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The Writers' Trust of Canada, or La Société d'encouragement aux écrivains du Canada, is a charitable organization which provides financial support to Canadian writers.

Writers' Trust of Canada
FoundedMarch 3, 1976; 43 years ago (1976-03-03)
FoundersMargaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, Graeme Gibson, Margaret Laurence, and David Young
TypeCharitable organization
Registration no.119305076RR0001
  • 460 Richmond Street West, Suite 600 Toronto, ON M5V 1Y1
Coordinates43°38′47.86″N 79°23′53.86″W / 43.6466278°N 79.3982944°W / 43.6466278; -79.3982944
Area served
Key people
Mary Osborne, Executive Director Kari Cullen, Board Chair
Formerly called
Writers' Development Trust

Founded by Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, Graeme Gibson, Margaret Laurence, and David Young, and registered as a charitable organization on March 3, 1976, the Writers' Trust celebrates and rewards the talents and achievements of Canada's novelists, short story writers, poets, biographers, and other fiction and nonfiction writers.

The organization funds and administers a number of Canadian literary awards including the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, the richest award for nonfiction in Canada.

As well, the organization funds scholarships for the Humber College School for Writers Correspondence Program; an annual Margaret Laurence Memorial Lecture, given by a noted Canadian writer; four annual writers' residencies at Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon; and the Woodcock Fund, which provides emergency financial assistance to Canadian writers, named in memory of the Canadian poet George Woodcock. Annual fundraisers include the Writers' Trust Gala in Toronto and Politics and the Pen in Ottawa. Money raised to finance the charitable activities of the Writers' Trust is drawn almost exclusively from the private sector.[1]



Writers' Trust Medals, given to invited authors at 2011's Gala


To advance, nurture, and celebrate Canadian writers and writing.


To champion excellence in Canadian writing, to improve the status of writers in this country, and to create connections between writers and readers.


  1. Support Canadian writers as a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization;
  2. Value Canadian writers and their works as essential components of our vibrant and diverse culture;
  3. Nourish professional writers at every stage of their careers;
  4. Embrace partnerships with readers and organizations dedicated to assisting Canadian writers;
  5. Welcome openness and flexibility while adhering to the highest standards of fiscal integrity and responsibility.


The Writers' Trust of Canada is run by a board of directors composed of volunteers from the arts and business communities, and counseled by an authors' advisory group[1] of writers from across the country. Five staff members see to the day-to-day operations out of a downtown Toronto office shared with the Writers' Union of Canada.

Juries are composed of writers based on recommendations by the authors' advisory group; invitations are issued by the administrative staff based upon these recommendations.


Prize winners are announced at the annual Writers' Trust Awards with the following exceptions:

  • The Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing is handed out at Politics and the Pen in Ottawa.
  • The RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers winner is announced separately in the spring.
  • The Dayne Ogilvie Prize is presented during Toronto's Pride Week.

All awards are open to citizens and permanent residents of Canada. Winners are decided by an independent jury, usually consisting of three prominent writers.

Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political WritingEdit

The Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing was established in honour of Shaughnessy Cohen (1948–1998), an outspoken and popular Member of Parliament from Windsor, Ontario; she died after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage in the House of Commons of Canada just seconds after standing to address her peers.

A prize of C$25,000 is given annually to a book of literary nonfiction that captures a political subject of relevance to Canadian readers and has the potential to shape or influence thinking on contemporary Canadian political life. The winning work combines compelling new insights with depth of research and significant literary merit. All finalist works will demonstrate a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style, and analysis. The prize particularly values books which provide the general reader with an informed, unique perspective on the practice of Canadian politics, its players, or its principles. The jurors will shortlist between three and five titles. Prizes of C$2,500 will be awarded to each of the finalists.

Past winners include Jane Jacobs for Dark Age Ahead and James Orbinski for An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-first Century.

RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging WritersEdit

The RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers was established by author Carolyn Smart and honours the memory of Bronwen Wallace (1945 - 1989), a Canadian poet and short story writer who died of cancer at the age of 44.

