The Writers’ Trust of Canada announced its inaugural, one-time “Five x Five” awards today. The intention was to give $25,000 — in parcels of 5 grand each — to 5 emerging Canadian writers, deemed worthy by 5 established Canadian writers.
The CanLit royalty that each selected “one emerging writer of fiction or poetry who they feel displays the potential to enter Canada’s literary canon,” were Ken Babstock, Joseph Boyden, Michael Crummey, Esi Edugyan, and Madeleine Thien. And here are the lucky winners of their esteem:
Linda Besner (Montreal), selected by Ken Babstock
Linda Besner is the author of The Id Kid, published in 2011 by Véhicule Press and named as one of the National Post’s Best Poetry Books of the Year. Her poetry has appeared in The Walrus, Maisonneuve, and The Malahat Review, among other journals, and been anthologized in Best Canadian Poetry 2012.
Megan Gail Coles (St. John’s), selected by Michael Crummey
Megan Gail Coles is a playwright and fiction writer whose debut story collection, Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome (Killick Press), won the 2014 BMO Winterset Award and the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award. She is co-founder and co-artistic director of Poverty Cove Theatre Company in St. John’s.
Here is what Michael had to say, of Coles, “The characters in Megan Gail Coles’ Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome have a love/hate relationship with Newfoundland. I have a love/hate relationship with Megan Coles. Her stories are blistering and hilarious and make me feel happy to be alive. And a bit like an old fart who should look for other work. I expect great things ahead for her. I expect to feel grateful and sick with jealousy.”
Ghalib Islam (Toronto), selected by Madeleine Thien
Ghalib Islam has a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Toronto, where he was mentored by Margaret Atwood. His first novel, Fire in the Unnameable Country (Hamish Hamilton Canada), was met with critical acclaim in 2014 and hailed as “one of the buzziest novels of the season.”
Eliza Robertson (Norwich, UK), selected by Joseph Boyden
Eliza Robertson’s stories have been shortlisted for the Journey Prize and CBC Short Story Prize. In 2013, her story “We Walked On Water” co-won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Her first collection,Wallflowers, was published in 2014 with Hamish Hamilton Canada and Bloomsbury UK. She was born in Vancouver, grew up on Vancouver Island, and now lives in England.
Melanie Siebert (Victoria), selected by Esi Edugyan
Melanie Siebert is a poet whose first book, Deepwater Vee (McClelland & Stewart), was shortlisted for a 2010 Governor General’s Literary Award. She was selected by the Writers’ Trust to be a writer-in-residence at Berton House Writers’ Retreat in 2013. Siebert lives in Victoria where she is an instructor at the University of Victoria.
Note: If you’ve already loved and adored Megan Coles’ Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome, please trust this post in suggesting you read Eliza Roberts’ Wallflowers. As previously recommended in a past print issue of The Overcast.
“Five x Five” was made possible by the RBC Emerging Artists Project, which simply wanted to award $25,000 in funding to one of six arts organizations in an online poll. The Writers’ Trust of Canada won the chance to be that organization by generating the most support online, with 35.1% of the votes cast.
“We couldn’t have secured this funding without the support of the literary community, which rallied around the cause,” said Mary Osborne, executive director of the Writers’ Trust of Canada. “Thanks to that community support, five writers in the early stages of their careers will receive some cash in their pocket and a pat on the back: a valuable endorsement from a celebrated author that says, ‘You are one to watch. Please write more.’”