The 2020 QWF Literary Awards Winners Announced!

Posted on: 4 November, 2020

Category: QWF Awards, QWF News

On Wednesday, November 4, Quebec’s English-language literary community gathered online to watch the premiere broadcast screening of this year’s QWF Literary Awards Gala.

You can watch a repeat of the Gala video here:

The complete list of winners is below.

Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction

Sponsored by Librairie Paragraphe Bookstore

Kaie Kellough for Dominoes at the Crossroads
(Véhicule Press/Esplanade Books)

“A stimulating and provocative book. Nubian slaves, an auction at The Ritz, and an insider’s inside view of uncelebrated neighborhoods in a “future history” of Montreal that tangles a language-obsessed city in—what else?- language. Dominoes at the Crossroads is many things all at once—a meta-fiction, a wistful nod to the past, a relentless turn toward the future and an expertly crafted celebration of language in all of its shifting musicality. This is a collection that … succeeds, in being more than the sum of its parts—a linked galaxy of worlds that brim with sorrow and fierce, uncompromising joy.”

Jury members: Douglas Babington, Peter Behrens, Amanda Leduc

Concordia University First Book Prize

Sponsored by Concordia University

Madelaine Caritas Longman for The Danger Model
(McGill Queen’s University Press)

“Longman’s poems are masterfully constructed. The use of white space and the way lines of text are woven is deft and effective, catalysing meanings and associations across brain hemispheres… This is poet’s poetry, written with keen attention to inner harmonies and the see-saw of words. In an era of Instagram-driven micro-poetry, aka ‘Like Poems,’ all flimsy and whimsy, The Danger Model is an actual book crammed with actual poems… A vivid, fearless re-visiting of beloved free verse tropes, from dense, manic prose poems to singing, call-and-response, otherworldly hymns. A generous book, The Danger Model hardly feels like a first book. Rather the opposite – a collected works by a senior poet.”

Jury members: Hasan Namir, Naomi Steinberg, RM Vaughan

A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry

Sarah Wolfson for A Common Name for Everything
(Green Writers Press)

“Wolfson’s debut collection bolts out, at once taut and roomy, leaving or making space for the reader to find or lose themself. The poems tiptoe through careful parcels of image, weaving domestic moments, nature poetry, occasionally almost spiritual meanderings… Rapid and ruminant, sensitive and incensed, the words in Wolfson’s book work together to understand the world, and involve the reader in this never-ending process… Wolfson maintains a thrilling confidence in what her fixations are. This book is a place full of partings and bodies, sphagnum and stomachs, stenches and ‘steam / off a bovine lip.’ This book could have emerged from the great dirt of the earth.”

Jury members: Katia Grubisic, Ben Ladouceur, Hoa Nguyen

QWF Prize for Playwriting

Sponsored by Gabriel Safdie, in conjunction with Infinithéâtre

Mishka Lavigne for Albumen
(TACTICS Ottawa)

Albumen made me angry. Every choice made by Mishka Lavigne elicited a visceral reaction in me; it was impossible to remain indifferent. And that’s how I know this is a brilliant piece of writing… A beautifully curated drama about existential emptiness and the pursuit of desire. The author’s skillful use of language and lyrical vocal soundscapes crafts a precarious portrait of Jessa, the protagonist, her relationship with Danielle, a former teacher, and Lucas, her lover… Lavigne creates a fragmented but revealing narrative that weaves back and forth in time and space, answering questions while deepening other mysteries. The style, tone and structure of the piece perfectly unite to create a memorable and affecting piece of theatre.”

Jury members: Pablo Felices-Luna, Jackie Maxwell, Djanet Sears

Note: This prize is awarded every two years to a play that was published or produced in the preceding two years. In addition to a prize of $3,000, Infinithéâtre will celebrate the winning play either with a live reading as part of their next “Pipeline” series, or, if COVID doesn’t allow for that, with a virtual “discussion-with-the-playwright” event.

Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-fiction

Taras Grescoe for Possess the Air: Love, Heroism, and the Battle for the Soul of Mussolini’s Rome

“A factual account of Mussolini’s rise and the anti-fascist Lauro de Bosis’ (literal) fall, Possess the Air fully engaged my imagination, but also expanded my knowledge of Rome in the early days of fascism… A monumental work at almost 700 pages, it still manages to be admirably focused, and fast paced… This book has it all: political intrigue, travel, romance, passion, dreams, violence, heroism, villainy, and more. It’s also a useful primer – and indeed, reminder – offering insight into how fascist ideology took hold, and how communities – local, national, global – responded to it. In every sense, Possess the Air was a thoroughly satisfying and thought-provoking read.”

Jury members: Jeffrey Bachman, Sonja Boon, Kate Sterns

QWF Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Sponsored in memory of Janet Savage Blachford

Marie-Louise Gay for The Three Brothers
(Groundwood Books)

The Three Brothers is a tender tale of childhood, brotherhood, and the brutal effects of climate change. The book is written with deep consideration for young readers, addressing one of our most timely and terrifying conversations with compassion, caring, and hope… The tone is lighthearted, full of adventure and wonder, but the stillness of winter is here in the drawings, as well as a sense of both loss and renewal. Every spread offers an intricate layout for the eye, and the text is pitch perfect… This book is an age-appropriate entry into a conversation that the whole world should be having. More than a great picture book, it is a tool to actively engage young people in one of the most important issues of our time.”

Jury members: Alan Cumyn, Shauntay Grant, Deanna Smith

Note: This year’s competition was open to picture books with text and books for beginner readers.

Prix de Traduction de la Fondation Cole (anglais-français)

Benoît Laflamme for Éclipse électrique
(Éditions du Boréal)

A translation of The Knockoff Eclipse by Melissa Bull (Anvil Press)

« La désarmante simplicité de la poésie du texte d’origine cache des défis formidables que le traducteur arrive à surmonter de manière magistrale… Une poésie, qui se donne l’air d’être presque accidentelle, se glisse dans la langueur, parfois presque anxiogène, des personnages. Ces perles ne perdent rien de leur lustre alors que le traducteur trouve toujours moyen de rendre avec précision les images qu’elles portent, permettant qu’elles retrouvent le même impact même à travers le filtre de l’adaptation. »

Jury members: Charles Bender, Samuel Mercier, Chantal Ringuet


The QWF also bestowed the honorary 2020 QWF Judy Mappin Community Award to Jan Jorgensen, organizer of the reading series, The Lawn Chair Soirée. Jorgensen received the award for her longstanding personal commitment to community in all its forms, especially in the championing the work of English-language authors of Quebec.

The 3Macs carte blanche Prize was awarded to Alexei Perry Cox for her piece “It’s a Slow Ride” (Issue 39). The $350 prize is awarded annually in recognition of an outstanding submission by a Quebec writer, artist, or translator to carte blanche, QWF’s online literary journal ( Second prize ($200) went to Kelly Norah Drukker for “Thin” (Issue 39) and third prize ($150), to Tong Wang for “Emote: A Time Capsule” (issue 39).

See you next year at Le Lion d’Or!

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