The C$5,000 award alternates each year between short fiction and poetry. As Ms. Wallace's first book was not published until she was 35, the annual award is given to a writer below the age of 35 who has been published in literary journals but has yet to be published in book form. Two finalists also each receive C$1,000. Past winners include Jeramy Dodds and Alison Pick.

The Royal Bank of Canada Foundation sponsors the award as part of their RBC Emerging Artists Project, which works to support talented young adults in their development of professional careers in the arts. In 2008, the prize presentation was moved from the fall to the spring, creating the absence of 2007's award.

Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for NonfictionEdit

Consisting of a C$60,000 grand prize and C$5,000 for each finalist, the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction is the most lucrative for Canadian nonfiction literature.[2] The prize is awarded for literary excellence in the category of nonfiction, which includes, among other forms: personal or journalistic essays, memoirs, commentary, both social and political criticism, history, and biography. Finalist works demonstrate, in the opinion of the jury, a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style, and technique. The jury is free to interpret the definition of literary nonfiction as they see fit and finalist works are not required to encapsulate every aspect of the definition.

First established in 1997, the award's original corporate sponsor was Viacom. Pearson Canada, an educational book publishing company, took over the award in 1999, and Nereus Financial, a stock brokerage firm, became the sponsor from 2006 to 2008.[3] From 2008 until 2011, the award had no corporate sponsor. In 2011, philanthropist and former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Hon. Hilary M. Weston, was announced as the award's new sponsor.[4] Prior to Weston's patronage of the award, the prize was C$15,000 for the winner and C$2,000 for the finalists.

Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Nonfiction Prize logo

Educational componentEdit

In order to help high school students appreciate the literary excellence of Canadian nonfiction writers, the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction included a special educational component. Previously, the program featured grade 11 and 12 teaching resources based on prize finalists and winners. In October 2013, the Writers' Trust announced it was replacing the teaching resource initiative with a nonfiction writing contest open to students in grades 9–12. The winner of the student writing contest received C$2,500, a trip to Toronto to attend the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonficton gala, publication of their work on, and C$1,000 for the winner's high school. Second and third-place winners received C$500 and C$250, respectively.

The lessons in each of the three senior level teaching resources contain excerpts from books, are meant to engage students in critical thinking and inquiry, and are based firmly on Canadian curriculum outcomes and expectations. The Writers' Trust distributed hard copies of each resource free-of-charge, with digital versions also available for download.

The first teaching resource is based on the winners of past years' nonfiction prize:

  • What Disturbs Our Blood: A Son's Quest to Redeem the Past by James FitzGerald(Winner, 2010)
  • Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life by Brian Brett (Winner, 2009)
  • Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood by Taras Grescoe (Winner, 2008)

The second teaching resource is based on the books that were nominated for the 2011 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction:

  • Mordecai: The Life & Times by Charles Foran (Winner, 2011)
  • Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe by Charlotte Gill
  • Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times; Volume Two: 1867–1891 by Richard Gwyn
  • Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nudist Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound by Grant Lawrence
  • Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live by Ray Robertson

The third teaching resource features the nominees for the 2012 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction:

  • Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes by Kamal Al-Solaylee
  • Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age by Modris Eksteins
  • Straphanger: Saving our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile by Taras Grescoe
  • The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit by JJ Lee
  • A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape by Candace Savage

Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction PrizeEdit

The Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, worth C$25,000, is awarded to the novel or short-story collection that, in the opinion of the judges, is the year's best book of fiction. Prizes of C$2,500 are also given to between three and five finalists. The winner, selected by a three-member, independent judging panel, is announced at the annual Writers' Trust Awards.

Rogers Communications has sponsored the award since it was created in 1997. Past winners include Alice Munro (2004), Joseph Boyden (2005), and Lawrence Hill (2007).

Writers' Trust Engel/Findley AwardEdit

The Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award is given to a writer in mid-career for a body of work, and in anticipation of future contribution to Canadian literature. It was created in 2008 from two separate awards formerly known as the Marian Engel Award for female writers and the Timothy Findley Award for male writers. Marian Engel (1933–1985) was an award-winning Canadian novelist and passionate activist for the national and international writer's cause; Timothy Findley (1930–2002) was an influential Canadian novelist and playwright.

