Sask Book Awards showcase local literati
You probably already know this, but Saskatchewan has a talented writing community. However, you may be wondering “where are these talented writers?” and “what are they writing?”
Well, this weekend I found the answers to these questions in one room. On the night of Saturday, Nov. 27, Saskatchewan’s literati gathered together to eat, drink, and celebrate the province’s writing community at the 18th Annual Saskatchewan Book Awards. The event, hosted at the Conexus Arts Centre by CBC Radio host Sheila Coles, began with a cocktail hour where guests had the opportunity to mingle with fellow writers, prominent members of the community, and award nominees.
The Saskatchewan Book Awards celebrates excellence in writing and publishing. It began in 1993 with Peter Gzowsky as the first guest speaker. The award event has expanded to include fourteen awards and is recognized as an important literary event envied by other provinces and territories. Award winners are determined through a jury process by jurors from outside of the province who have expertise in each award category. More than 400 people attend this event annually.
After finally getting everyone seated at their tables, the program began. Along with Liberal MPs Bob Rae and Ralph Goodale and Minister of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport Bill Hutchinson, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Dr. Gordon Barnhardt was in attendance. As a self-professed reader and writer, Dr. Barnhardt gave a charismatic greeting offering his utmost support for the province’s literary community. Following dinner, Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate, Robert Currie, presented his poem “Honour” to mark his last appearance at the Saskatchewan Book Awards as Poet Laureate. This is an honourable distinction and one wonders what talented writer will fill this newly open position.
Perhaps one of the greatest treats of the night for both nominees and guests was the speech given by guest speaker and critically acclaimed Canadian author Steven Galloway. Galloway reached international critical acclaim for his novel The Cellist of Sarajevo. Fittingly, before Galloway graced the podium to give his speech, guests enjoyed a musical selection performed entirely by cellists. Galloway expressed his appreciation for the Saskatchewan writing scene and discussed how fortunate the province is to have such wide-spread support for writing via The Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild and The Saskatchewan Arts Board. In his speech, dotted with humour, Galloway discussed the elitism awards events are often condemned for. However, he suggested that events like these are necessary because writers and publishers are able to celebrate and acknowledge each other’s hard work.
The Saskatchewan Book Awards did an excellent job of rewarding the hard work Galloway mentioned. The award categories range from fiction, non-fiction, and publishing awards to the Prix du Livre Francais and the First People’s Writing Award. Among the nominees were several University of Regina professors (i.e. Dr. Kathleen Wall, Dr. Andrew Stubbs, Dr. James McNinch, and Dr. Mitch Diamantopoulos). The Book of the Year award went to David Carpenter for A Hunter’s Confession (Greystone).
I was lucky to sit at a winner’s table. I sat with the partners of Purich Publishing Ltd. who won two of three awards for publishing.
One of the highlights of the night was the opportunity to speak to Saskatchewan Book Award nominees for 2010 and have them sign your books.
The University of Regina bookstore supplied the books for sale. A list of the 2010 award nominees and recipients is available online at bookawards.sk.ca.