The Winners of the 2023 QWF Literary Awards

Posted on: 14 November, 2023

Category: Events, QWF Awards, QWF News

On Monday, November 13, 2023, Quebec’s English-language literary community gathered for the 25th QWF Literary Awards Gala.

Nine winners were revealed in seven categories: first book, spoken word, children’s and young adult literature, non-fiction, poetry, translation, and fiction.

At the gala, it was announced that the QWF Spoken Word Prize would henceforth be known as the Ian Ferrier Spoken Word Prize in honour of Ian Ferrier, the founder and curator of the monthly Words & Music Show for 20 years.

View the winners and the juror’s comments below.

2023 Concordia University First Book Prize

Andrew Stobo Sniderman & Douglas Sanderson (Amo Binashii) for Valley of the Birdtail: An Indian Reserve, a White Town, and the Road to Reconciliation
(HarperCollins Canada)

“Valley of the Birdtail adeptly communicates the complexities of historical race relations in Canada without flinching from a fundamental truth: Canada is built and maintained through white supremacy, and 19th– and 20th-century settlement schemes have been, and continue to be, central to this project. Without downplaying or denying this reality, Sniderman and Sanderson have also given us a story underpinned with a cautious but persuasive hope: that settlers and Indigenous people can reach past the centuries of social conditioning and systemic discrimination to create a more equitable and sustainable future for all.

“This book should be in university classrooms and on coffee tables, in book clubs and politicians’ offices. Its clarion call is that our histories – Indigenous and settler – are inextricably intertwined, and that building a more equitable future requires that we look unblinkingly at how past relations shape present realities.”

Jurors: Alan Bourassa, Molly Swain, and Helen Humphreys

2023 Ian Ferrier Spoken Word Prize

In alphabetical order:

Michael “BeWyrd” Clarke for “Survival Mechanisms”

The jury praised BeWyrd’s strong writing and rhythmical performance style. They enjoyed the original rhythms and the authentic content and expression in his piece.

Caitlin Murphy for “All the Screams”

The jury felt that Caitlin Murphy presented a moving, well-thought-out, and relatable story, with important explorations of shame and parental guilt.

Deb Vanslet for “Laughter in the Rain”

The jury praised Deb Vanslet’s piece as a well-told tale from an experienced voice, in which humour and deep emotion move with good pacing and delicious language.

Jurors: Jillian Christmas, Kym Dominique-Ferguson, and Sheri-D Wilson

2023 Janet Savage Blachford Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Edeet Ravel for A Boy Is Not a Ghost
(Groundwood Books)

“A tender and touching story about a boy exiled to Siberia during World War II, told through the voice of a young boy named Natt who transports us through the hardships of his frightening journey with his astonishing and capable strength, his endearing heart and with an ability to still seek kindness in those around him, despite the pain and fear he endures. Natt’s voice was quietly and strongly poignant and affecting— his story will stay with me.

“While the content is understandably heavy, the way it is presented is age appropriate and sensitive to both the story and the young reader, which depicts great command and artistry of the writing craft.

“Because there is such pervasive ignorance of recent times and cultures, including the history of events surrounding the First and Second world Wars, events that have defined the modern world, this book is invaluable reading for adults, as well as young people, in the classroom and out.”

Jurors: Danielle Daniel, Pamela Mordecai, and Hannah Morrow

2023 Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction

Andrew Stobo Sniderman & Douglas Sanderson (Amo Binashii) for Valley of the Birdtail: An Indian Reserve, a White Town, and the Road to Reconciliation
(HarperCollins Canada)

“[The authors] explore the theme of reconciliation, not on a grand, national scale but by focusing in on two neighbouring communities, one First Nations and the other founded by Ukrainian immigrants: the Waywayseecappo reserve and the town of Rossburn in western Manitoba. By doing so, they are able to get to the human story of reconciliation and how it plays out on the community and individual level[s].