All Canadian and permanent resident writers in mid-career are considered and no age restrictions apply. For the purposes of this award, mid-career is defined as having published, in Canada, at least 3 books of literary merit which are predominantly fiction. The prize is worth C$25,000; the winner is selected by a three-member, independent judging panel and announced annually at the Writers' Trust Awards. There is no submission process. Past winners include Miriam Toews and Nino Ricci.

Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing LifeEdit

Matt Cohen (1942–1999), winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction in 1999, was a celebrated and prolific writer who died from lung cancer at the age of 56. The Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life was established by a group of anonymous donors in his memory.

This C$20,000 prize is presented annually to a Canadian or permanent resident whose life has been dedicated to writing, in honour of distinguished work in poetry or prose in either English or French. All Canadians and permanent residents dedicated to writing as a primary pursuit are considered. An independent jury selects the winner, and there is no submission process; the winner of the prize is announced at the annual Writers' Trust Awards. Past winners include Jean Little and Mavis Gallant.

Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young PeopleEdit

Vicky Metcalf, a noted children's author and wife of George Cedric Metcalf,[5] created this award in 1963 to stimulate the writing of literature for young Canadians. She held a passion for storytelling and published several children's books.

The Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People, colloquially referred to as "The Vicky", is worth C$20,000 and is limited to works written by Canadian citizens or permanent residents. In contrast to other Writers' Trust prizes, qualifying authors published with a non-Canadian publisher are not excluded. An independent jury selects the winner and there is no submission process. The prize is announced annually at the Writers' Trust Awards. Past winners include Robert Munsch and Kenneth Oppel.

The award was known as the Vicky Metcalf Award for Children's Literature until a name change in 2013. It has been administered by the Writers' Trust since 2002, and was previously awarded by the Metcalf Foundation, which strives "to enhance the effectiveness of people and organizations working together to help Canadians imagine and build a just, healthy and creative society". The Metcalf Foundation continues to sponsor the annual award.

Writers' Trust/McClelland and Stewart Journey PrizeEdit

The Writers' Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize is made possible by James A. Michener's generous donation of his Canadian royalty earnings from his novel Journey, published by McClelland & Stewart in 1988.[6]

The Journey Prize is a C$10,000 award given annually to a new and developing writer of distinction for a short story published in a Canadian literary publication; there is no age restriction. The journal that published the winning entry also receives C$2,000. A three-member, independent jury announces the winner at the annual Writers' Trust Awards. The longlist, chosen by the jury, is compiled each year to form the Journey Prize Stories anthology. Past winners include Timothy Taylor, Yann Martel, and Yasuko Thanh.

Dayne Ogilvie PrizeEdit

Originally established as a grant, the Dayne Ogilvie Prize was founded in memory of Dayne Ogilvie by close personal friend, Robin Pacific. Mr. Ogilvie was a highly respected freelance book editor, writer, and manager. A passionate lover of all the arts, he died in October 2006.

Starting in 2007, C$4,000 has been presented to a Canadian writer who is part of the LGBTQ community and demonstrates great promise through a body of work of exceptional quality. It is the only prize of its kind in Canada serving the LGBTQ community; any self-identifying writer is eligible. While no age restriction exists, the prize is intended for those who are still developing their writing career. To qualify, writers must have published at least one book of fiction. The winner is selected by a three-member, independent jury and announced annually during Toronto's Pride Week; there is no submission process. Past winners include Nancy Jo Cullen and Farzana Doctor.

Writers' Trust Distinguished Contribution AwardEdit

Established in 2005, the Writers' Trust Distinguished Contribution Award is a volunteer award presented to an individual or organization, in recognition of their long standing involvement with the Writers' Trust of Canada. The award honours those individuals and organizations which, through their ongoing commitment of time, energy, and resources, have given selflessly to shape and further the aims of the Writers' Trust.

Past winners of the Distinguished Contribution Award have included John Macfarlane, Graeme Gibson, June Callwood, Bernard Ostry, and Pierre Berton.

