Vancouver author Alix Ohlin among five finalists for 2021 Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize

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      Today (September 29), the Writers’ Trust of Canada announced the five finalists for the $60,000 Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

      One of the finalists is from Vancouver: Montreal-born author and UBC Creative Writing chair Alix Ohlin for We Want What We Want (Anansi Press).

      "A gem full of startling surprises and insights into human nature,” the jury said of Ohlin’s collection of short stories. “These stories bring us into the company of people who want what we all want: to connect, to matter, to heal, and to cross into unfamiliar territory, hoping that the risk will be worthwhile.”

      The other four finalists are:

      • Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch by Rivka Galchen (New York), published by Harper Perennial;
      • Fight Night by Miriam Toews (Toronto), published by Knopf Canada;
      • August into Winter by Guy Vanderhaeghe (Saskatoon), published by McClelland and Stewart;
      • The Strangers by Katherena Vermette (Winnipeg), published by Hamish Hamilton Canada.

      Toews has previously won the award twice—for The Flying Troutmans in 2008 and All My Puny Sorrows in 2014—in addition to the Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award in 2010, which honours a Canadian author for their body of work.

      Ohlen, Toews, and Vermette are all scheduled to speak at the Vancouver Writers Fest, which runs from October 18 to 24.

      The jury consisted of authors Rebecca Fisseha from Toronto, Michelle Good from South Central B.C., and Steven Price from Victoria.

      Each finalist receives $5,000 and the winner, to be announced at an online ceremony on November 3, will win $60,000.  

      As of this year, businessperson and philanthropist Jim Balsillie is sponsoring the award as part of a $3 million commitment to supporting Canadian literature.

      Formerly known as the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize from 1997 to 2019 and the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the award was recently renamed in honour of Canadian writers Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, who are cofounders of the Writers’ Trust.

      “Graeme Gibson, who worked very hard to improve the lot of writers both in Canada and abroad, would be delighted by the establishment of this award,” Atwood stated in a news release. “No one knew better than he did what a chancy and often thankless vocation writing can be and how many obstacles—both external and internal—a writer must overcome.”

      Last year, Toronto author Gil Adamson received the award for Ridgerunner.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.