Margaret Laurence Lecture Series

Graeme Gibson delivering Margaret Laurence Lecture 2011

Graeme Gibson delivers the 25th anniversary Margaret Laurence Lecture on May 24, 2011 at the Toronto Reference Library (cr. Ian Sullivan Cant)

For the past twenty-nine years, the Margaret Laurence Lecture Series has invited Canada's most prominent authors to discuss the theme of “A Writer's Life." MacLennan, Gallant, Findley, Mitchell, Berton, and Atwood, among others, have all shared candid stories of how they became writers. 

Intimate, frank, and revealing in tone, these lectures give us unprecedented access to the heroes and heroines of Canadian literature, insights into their work, the profession of writing, and the cultural history of our country.

2015 Lecture

Guy Gavriel Kay
May 29, 2015
Free and open to the public
8 - 9pm, Reception to follow
Eckhardt Gramatté Hall
University of Winnipeg
515 Portage Avenue


Guy Gavriel Kay was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan and raised in Winnipeg. He published his first novel, The Summer Tree, to acclaim in Canada and abroad in 1984. The novel was the first of the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy. Eleven more novels have followed including Tigana, A Song for Arbonne, and most recently, River of Stars. His work has been described as “history with a quarter-turn to the fantastic"and his novels, inspired by history, have been vital in bridging the divide between literary fiction and the literature of the fantastic.

Kay has been awarded the International Goliardos Prize, is a two-time winner of the Aurora Award, and won the 2008 World Fantasy Award. Last year, he was named a member of the Order of Canada in recognition of “his contributions to the field of speculative fiction as an internationally celebrated author.” Kay lives in Toronto with his wife and sons.

Past Lectures + Podcasts

Read 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.

Listen to a podcast of 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. 

Listen to a podcast of 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," 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
The Writers’ Trust provides a $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 lecture. 



  • 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
and Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
Second Deadline

May 27, 2015
For books published between Mar 25 - May 26

Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing
First Deadline

June 10, 2015
For books published between Jan 1 - June 9

Berton House writer-in-residence

October 2, 2015

Woodcock Fund



Recommended Reading List

We asked some of Canada's finest writers about their favourite books of 2014.

Read their Recommendations.


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