> Zed Book Club / Writers’ Trust of Canada Awards: Authors Nicholas Herring, Dan Werb Nab Top Prizes

The 2022 Writers Trust of Canada literary award winners (L to R): Elise Gravel, Joseph Danudrand, Candace Savage, Dan Web, francesca ekwuyasi, Shani Mootoo and Nicholas Herring. Photo: Tom Sandler/Writers Trust of Canada

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Writers’ Trust of Canada Awards: Authors Nicholas Herring, Dan Werb Nab Top Prizes

The Writers' Trust of Canada awards amounted to a combined monetary prize value of $270,000. / BY Mike Crisolago / November 4th, 2022


The Writers’ Trust of Canada handed out seven awards on Wednesday evening in Toronto — the first in-person ceremony held since before the pandemic, in 2019.

The seven awards amounted to a total of $270,000, which includes prize money for winners and runner’s up.

Prince Edward Island’s Nicholas Herring took home one of the top prizes — the $60,000 Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for the year’s best Canadian novel or short story collection. Herring, who also works as a carpenter, won for his debut novel Some Hellish, described by the Trust as about “a hapless fisher lost in an unexceptional life, bored of thinking the same old thoughts. One December day, following a hunch, he cuts a hole in the living room floor and installs a hoist, altering the course of everything in his life.”

“What Cormac McCarthy did for cowboys and horses, Nicholas Herring does for fishermen and boats in his novel Some Hellish,” the jury citation reads. “With a deep knowledge of the Island and a passion for the language of work, Herring’s voice is droll and philosophical, ribald and poetic. The age-old story of humans versus nature finds a fresh cadence as Herring trawls the seas for body and soul. There is a dark beauty within this story, and it will make the reader’s heart sing.”

With his win, Herring joins an impressive list of Canadian scribes who’ve won the prize in the past, including Austin Clarke, Alice Munro, Joseph Boyden, Lawrence Hill, Miriam Toews, Emma Donoghue and Patrick deWitt, among others.

The other big prize of the night — the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, awarded to the year’s best Canadian nonfiction book — went to author and epidemiologist Dan Werb for his book The Invisible Siege: The Rise of Coronaviruses and the Search for a Cure.

For this prize, the jury citation noted that, “The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most disruptive event in world history since the Second World War … Dan Werb tells us how we got here through an authoritative, scientific explanation of coronaviruses. The Invisible Siege is a scientific detective story that leaves the reader frightened that the villain is still on the loose, and maybe in the house.”

The other five winners on the night include:

francesca ekwuyasi, who won the $10,000 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers for her debut novel — and Giller longlisted — Butter Honey Pig Bread, which the jury called “a profound work of love” that “gives us not one protagonist but three, each their own galaxy of complexity. This work is filled with many pleasures, by turns sensuous and sensual, magical and mystical, but also deadly serious in its exploration of harm and reconciliation.”

Joseph Dandurand, a member of British Columbia’s Kwantlen First Nation, won the $25,000 Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize “in recognition of a remarkable body of work, and in anticipation of future contributions to Canadian poetry.” The jury wrote that Dandurand’s work, “is a marvel of witness, expressing tough, unflinching truths … His voice blends the streetwise with the oracular. Dandurand’s instantly relatable poems are deep, deep dives into rhythms that build a history of survival in place, wise to all that’s frail, strong, funny, and hopeful.”

Shani Mootoo was awarded the $25,000 Writers’ Trust Engel Findley Award, “given to a mid-career writer in recognition of a remarkable body of work, and in anticipation of future contributions to Canadian literature.” The jury citation said, “For three decades, Shani Mootoo has been writing some of this country’s most original and incandescent fiction … These books are alive, audacious, and full of craft; it’s a body of work that inspires us with all its care and unselfconscious trajectory.”

Elise Gravel won the $25,000 Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People for her body of work. “Informative and fact-based, yet often delightfully absurd, Gravel’s books cover a vast spectrum of topics, from gender identity and stereotypes to kids who adopt monsters, a mushroom fan club, and many disgusting critters,” the jury wrote. “Gravel brilliantly introduces difficult topics in an accessible and engaging manner, with subversive humour that thrills readers of every age.”

Candace Savage won the $25,000 Matt Cohen Award recognizing “a lifetime of distinguished work by a Canadian writer working in poetry or prose in either French or English.” The jury said of Savage’s work: “Her subjects range from individual studies of crows, ravens, grizzly bears, and bees to the disconnecting impact of cultural migration. Savage has been lauded for her works of nonfiction and for her children’s writing, and she was described by The Globe and Mail as ‘an essential Canadian voice.’”

The Writers’ Trust of Canada was founded in 1976 by Canadian writers Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, Graeme Gibson, Margaret Laurence, and David Young to help foster Canada’s literary community, creatively and financially support writers and “ensure that Canadian writing would continue to thrive for the benefit of all readers.”

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