“Down-to-earth, colloquially vibrant, seamlessly and impressively structured, Valley of the Birdtail welcomes the reader inside the history, realities, and emotions of people we have likely never met, and are very happy to know. Sniderman and Sanderson’s unique skill is to involve us, alongside their characters, in a moving, accessible journey, through community conflict, to a non-saccharine dawning of hopeful understanding, a rapprochement.”

Jurors: Paul Seesequasis, Kelly S. Thompson, and Merrily Weisbord

2023 A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry

Sponsored by Byron Rempel

Erin Robinsong for Wet Dream
(Brick Books)

Wet Dream is a life-affirming collection that takes seriously the crisis we all face on a warming planet while taking just as seriously the role poetry and art might take in forming another world.

“There’s nothing conventional about the way Robinsong uses an erotic register. In her work, in her awareness, what is erogenous escapes the limits of the body, and leaks into the air. Her language is generative, biotic, transhuman and planetary.

“[Robinsong] offers us a poetics of excess and surplus, of irrepressible flows, and of energy and matter that we can only feel and never understand.

“This is a poet who listens deeply, who has learned how to commune with all that which falls outside of the language of extraction and distraction.”

Jurors: Jason Purcell, Rohan Quinby, and Sennah Yee

2023 Cole Foundation Prize for Translation

Katia Grubisic for To See Out the Night
(QC Fiction/Baraka Books)

Translation of David Clerson, Dormir sans tête (Éditions Héliotrope)

“Grubisic’s translation of Clerson’s collection is nothing short of a gift to Quebec’s two solitudes: anglophone readers are treated to a work of brilliance that might have remained undiscovered even if cultivated in their backyard, while the Francophone literary community gets to share, and possibly show off, one of their crown jewels. The translator’s work seems as though it was effortless, as if the text had been written in English in the first place. No word or phrase feels out of place, no choice questionable. In short, the genius of Clerson’s writing meets its match in Grubisic’s careful and thoughtful rendition. “

Jurors: Sarah Brideau, Gene Morrow, and Alexander St-Laurent

2023 Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction

Sponsored by Librairie Paragraphe Bookstore

Ann-Marie MacDonald for Fayne
(Knopf Canada)

Fayne is not a mere pseudo-Victorian novel (though, technically, and in its voice, it’s perfect) it has the depth of language and the requisite convoluted, byzantine levels of plot of a Victorian novel. It has the feel of a Victorian novel, but freed of the strictures of class and gender that haunt even the best-intended Victorian authors.

“MacDonald masterfully combines elements of science, magic, and gothic intrigue to construct a world that is as beguiling as it is treacherous.

“The narrative navigates the complexities of gender roles with finesse, challenging conventional norms and reflecting the timeless struggle for self-discovery and autonomy.

“With over 700 pages, Fayne may appear daunting, but MacDonald’s storytelling prowess ensures that each page is a captivating revelation.”

Jurors: Joe Ollmann, Chanel Sutherland, and Timothy Taylor

Other Prizes Awarded at the 2023 QWF Gala

QWF also bestowed the honorary 2023 QWF Judy Mappin Community Award on Elise Moser, for her vast contributions and unwavering dedication to the literary arts in Quebec.

The carte blanche Prize was awarded to H Felix Chau Bradley for “Three Disorientations” (Fiction, carte blanche, Issue 45). 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, carte blanche. Second place ($200) went to Katia Grubisic for “Relieved” (Issue 45) and third place ($150) to Laura Mota-Juang for “the cows are benevolent and full of flies” (Issue 44). Laura also won the “QWF Prize for Best Hat” for her handcrafted paper hat, for which she awarded a set of the evening’s winning books.

Katherine Li of Marianopolis College won the QWF College Writers Award for her piece “Effloresce.” Supported by Champlain, Dawson, Heritage, John Abbott, Marianopolis, and Vanier Colleges, the award recognizes outstanding literary achievement by one student from one of the sponsoring colleges. The winner receives a cash prize of $1,000 and publication in carte blanche.