In the spring of 1998, Quebec was served by two organizations with literature at their core: the Quebec Society for the Promotion of English-Language Literature (QSPELL) and the Federation of English-language Writers of Quebec (FEWQ).
QSPELL’s focus was on promoting literary works by Quebec’s English-language writers through book prizes and other celebratory events. FEWQ ran a workshop program, occasional readings, and collaborated with l’Union des écrivaines et écrivains québécois (UNEQ) to oversee the provincial Writers-in-Schools program. FEWQ also received funding from Canadian Heritage to acquire most of the books (nearly 500 titles) published by Quebec writers during the preceding decade. In addition, FEWQ provided financial and moral support for such causes as the Electronic-Rights Defence Committee (ERDC) in its case against Southam and Cedrom SNI.
By 1998, the two groups were working side by side, sharing office space and collaborating on several projects. It was FEWQ that provided the cash prize for the annual QSPELL/FEWQ First Book Award, and each organization provided financial and material support for Write pour écrire, Tongue-tied/Langue-liée and a tribute to Irving Layton, as well as the Writers & Writing series of literary events and readings launched in June 1998.
After a lengthy process of consultation, in the spring of 1998, the boards and members of QSPELL and FEWQ concluded that the long-term interests of both organizations would be best served by merging their energies and resources into a single organization devoted to furthering the interests of Quebec’s English-language writers and writing. While the annual book awards continued to be known as the QSPELL prizes for another year or two, the name chosen for the new organization was the Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF).
Since that time, the wealth and breadth of QWF’s activities—and the number of its members—have expanded dramatically. We now play a prominent role in the life of Quebec’s English-language community as an arts presenter, professional and community educator, and representative of Quebec’s English-language writers. The four QSPELL Prizes that were awarded in 1997—for fiction, nonfiction, poetry and first book—have evolved into seven QWF Awards, with translation, children’s and young adult literature, and, in 2018, playwriting, coming onboard.
QWF continues to grow and innovate, with new activities reaching more and more people. The scope of our professional development activities has increased both in number and variety. We added a professional mentorship program in 2002-2003. In 2008, a group from one of our workshops founded our online literary journal, carte blanche, and in 2013, we launched our Literary Dinners and QWF Writes, a monthly online essay series by and for writers. Add to that the inauguration of the CBC-QWF Writer in Residence position and the Hire-a-Writer Directory in 2016, the QWF Prize for Young Writers in 2017, and the Shut Up and Write! intensive writing sessions in 2018.
Along with career-oriented writers, QWF’s membership of approximately 700 includes those who have a personal interest in writing and many who have joined because they are interested in high-quality literary events, activities and programs. All of these constituents are linked by the QWF vision that works toward ensuring a lasting place for English literature and its practitioners on the Quebec cultural scene.