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About the Program

It could be the best three months of your life — a time to reflect, to discover the land, and to fully dedicate yourself to your work-in-progress. 

Due to pandemic travel restrictions, Writers' Trust is currently unable to bring writers to Yukon. We are optimistic about resuming regular Berton House operations and issuing a call for applications in summer 2021. 

Berton House is a cozy cottage on the edge of Dawson City, Yukon on the traditional territory of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch’in. The community is situated at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers, where for countless generations the Hän speaking people have lived alongside a diverse mix of families descended from Gwich’in, Northern Tutchone, and other language groups. The Tr'ondëk Hwëch’in traditional lands extend from the Yukon valley into the mountains to the north and south, and include Tombstone Territorial Park, a must-see wilderness of "rugged peaks, permafrost landforms and abundant wildlife." The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in have been a self-governing Yukon First Nation since 1998.

The Berton House Writers' Retreat has special roots as Writers' Trust co-founder Pierre Berton’s childhood home. Since becoming a writing residency in 1996, the little home on Eighth Avenue has hosted 84 writers and played an influential role in the publication of dozens upon dozens of manuscripts. Poets, fiction authors, creative nonfiction writers, playwrights, and writers of children’s literature are invited to apply. Housing and travel costs to and from Dawson City are covered by the Writers' Trust. Residents also receive a $9,000 honorarium, part of which may be covered by the Canada Council for the Arts’ Research and Creation grant program. Writers are required to deliver two public readings and encouraged to interact with the community and Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre during their stay.

The discovery of gold in the Yukon in 1896 brought an estimated 100,000 prospectors to the Klondike region of the Yukon. Many settled in Dawson City and Tr’ochëk, an important fishing camp across the river from Dawson. The fast migration had an immediate impact on the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in way of life, as did the building of the Alaska Highway in 1942.

Current Writer-in-Residence

Greg Bechtel

Greg Bechtel’s debut story collection, Boundary Problems, won the Alberta Book of the Year Award for trade fiction in 2015, and was a finalist for the ReLit Award and the William L. Crawford Fantasy Award. He teaches English literature, creative writing, and writing studies at the University of Alberta.

Bechtel is currently at Berton House, where he is working on a novel about amnesia, climate refugees, ghost-possession, and polyamorous relationships set in a future Edmonton.

The House

Berton House is a fully furnished two-bedroom bungalow located on Eighth Avenue, between Mission and Hanson in Dawson City, Yukon, five hundred kilometers north-west of Whitehorse.

The house is situated on the southern edge of town on “Writers’ Row,” across the street from Robert Service’s historic cabin and just up the street from Jack London’s cabin. 

The home includes a bedroom, kitchen, dining room, living room, office, and bathroom and is fully-furnished and fully equipped (i.e. sheets, towels, dishes, etc). All the amenities necessary for you to immerse yourself completely in your work are provided (internet access, telephone, television, dishwasher, laundry). Plus, the house features a unique library containing Canadian North treasures, Pierre Berton’s voluminous collection, and works published by Berton House alumni. 

In 1989, Berton himself contributed $50,000 to the Yukon Arts Council so his childhood home, vacant and run down at the time, could be a place for Canadian authors to experience the north and pursue their craft. An eclectic and vibrant northern community, Dawson boasts a mixture of First Nations heritage and gold rush history blended with active gold mining and tourism industries as well as a thriving arts scene.  

Partners

While Berton House is owned and administered by the Writers' Trust of Canada, crucial operational support is provided by the Dawson City Community Library Board, the Klondike Visitors Association, and the Whitehorse Public Library. 

Further gratitude goes to Aeroplan for their generosity in supporting travel of the writers-in-residence to and from Berton House through their Beyond Miles program. Consider donating your own miles to support the program.