, and the power of generosity and kindness.
James H. Gray Award for Short Nonfiction
(Supported by Marilyn and Bob Stallworthy)
paulo da costa (Calgary) — “Enclosures” (Reckoning)
Jury Remarks: “Enclosures” is a skillful study of the environment and the self as both manipulated and restricted by complex cultural expectations and the background of a fascist government. The elegant prose and moving scenes frame a beautiful story of struggling with the idea of freedom for humans and animals alike. The second-person narrative was an effective and touching way for Da Casto to expound his feelings about raising and eating animals all while dancing between history and tradition, childhood and adulthood, revolution and freedom.
Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story
(Supported by the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society)
Lareina Abbott (Calgary) — “Ma Soeur Marie” (Prairie Witch Anthology)
Jury Remarks: “Ma Soeur Marie” is a beautifully crafted, powerful story that conveys the resilience of a Métis woman in the face of physical and societal violence. Using descriptive, atmospheric prose the story follows a protagonist who seeks to understand her sister’s disappearance, grieves her loss, and ultimately reclaims power by accessing her traditions. This is a moving, tragic, and important story, and the jurors were unanimous in awarding it first place.
Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry
(Sponsored by Adriana and Stephan Benediktson)
Matthew James Weigel (Edmonton) — Whitemud Walking (Coach House Books)
Jury Remarks: Whitemud Walking is a book of profound materiality, juxtaposing the fact that books contain momentum. Poetry is a vehicle of transformation. This is achieved with the dexterity and interlude of language, and the elements of physical embodiment. There are multiple amalgamations such as numbers, figures, documents. The question is about belonging to a landscape larger than ourselves. The answer are multiple-layered nuanced and inventive poems. This book is a dedication to Indigenous land, and reimagining history.
The present moment is happening now, and these are times of immediacy. Weigel creates a series of silken hymns, calling us for action, for honoring history and our consciousness.
Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Award
(Supported by the Haynes Family – In Memory of Dr. Sterling Haynes)
Kim McCullough (Calgary) — “Mare Tranquillitatis”
Jury Remarks: “Mare Tranquillitatis” is distinct in many ways. For one, it defies the standard conventions of essay writing and formatting by blending the notions of poetry and prose into a lyrical, reflective narrative. For another, the author skillfully weaves two seemingly different ideas together: skin cancer and the Sea of Tranquility, which opens the reader’s horizons on the intrinsic connection between the two. At the face of understanding the growing moles in her body and having the courage to accept treatment, the narrator draws to the importance of the moon and nature: “His glasses reflect the bright lights above the operating table. Moons within moons within moons.” How even in times of volatility and heaviness, it provides an anchoring presence. A sense of comfort to the reality we go through. This is a piece that holds true and transcends the meaning of what we think we know.
Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama
Caroline Russell-King (Calgary) — High and Splendid Braveries
Jury Remarks: Caroline Russell-King’s High and Splendid Braveries, is a spirited and soaring production. Russell-King’s writing is essential and sharp, her shaping of vital Albertan female historical figures masterful. “High and Splendid Braveries” breathes life into provincial feminist social and political histories of women’s suffrage. Russell’s play imagines and creates a vision of the stories of Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung, and Emily Murphy. The legal challenges these women faced and the social issues they worked to address remain current and unfolding narratives in Alberta today. The expansive emotional range and tight pace capture and reflect vividly the human condition and paradoxical nature of life. Russell-King, through her innovative writing, has given audiences and theatrical companies alike a riveting narrative gift.
Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction
Brandi Morin (Stony Plain) — Our Voice of Fire (House of Anansi Press)
Jury Remarks: Our Voice of Fire is a courageous debut memoir by French/Cree/Iroquois journalist Brandi Morin. Known for her compelling reporting on Indigenous oppression in North America, Morin turns the spotlight on herself and writes with searing honesty about her own life. She chronicles her journey of overcoming intergenerational trauma, painful mistreatment, and the reality of human vulnerabilities. Despite facing astonishing hardship, Morin’s empathy burns through the pages as she proves it is possible to love fiercely and forgive graciously in the pursuit of a well-intentioned life. With a raw mixture of passion and compassion, Morin uses her voice of fire to tell a story we all need to hear.
Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction
Suzette Mayr (Calgary) — The Sleeping Car Porter (Coach House Books)
Jury Remarks: Suzette Mayr has given voice to the Black porters who played a significant role in the long history of the Canadian Railway. Baxter’s inner dialogue reveals a cast of passengers to whom he is barely as significant as the shoe shine brush in his hand; arrogant, flawed, and in his telling, caustically comedic. Beautifully crafted, layer upon layer of rich prose this book is a gift to Canadian literature.
(Supported by Vivian Hansen)
Brandi Morin (Stony Plain) — Our Voice of Fire (House of Anansi Press)
Jury Remarks: From the gravesite of Tina Fontaine, to the juncture of the TransMountain pipeline with the Highway of Tears, Brandi Morin guides readers through a story of courage and hope, rooted in systemic abuse and intergenerational trauma. Drawing from the land, from her ancestral wisdom, and from her body of lived experience, Morin’s narrative is deeply personal, unabashedly political, and urgently universal. Guided by “the compass of truth”, Our Voice of Fire is a call to action which will inspire readers and storytellers for years to come, and, if we’re lucky, lead Brandi Morin to even greater literary heights.