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2023 Writers’ Trust Awards Winners

The Writers’ Trust Awards is one of the richest and most robust literary events in Canada. At the 2023 awards ceremony, seven literary awards and more than $322,000 was presented to Canadian writers. Prizes were given for best books of the year and for career achievement in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and literature for young readers.

This reading list spotlights 2023 award winners, some of Canada’s top writers of the year.

Kai Thomas

“In this exceptional debut, Kai Thomas deftly and compassionately braids deeply engrossing stories within stories that explore a little-known aspect of Canadian history. In the Upper Country is a mesmerizing, lyrical testament to the power of storytelling, as this is among the protagonists’ tools for survival in a harsh reality rife with violence and dehumanization. Thomas immerses us in the novel’s compelling landscape where, despite an honest depiction of the effects and consequences of enslavement for Black and Indigenous peoples in Canada, hope remains palpable.”

◢ 2023 Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Jury (francesca ekwuyasi, Alix Hawley, MG Vassanji)

◢ Read more about Kai Thomas

Christina Sharpe

“With tenderness, bravery, and razor-sharp poetic language, Christina Sharpe invites the reader to witness the ordinary joys and sorrows of Black lives and how they are transformed within the everyday reality of systems of racial supremacy. In doing so, shecreates a new narrative space at once intimate, deeply informed, and uncompromising. Guided by a deep backbone of scholarship, Ordinary Notes calls upon the reader to witness and wrestle with the notes and stories that Sharpe, a scholar and poet, so generously shares with us. To read this book is to turn toward a voice and listen as if our lives depend on it—and risk being changed in the process.”

◢ 2023 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction Jury (Eve Joseph, Michelle Porter, and Dan Werb)

◢ Read more about Christina Sharpe

Anuja Varghese

Chrysalis is an electric array of queer, feminist, and mythical short stories. Varghese uses aspects of Hindu folklore and magical realism to transform her stories into powerful tales. Elements of queerness are sprinkled throughout, turning our perception of love stories on their head. The writing is focused and vivid with characters that are unapologetic and feisty; they love who they love and do not shy away from stepping into their powerful selves. These are not typical diasporic stories of food, identity, and belonging, but rather ones that weave together thematic complexities of the historical horrors of colonialism with queerness and joy.”

◢ 2023 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers Jury (S. Bear Bergman, Nicholas Dawson, and Sharanpal Ruprai)

◢ Read more about Anuja Varghese

Helen Humphreys

“Helen Humphreys has said that writing a novel is like trying to break out of the prison you’ve created by your idea. In that sense, Humphreys is an accomplished escape artist, having written twelve novels, five books of poetry, and five books of nonfiction.   


In her most recent work, such as Machine Without Horses and the forthcoming Followed by the Lark, she explores the fertile territory in the overlap between fiction and nonfiction, and between nature and the human experience. Humphreys’ quiet brilliance has made her one of Canada’s most beloved writers. In book after book, she has led her many readers into ever new and exciting territory.”

◢ 2023 Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life Selection Committee (Patsy Michelle Good, Wayne Grady, and Hal Wake)

◢ Read more about Helen Humphreys

Kyo Maclear

“The author of nineteenpicture books, Kyo Maclear dives into subjects as clearly defined as the life of an artist, to those as amorphous as a city, a fog, or a spell of depression. Her prose is clean, clear, and restrained; at the same time, it’s subtly poetic, mingling unpredictable imagery, dialogue, and situations with evocative — sometimes even startling — effect. 

It’s a testament to Maclear’s creativity, unexpected perspectives, and varied subject matter that her publishers have chosen to have her stories illustrated by a wide variety of artists. The artists’ dramatically different styles, mixed media and inventiveness open manifold nuances of meaning, joyously confirming the bounty ofinterpretive possibilities in her work.  


What makes her stories most extraordinary is that they are allusive, suggestive, a mode of approaching what is vital, but puzzling. Instead of giving directions or answers, she invites interpretation and pondering, awakening curiosity, imagination and understanding through unusual imagery. Using wordplay, she can surprise her readers with what seems a direct, simple narrative, but instead provides humour, rich insight, and deeper questioning.”

◢ 2023 Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People (Deirdre Baker, Andrea Curtis, and Itah Sadu)

◢ Read more about Kyo Maclear

Anosh Irani

“In four remarkable novels, two plays, and a collection of stories, Anosh Irani’s bold and courageous choice of subjects challenges us to witness and confront uncomfortable truths. Irani chooses to inhabit characters for whom hope is an unaffordable luxury. As he skillfully reveals and illuminates the circumstances of the choiceless and voiceless, he keeps our gaze on the depredations of power. 


Whether he is writing stories about caste conflict, street children, or transgender individuals, Irani’s compassion, imagination, and keen eye for the absurd shine through. His immense talent is complemented by his dedication to the craft. His window-pane prose is admirable, as is the artful balance he maintains between expressiveness and reticence. 


Irani’s work has left an indelible mark on the literary landscape, and we hope he will continue to touch our hearts and broaden our understanding of the human experience.”

◢ 2023 Writers’ Trust Engel Findley Award (Connor Kerr, Michael Redhill, and Shauna Singh Baldwin)

◢ Read more about Anosh Irani

Laisha Rosnau

“With incisive descriptions, steady rhythms, and imaginative leaps, Laisha Rosnau’s work shows us the flaws and fragility of being human. Her expansive body of work addresses personal and global issues in language sometimes woven delicately, and other times with necessary force. Ultimately, we are left with the desire to read more from this striking and intelligent poetic voice. The poet takes on themes of immigration, patriarchy, colonial greed, and war; the poet’s body of work to date is unrelenting in its portrayals, but not without depth and complexity. Lines like: ‘We live in a world saturated by symbolism. Sometimes it is best to be direct’ remind us of the power of poetry to be clear-eyed and insistent on the injustices and atrocities of our past, which are still with us in the present moment.”

◢ 2023 Latner Griffin Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize (Madhur Anand, Joseph Dandurand, and Dina Del Bucchia)

◢ Read more about Laisha Rosnau