Latner Writers' Trust Poetry PrizeEdit

Newly created in 2014 in conjunction with the Latner Family Foundation, the Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize presents $25,000 to a Canadian poet who has published at least three collections of poetry, to honour their body of work.[7]

Drainie-Taylor Biography PrizeEdit

Beginning in 1999, the organization presented the Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize to a book judged as the year's best work of biography, autobiography or memoir.[8] Endowed by actor and writer Claire Drainie Taylor,[8] the award was discontinued in 2006 after a reorganization of the awards program.[9]


Woodcock FundEdit

Established in 1989 by George Woodcock and his wife Ingeborg, the Woodcock Fund provides emergency funding to professional Canadian writers mid-project who are facing an unforeseen financial need that threatens the completion of their book, and who lack the resources to meet that situation. Each financial grant is given as one time assistance for a specific emergency. (The program does not consider requests for chronic situations or project funding; nor can it consider situations resulting from general indebtedness or unemployment.) All applications to the Fund are processed in confidence. Successful applicants are urged to acknowledge their grants in their books.[10]

Since 1989, the Woodcock Fund has given C$897,273 to 182 writers; from 2010–2011 alone, the Fund distributed C$85,000 to 11 different authors.[11]

Berton House Writers' RetreatEdit

Berton House Writers' Retreat provides a unique opportunity for 4 professional Canadian creative writers each year to work in a remote northern community for 3 months each. The writer is housed in a two-bedroom bungalow in Dawson City, Yukon, the actual boyhood home of author Pierre Berton. Additionally, a C$6,000 honorarium is provided to allow the author to focus in the remote setting. Over 50 authors have been invited to participate in the program since its inception in 1996, including Pasha Malla, Charlotte Gray, and Chris Turner.

Summer 2014 at Berton House

Berton House Program MandateEdit

  • to promote the arts in the Yukon and Canada
  • to manage and operate the Berton House Writers' Retreat
  • to fundraise for the purpose of supporting the Berton House Writers' Retreat in particular, and the literary arts in general

Professional Canadian authors who have published at least one book and are established in any creative literary discipline (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, play/screenwriting, journalism) may apply for three-month residency.

The writer is expected to perform a public reading at the Whitehorse Public Library and the Dawson City Community Library; as well, the writer is to provide a recent book to local collections.

Berton House in the winter

Writers are encouraged to engage further with the local community by doing such things as:

  • holding writing workshops in the community
  • featuring their work in local and national newspapers and radio stations
  • being available for interviews with local and national media
  • interacting with the public and the local literary communities
  • participating in local events and festivals [12]

The residence is owned and operated by the Writers' Trust of Canada[13] with operational support provided by the Berton House Writers' Retreat Society, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Dawson City Community Library Board, and the Klondike Visitors Association. supports the program as part of a partnership with the Writers' Trust to advance and celebrate Canadian writers and the creation of new works. Additionally, Aeroplan sponsors travel of the writers-in-residence to and from Dawson City; individuals can donate their own miles to support the program through an Aeroplan Pooling Account [2].

In the fall of 2006, HGTV's Designer Guys gave the bungalow an update on their popular interior design show.[14]

Margaret Laurence Memorial LectureEdit

The Margaret Laurence Memorial Lecture series was created in honour of Margaret Laurence (1926–1987), a celebrated novelist and short story writer. The annual lecture series has invited some of Canada's most prominent authors to discuss the theme of "A Writer's Life" in front of their peers since 1987. Notable names such as Hugh MacLennan, Mavis Gallant, Timothy Findley, W. O. Mitchell, Pierre Berton, P. K. Page, Dorothy Livesay, Alistair MacLeod, and Margaret Atwood, among others, have shared the personal challenges they faced in forging their own paths as writers. Approximately 45 minutes in length, the lectures are meant to provide a unique account of a period when a national writing community was just being formed. The series offers insight into the work of Canadian literature's heroes and heroines, the profession of writing as a whole, and Canada's unique cultural history. The Writers' Trust provides a C$5,000 honorarium to each speaker; an anthology of the lecture series was published in May 2011 by McClelland & Stewart to coincide with the 25th anniversary lecture.[15]

Writers' Trust/Humber School for Writers ScholarshipsEdit

The Humber School for Writers Correspondence Program is a seven-month, long distance program which culminates in the creation of a book-length manuscript. For 18 years, emerging writers have been paired with some of the best English language authors from around the world. More than 270 students have gone on to publish books upon completion of the program, including Vincent Lam, Sandra Gulland, Anthony De Sa, and Kim Echlin.

Mentoring the next generation of writers helps to ensure that distinctive Canadian voices will continue to be heard. With this goal in mind, the Writers' Trust provides funding toward scholarships to students enrolled in the Correspondence Program. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of talent as well as financial need.[16]

Events and fundraisersEdit

Politics and the PenEdit

The Politics and the Pen gala is a celebration of Canadian political and literary cultures. Held in Ottawa at the Fairmont Château Laurier, the event brings together national politicians, writers, diplomats, and leaders of the arts and business communities for an evening of food, fundraising, and entertainment. The climax of the evening is the presentation of the C$25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. The event is popular among politicians and their friends; waiting lists for table sponsorships and individual tickets are common.

The 2013 event was held on March 6 and co-hosted by Hon. John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mr. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada.

Authors Kevin O'Leary and Margaret Atwood at the 2011 Writers' Trust Gala

Writers' Trust GalaEdit

The annual Writers' Trust Gala brings leaders of the business and arts communities together to celebrate writing and raise funds for the Writers' Trust of Canada. Corporate donors and individual patrons are seated at a table with a published Canadian author and enjoy an evening of conversation and literary entertainment. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised on this night alone, when more than fifty of Canada's top writers mingle with curious guests. Canadian publishers donate each attending author's recent book, ensuring that everyone goes home with a signed copy.

Berton House BanquetEdit

The Berton House fundraising event brought friends and admirers of Pierre Berton together to raise funds in support of Canadian writers-in-residence at Berton's boyhood home located in Dawson City, Yukon.

The event was supported through the generosity of numerous sponsors, auction item donors, and table and ticket buyers. The final Berton House gala was held in 2012 at Fort York in celebration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

Writers' Trust AwardsEdit

One of Canada's premiere literary events, the Writers' Trust Awards is a celebration of each year's best books and the achievements of Canada's supreme literary talents. The night features the presentation of six literary prizes, together worth more than C$100,000, making it one of the richest awards nights in the country.

The following prizes are awarded at the annual Writers' Trust Awards:

  • Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
  • Writers' Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize
  • Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award
  • Vicky Metcalf Award for Children's Literature
  • Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life
  • Writers' Trust Distinguished Contribution Award

Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction GalaEdit

The Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction is awarded at its own separate gala. The 2012 event was hosted by Albert Schultz, the founding artistic director of Soulpepper Theatre Company. Along with the C$60,000 cash prize, the winner receives a crystal sculpture created by artist Mark Raynes Roberts.

IFOA/Writers' Trust ReadingsEdit

The Writers' Trust supports the Toronto Harbourfront Centre's International Festival of Authors touring program, IFOA Ontario, which aims to extend the program to the whole province. With stops in places such as Hamilton and Port Hope, the IFOA Ontario touring program partners with libraries, bookstores, and community organizations across Ontario to invite writers from all over the world to a wide range of events. Along with nominees for other notable Canadian literary awards such as the Scotiabank Giller Prize, IFOA has invited the shortlisted authors of both the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction to read excerpts from their celebrated works.[17]

In support of the Writers' Trust of Canada's mission to help the Canadian writing community, IFOA extends a 50% discount to writers wishing to attend.

Literary salonsEdit

The Writers' Trust works with individuals to organize private fundraisers called literary salons. Events include dinner parties, evening cocktail parties, weekend brunches, wine tasting experiences, and children's tea parties, to raise funds for the organization. The Writers' Trust helps each host secure an ideal literary guest; past participating authors include Lawrence Hill, Adrienne Clarkson, Margaret MacMillan, and Robert Rotenberg. A literary salon helps to promote the work of a Canadian writer, and all proceeds support the charitable work of the Writers' Trust of Canada.

Author SeriesEdit

In 2013, the Writers' Trust began a new Author Series featuring contemporary Canadian writers. The series launch featured author Linda Spalding, who shared the story behind her newest novel, answered readers' questions, and signed books for fans. These events raise money for the Writers' Trust and are held on weekday afternoons at the Women's Art Association of Canada in Toronto.


External linksEdit