Margaret Laurence Lecture Series

Jean Little

The Margaret Laurence Lecture Series invites Canada's most prominent authors to discuss the theme of “A Writer's Life." Among others, MacLennan, Gallant, Findley, Mitchell, Berton, and Atwood have all shared candid stories of how they became writers. 

Intimate, frank, and revealing in tone, these lectures give us unprecedented access to our nation's literary luminaries—insights into their work, the profession of writing, and the cultural history of Canada. The Writers’ Trust provides a $5,000 honorarium to each speaker. 

This year’s lecture will be delivered in Toronto by Jean Little, a pioneer in the writing of children’s literature.

Friday, June 17, 2016
Harbourfront Centre Theatre | 231 Queen's Quay West, Toronto 
8pm Lecture | Reception to follow
Free with a CWS pass

Purchase Tickets

A successful contemporary writer of children's fiction, Jean Little has won acclaim in Canada and abroad and written more than 50 books. She was educated at the University of Toronto and was a special-education teacher before turning to writing full time following the publication of her first book, Mine for Keeps, in 1962. Almost blind since birth, she uses much of her real-life experience as the basis for her writing. Her novels, picture books, and poetry treat with insight such universal themes as loneliness, alienation, intolerance, family stress, and the difficulties in interpersonal and intercultural relationships. Little’s characters often deal with physical disabilities or confront psychological difficulties. Her best-known book is From Anna (1972), which has sold more than 130,000 copies. She is a past recipient of the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People and the Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life. Little lives in Guelph, Ontario.

Canadian Writers' SummitThis event is part of the Canadian Writers' Summit being held in Toronto between June 15-19. If you have already purchased your conference pass, please contact the Harbourfront box office at 416 973-4000 to reserve your free Margaret Laurence Lecture tickets.

Past Lectures

Kay,Guy-GavrielListen to Guy Gavriel Kay's 2015 lecture, where he returned to his hometown of Winnipeg to argue that the value of a writer’s life lies in the words they give us, not the life they lead. He cautioned his fellow writers against seeking shortcuts, gurus, or trivializing their craft, and underlined the supreme value of the written word.

vanderhaeghe_guyRead Guy Vanderhaeghe's 2014 lecture, which includes a professional blessing from Margaret Laurence herself. Vanderhaeghe describes how his early life of over achievment circuitously led to a passion for history and literature, and thanks his mother for being his luckiest break.

Lorna CrozierListen to Lorna Crozier's 2013 lecture. Inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke, Crozier entitled her lecture "Letters to a Younger Writer," and framed it as a series of ten letters written by a younger poet. Over the course of her 45 minute lecture, she shared stories of what mattered most to her and passed on words of wisdom to aspiring young writers. 

Dionne Brand
Listen to Dionne Brand's 2012 lecture, an ode to what is written and what is withheld, what is said and what is left unsaid. In her lecture, "Versos 11," Brand explores the recursive nature of the left-hand page while recreating past memories using masterfully rhythmic language.   

Read complete transcripts of past lectures by Mavis GallantAlistair MacLeod, and Farley Mowat.   

A Writer's Life_Margaret Laurence Lecture Anthology


An anthology of the lecture series was published in May 2011 by McClelland & Stewart to coincide with the 25th anniversary. For anyone who loves great literature—or aspires to write it—this is an essential collection, full of insight, wisdom, humour, and candour from Canada's most important and beloved literary figures.  



  • 2016 Jean Little
  • 2015 Guy Gavriel Kay
  • 2014 Guy Vanderhaeghe
  • 2013 Lorna Crozier
  • 2012 Dionne Brand
  • 2011 Graeme Gibson
  • 2010 Marie-Claire Blais
  • 2009 Elspeth Cameron
  • 2008 Josef Skvorecky
  • 2007 Margaret Atwood
  • 2006 Antonine Maillet
  • 2005 Rudy Wiebe
  • 2004 Audrey Thomas
  • 2003 Alistair MacLeod
  • 2002 Janet Lunn
  • 2001 William Deverell
  • 2000 Peter C. Newman
  • 1999 P.K. Page
  • 1998 Al Purdy
  • 1997 Edna Staebler
  • 1996 W.O. Mitchell
  • 1995 Farley Mowat
  • 1994 Pierre Berton
  • 1993 June Callwood
  • 1992 Timothy Findley
  • 1991 Maria Campbell
  • 1990 Roch Carrier
  • 1989 Dorothy Livesay
  • 1988 Mavis Gallant
  • 1987 Hugh MacLennan



Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize 
Third Deadline

July 27, 2016
For books published between
May 25 - Sept 30

Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
Third Deadline

July 27, 2016
For books published between
May 25 - Sept 30

Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing  
First Deadline

June 15, 2016
For books published between
Jan 1 - June 14

Woodcock Fund



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