Writers’ Trust delivers $100,000 to 4 writers for career achievement
Toronto – December 2, 2020 – The Writers’ Trust of Canada announced today the winners of four $25,000 prizes that spotlight exceptional literary talents operating in the genres of fiction, poetry, and literature for young readers. Unlike literary awards that recognize authors for a single book, these awards are career-based and reward writers for the entirety of their past literary publications and make an investment in their future work. They are the only national awards of their kind in Canada.
“Even before the pandemic it was an incredible challenge to survive and thrive as a literary artist in Canada,” said Charlie Foran, executive director, Writers’ Trust of Canada. “The economics of the writing life are immensely difficult and career-based awards carry a special message to writers helping to boost their confidence, elevate their standing in the literary community, and fund the creation of their next great work.”
The prizewinners are:
◥ Dennis Lee, iconic Canadian poet and author of celebrated children’s classic Alligator Pie, won the $25,000 Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life.
◥ Kerri Sakamoto, author of three novels that have explored the experience of Japanese Canadians, took home the $25,000 Writers’ Trust Engel Findley Award, which honours an exceptional writer of fiction.
◥ Armand Garnet Ruffo, an acclaimed poet and multi-genre writer whose work is strongly influenced by his Ojibwe heritage, received the $25,000 Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize.
◥ Marianne Dubuc, a French-language author and illustrator whose picture books have been translated into more than 25 languages, won the $25,000 Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People.
The prizes are funded by corporate, foundation, and individual sponsors and are part of the Writers’ Trust Awards: Career Honours Edition, which is made possible by presenting partner The Humber School for Writers. Media partner The Globe and Mail provides additional support as do project partners CBC Books and Indigo Books & Music. The project is partially funded by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Video and audio interviews with each of the prizewinners will be available at writerstrust.com/WTAwards and shared throughout the day by @writerstrust on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. See additional information about the prizes presented, with comments from the jurors, below.
Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life ($25,000)
Winner: Dennis Lee
Awarded to a senior writer working in poetry or prose
Sponsored by Lorraine Greey
Matt Cohen Award Committee: Patsy Aldana, Anita Rau Badami, and Wayne Grady
“Dennis Lee is synonymous with Canadian literature,” said the selection committee. “He was one of the first Canadian poets to lament our increasing separation from nature, and the dominance of American values in Canadian culture. Poet, editor, and essayist, Lee defines and honours every genre he enters.”
Dennis Lee published his first book, Kingdom of Absence, in 1967, the same year he co-founded House of Anansi Press. Civil Elegies and Other Poems won a Governor General’s Literary Award in 1972, and he has since published 15 books of poems. He was Toronto’s first poet laureate and received the City of Toronto’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. Lee has also written 28 books of children’s poetry, including Alligator Pie. He received the Vicky Metcalf Award in 1986. Lee lives in Toronto.
Writers’ Trust Engel Findley Award ($25,000)
Winner: Kerri Sakamoto
Awarded to a writer of fiction in mid-career
Sponsored by Diamond Schmitt Architects
Jury: Timothy Taylor, Souvankham Thammavongsa, and Kathleen Winter
“In each of the novelistic worlds that Kerri Sakamoto has created, she brings to bear both an elegant lyricism and an unwavering gaze,” said the jury. “These are meticulous excavations of the human heart and of dilemmas of personal history. We’re lucky to have this writer in Canada.”
Kerri Sakamoto was born in Toronto to a Japanese Canadian family. Her first novel, The Electrical Field, was a finalist for a slew of awards, including a Governor General’s Literary Award, and won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. She has since published two additional novels: One Hundred Million Hearts and The Floating City, which won the Canada-Japan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Toronto Book Awards in 2018. Sakamoto lives in Toronto.
Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize ($25,000)
Winner: Armand Garnet Ruffo
Awarded to a writer of poetry in mid-career
Sponsored by the Latner Family Foundation
Jury: Marilyn Dumont, Susan Glickman, and Kaie Kellough
“Armand Garnet Ruffo’s work has animated larger-than-life figures such as Geronimo, Grey Owl, and Norval Morrisseau while, at the same time, engaging profoundly with the daily life of Indigenous people,” said the jury. “His poetry aspires to ‘cut out a place for himself in the world’ and with each successive book, he has demonstrated increasing range, expertise, and grace, consolidating his claim to that place.”
Armand Garnet Ruffo was born in Chapleau, Ontario, and draws upon his Ojibwe heritage for much of his writing. He published his first book of poetry, Opening in the Sky, in 1994. Four other poetry collections have followed including Treaty #, which was a finalist for a Governor General’s Literary Award in 2019. A multi-genre writer, Ruffo is also a filmmaker and playwright, and is recognized as a major contributor to Indigenous literary scholarship in Canada. He received a lifetime membership award from the League of Canadian Poets in 2016. A professor at Queen’s University, Ruffo lives in Kingston, Ontario.
Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People ($25,000)
Winner: Marianne Dubuc
Awarded to a writer of children’s literature
Sponsored by Metcalf Foundation
Jury: Caroline Adderson, Kyo Maclear, and Susan Perren
“Marianne Dubuc has created an unforgettable and enchanting oeuvre of stories,” said the jury. “Funny and intimate, her books orbit the deepest of subjects, casting questions of friendship, loneliness, change, and loss, with the lightest of lines and quietest grace. She knows, as children know, that a story is often what happens between words.”
Marianne Dubuc is an author and illustrator who has published more than a dozen picture books. She works in French and her books have been published in more than 25 languages. Her first book, The Sea (Le mer), appeared in 2006. Other works include The Bird and the Lion (Le lion et l’oiseau), which received a 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award; Mr. Postmouse’s Rounds (Le tournée de Facteur Souris), which won the 2016 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award for Children’s Picture Books; and Up the Mountain Path (Le chemin de la montagne), which won a 2018 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. Dubuc lives in Montreal.
For further biographical information about the winners and complete jury citations, please visit writerstrust.com