Four York degree holders honoured by the Writers’ Trust

Four individuals with ties to York University have figured prominently in this year’s Writers’ Trust Awards. Each was the recipient of a portion of $123,000 in prizes, making the event one of the richest awards nights in Canada. The presentations took place March 7 at the Jane Mallett Theatre at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto.

Heather Birrell (right) won the Writers’ Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, worth $10,000 for her short story titled, "BriannaSusannaAlana" published in The New Quarterly. Birrell graduated with a BA in 1994 from York’s Glendon College. The Journey Prize is awarded annually to a new and developing writer of distinction for a short story published in a Canadian literary publication in the preceding year and is made possible by James A. Michener’s donation of his Canadian royalty earnings from his 1988 novel, Journey. In her award-winning short story, Birrell tells the story of three sisters who are trying to reconstruct what they were up to the day a murder was discovered in their neighbourhood.

Birrell is the author of the short story collection I know you are but what am I? , published by Coach House Books. Her fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Quarterly, PRISM international, and Descant, and the anthologies She Writes and The Journey Prize Stories 13. "BriannaSusannaAlana" also received an honourable mention at the National Magazine Awards.

Douglas Glover (right) studied philosophy at York University and earned a BA in 1969 before continuing his studies at the University of Edinburgh. He then worked on a series of daily newspapers in New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan before earning his MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1982. The Writers’ Trust awarded Glover the Timothy Findley Award, a prize worth $15,000. The award is given to a male writer in mid-career for a body of work. His bestselling novel Elle, which won the 2003 Governor-General’s Award for Fiction, was a finalist for the 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award His story book A Guide to Animal Behaviour was a finalist for the 1991 Governor-General’s Award.

His critically acclaimed novel The Life and Times of Captain N. was listed by the Chicago Tribune as one of the best books of 1993 and his book 16 Categories of Desire was short_listed for the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Award and a top fiction pick for "This Morning" (CBC Radio), "Hot Type" (CBC Television) and the Toronto Star.

Glover’s stories have been frequently anthologized, notably in The Best American Short Stories, Best Canadian Stories, and The New Oxford Book of Canadian Stories. He was recently the subject of a TV documentary in a series called The Writing Life and a collection of critical essays, The Art of Desire, The Fiction of Douglas Glover, edited by Bruce Stone.

Marie-Claire Blais (left), a 1975 York honorary doctorate recipient won the Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life, valued at $20,000. The award is given to a writer whose life has been dedicated to writing as a primary pursuit, for a body of work. A leading light in Quebec and Canadian literature, Blais has been a writer for over 40 years. Her work, which includes more than 20 novels, five plays and collections of poetry, short fiction and newspaper articles, has been translated into many languages, including Chinese.

June Callwood (right) was awarded the Writers’ Trust Award for Distinguished Contribution. Callwood received an honorary doctor of laws degree from York in 1988. The award is presented to an individual or organization in recognition of their long-standing involvement with the Writers’ Trust. Callwood is an author, journalist and distinguished human rights activist. She has founded and co-founded more than 50 social action organizations including the Aids Hospice Casey House. Her books include Love, Hate, Fear and Anger; Canadian Women and the Law; The Law is Not for Women; Portrait of Canada; Emma; Emotions; Twelve Weeks In Spring; Jim: A Life With AIDS;The Sleepwalker (1990); June Callwood’s National Treasures (1994); Trial Without End: A Shocking Story of Women and AIDS (1995).

The 2007 Writers’ Trust Awards celebration, was sponsored in part by The Globe and Mail and promotion of the awards was partially funded by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage.