4 emerging Canadian writers receive $10K prizes from Writers' Trust of Canada

Leah Mol, Alexa Winik, Jessica Johns and Arielle Twist are the winners of the 2020 emerging writers prizes: the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award, th Journey Prize and the Dayne Ogilvie Prize.

Leah Mol, Alexa Winik, Jessica Johns and Arielle Twist are the winners of the 2020 emerging writers prizes

From left to right: Leah Mol, Alexa Winik, Jessica Johns and Arielle Twist, the winners of the 2020 Writers' Trust of Canada emerging writers prizes. (Submitted by the Writers' Trust of Canada)

The Writers' Trust of Canada has announced the 2020 winners of their four emerging writer prizes. 

The winner of each prize will receive $10,000.

Leah Mol and Alexa Winik have won the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for emerging writers.

The prize recognizes writers under 35 years of age who have yet to publish a book. It was established in 1994 in memory of poet and short story writer Bronwen Wallace, who died of cancer in 1989.

It previously alternated between poetry and short story each year, but in 2020, it was announced that a prize for both categories would be given out this year.

Mol won the short fiction category for Six Things My Father Taught Me About Bears, a story told from the perspective of a child about what it's like growing up with a single father.

Mol is a writer, proofreader and editor based in Toronto. She won the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize for Lipstick Day.

The 2021 CBC Short Story Prize is open for submissions until Oct. 31, 2020.

Mol thanked the Writers' Trust, the writing community and her family in her speech.

"I am beyond thrilled and honoured," she said. "For me, a big part of writing has been finding a community. I wrote most of my story sitting at my friend Brie's dining room table. I don't know if I would have written that story if she hadn't carved out time on her schedule to have writers over to her place, just to write.

"My story is about family, and I don't know where I'd be without my own."

The short fiction jury was comprised of writers Kris Bertin, Djamila Ibrahim and Carrianne Leung

Six Things My Father Taught Me About Bears has "deceptively simple sentences that brim with meaning and tenderness and brilliantly capture a voice caught in that fleeting moment between childhood and adolescence with great empathy," the jury said in a statement.

Winik won the poetry category for Selections from Winter Stars Visible in December, which is a sample of poems that explore science, astrology, literature and chance. The poems were inspired by notes written by Winik's grandmother.

Winik is a poet from Ontario who now lives in Edinburgh. She holds a creative writing MFA from the University of St. Andrews and serves as a poetry reader for Tinderbox Poetry Journal.

"Winning the Bronwen Wallace Award is an incredible honour and a truly unexpected gift this year," Winik said in her acceptance speech.

"This award means so much to me, as someone who didn't write very much in my 20s, as I was trying to stay afloat in some difficult times. When I returned to writing a few years ago as an MFA student, it felt like a fresh start, almost a second life. This award is such tangible support and affirmation to keep going and persevere in my work."

The poetry jury was composed of poets Klara du Plessis, Benjamin Hertwig and Canisia Lubrin.

The jury said that Winik is "an assured creator interrupting the neat contours of genre" and "makes a disturbance on the page that dares to linger in the mind."

Jessica Johns won the Writers' Trust McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize for Bad Cree, a story about an Indigenous character's attempt to re-connect with their land and culture. Bad Cree was published in Grain.

Johns is a member of Sucker Creek First Nation in Treaty 8 Territory in northern Alberta, and currently lives in Vancouver. She is the managing editor for Room magazine and a co-organizer of the Indigenous Brilliance Reading Series.

"I wrote this story thinking very deeply about the power of nehiyaw iskwewak, of dreaming, and of that deep, impenetrable kinship I'm so lucky to have in my life. This story was influenced by my parents, who have unwaveringly believed in my writing, my siblings, my cousins and of course my aunties, who have informed every story I ever had to tell."

The Journey Prize jury was comprised of writers Téa Mutonji, Amy Jones and Doretta Lau. 

"Bad Cree explores the truth inside a dream and the relationship between memory and grief. The narrator searches for solace while meditating on conceptual forgiveness. Her journey is not limited by self-preservation but flirts with teachings from the land, from her people, from the crow," the jury said.

Arielle Twist won the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Emerging Writers, an annual  prize that recognizes an emerging writer from the LGBTQ community. The prize purse doubled in 2020, to $10,000.

"It means the world to me to be part of this legacy of queer artists that have shaped my own practice," Twist said in her acceptance speech. 

Twist is a poet and writer from George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan and now lives in Halifax. She published her first poetry collection  Disintegrate/Dissociate in 2019. 

CBC Books named Twist a writer to watch in 2019.

The Dayne Ogilvie jury was comprised of Trevor Corkum, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Lindsay Nixon.

The jury said Twist's writing had "dignity, deliberation, deep craft, and purpose," and said that "Twist is a crucial writer the world needs."

The online event was hosted by Journey Prize juror Mutonji, who is the author of the short story collection Shut Up You're Pretty, which was a finalist for the 2019 Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

The Writers' Trust of Canada is an organization that supports Canadian writers through literary awards, fellowships, financial grants, mentorships and more.

The organization was founded in 1976 by Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, Graeme Gibson, Margaret Laurence and David Young.

It also gives out seven prizes in recognition of the year's best in fiction, nonfiction and short story, as well as mid-career and lifetime achievement awards.

The winners of the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction and the Writers Trust Fiction Prize will be announced on Nov. 18, 2020.

The winners of the 2020 mid-career and lifetime achievement awards will be announced on Dec. 1, 2020.

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