The 2012 Alberta Book Awards were better than ever, with over 200 people in attendance. What a tremendous showing from the literary community! Jackie Flanagan’s keynote speech was the perfect start to the evening, delivered with emphasis, empathy, and emotion. Her talk about F.M. Salter, father of Alberta letters, and her well-expressed views on the importance of culture and literacy received a warm reception.
It went on to be a particularly stellar night for Alberta’s university presses. The University of Alberta Press had a hand in four of the award-winning projects:
- Alice Major won the Wilfrid Eggleston Award for her remarkable book, Intersecting Sets. It was doubly sweet, coming on the heels of a phone call telling her that one of her essays from the book had won a Gold award in the National Magazine Awards. “Ultraviolet Catastrophes” was published in a special joint issue of The New Quarterly and Arc Poetry Magazine.
- Susan McCaslin came all the way from Victoria, BC to win the inaugural Robert Kroetsch Award for Poetry for her book, Demeter Goes Skydiving. And surely Robert was sitting beside Susan and Kath MacLean, who recently won WordFest’s Anne Green Award, cheering them on.
- Ann Hall’s marvelous book, The Grads Are Playing Tonight!, won the Trade Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award. This was a tough award for us, as two other UAP titles were in the running. Our hearts were in our mouths and our hearts were on our sleeves, thrilled for the one author and bleeding for the other two.
- It was heart-warming to hear the whoops and congratulatory susurration as Peter Midgley’s name was called. He took home the Lois Hole Award for Editorial Excellence for his work with Jalal Barzanji, on The Man in Blue Pyjamas. Jalal, his wife Sabah and daughter Niga were in the audience.
Sarah Carter and Patricia McCormack won the Scholarly and Academic Book Award for Recollecting: Lives of Aboriginal Women of the Canadian Northwest and Borderlands, published by Athabasca University Press. This is another remarkable book from topnotch scholars. (UAP and AUP co-published Sarah Carter’s award-winning book The Importance of Being Monogamous in 2008).
The University of Calgary Press was named Publisher of the Year. Our director, Linda Cameron, as President of the Book Publishers Association of Alberta (BPAA) and winner of the award last year, had the honour of handing the trophy to Donna Livingstone and her gifted team. NeWest Press, another crowd favourite, was runner-up for its consistently excellant work.
Alan Brownoff was pleased to see two talented peers take home design awards: Natalie Olsen of Kisscut Design for House of Spells by Robert Pepper-Smith and our colleague Marvin Harder for Three-Persons and the Chokitapix by Allen Ronaghan.
As Jannie Edwards said in her moving acceptance speech for the James H. Gray Award for Short Nonfiction, “It takes a tribe to create a writer.” And the tribe was in full evidence to celebrate Fred Stenson for his work as he accepted the WGA’s Golden Pen Award, and founding board member of NeWest Press, Diane Bessai, who was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by the book publishing industry. That tribe will be out in force as its members ponder the sudden and deep cuts to the Literary Press Group (LPG), a not-for-profit association of Canadian literary book publishers, whose mandate is to foster the survival, growth and maintenance of Canadian owned and operated publishing houses through advocacy and group initiatives.
It takes several tribes to bring off such a fabulous event. Our thanks to:
- Kieran Leblanc and Michael McLaughlin from the Book Publishers Association of Alberta and Carol Holmes and her staff at the Writers Guild of Alberta;
- the jurors for their hard work and dedication;
- the brilliant Pages on Kensington, for having books available for sale;
- sponsors AlbertaViews, The Banff Centre, Friesens, and West Magazine;
- award donors Stephan V. Benediktson, Ann Campbell, Vanna Tessier and Guy Tessier, and Aritha Van Herk;
- funders: The cities of Calgary and Edmonton, the Government of Alberta, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Edmonton Arts Council, Access Copyright Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, and Canadian Heritage.
We can’t begin to describe all the wonderful moments; if you weren’t able to come this year, be sure to plan on being part of the gathering in Edmonton next spring, when we come together once again to celebrate writers, creators, designers, and publishers.