2017 Alberta Literary Awards winners

R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature 

  • Georgia Graham (Lacombe) – Cub’s Journey Home, Red Deer Press

Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction 

  • Gisèle Villeneuve (Calgary) – Rising Abruptly, University of Alberta Press

Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction 

  • Sydney Sharpe and Don Braid (Calgary) – Notley Nation: How Alberta’s Political Upheaval Swept the Country, Dundurn Press

Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama 

  • Vern Thiessen (Edmonton) – Of Human Bondage, Playwrights Canada Press 

Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry 

  • Richard Harrison (Calgary) – On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood, Wolsak and Wynn

James H. Gray Award for Short Nonfiction

  • Austen Lee (Edmonton) – “Among Cougars and Men,” Glass Buffalo 

Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story 

  • Laurie MacFayden (Edmonton) – “Haircut,” Alberta Views

Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Award 

  • Rona Altrows (Calgary) – “Letter of Intent”

WGA Golden Pen Award for Lifetime Achievement 

  • Candas Jane Dorsey

Youth/Emerging Writing Award

  • Katie Bickell, “Angels in the Snow”

Dear Younger Me: Relax, you’ll turn out OK


What would you say to your younger self?

Dear Younger Me … A letter to myself
Sunday, Nov. 6, 2-3:30 p.m.
Latitude 53, 10242 106 St, Edmonton

Six area writers have been invited to pen letters to their younger selves, whether as children or as young adults, and share these aloud with the audience, followed by a Q & A session. The event includes a silent auction, cash bar, and desserts from Cafe Reinette donated by The Writers’ Union of Canada. Proceeds go to our kids camps and sponsoring youth in financial need from Edmonton and rural Alberta to attend.

Marilyn Dumont, Minister Faust, Mieko Ouchi, Thomas Trofimuk, Thomas Wharton and Laurie MacFayden are the featured literati letter writers and presenters. They’ll have copies of their books available for purchase.

Tickets are available at the door for $25.


i filched quarters from my dad’s change pocket
saved them in my baby blue plastic coin purse
i kept letters from a high school boy for far too long
i still have my mother’s thimble
long after my father tossed her recipes
i rescued a purpleblack magpie feather from my cat’s backyard
preserved it in a crevice on the stucco landscape of my little house

i kept my aunt verna’s poodle pin
and the niagara falls teacup from my grandma (another verna
but from the other side of the family)
i cherished the pewter candleholder my mom brought
from finland in 1974 and the brown corduroy beatles cap
my brother surrendered that same year.
i still have the candleholder but gambled away the hat
somewhere between barrie and alberta

for months i saved beer caps that my first love mailed to me;
mementoes of parties he’d been to, 12 years after he first asked me to marry him
under the grapevines when we were five and betrothed for life
eventually i threw out his beer caps
with the cool white jeans i’d bought with my inventory money
to wear when i finally saw him again
i never saw him again

i saved a memory of the polkadot curtains my mom sewed
for my room on no. 2 sideroad; the first room i didn’t have to share with my brothers.
yes, virginia, my first room of one’s own.
my daddy built me a desk for that room and painted it white
and i cling to memories of that furniture, still.
we moved one year later and i wondered if another little boy
or girl would sit at the white desk my daddy made for me

i rescued a wounded baby rabbit
but it was not destined to live a long and happy life
i have hung on to rodeo pins; pins that say schol and copenhagen on them
because those are brands that cowboys chew. baseball players chew, too,
they call it dip, and i will always hold memories of tobacco juice
like grasshopper blick
ending up on my batting practice stenographer footwear.
i have retained the olfactory experience of the clubhouse
its weird blend of liniment and shoe sanitizer, shower steam and old spice
i am cloaked in memories of john ducey park and its dilapidated press box.
a year after i stopped covering that team they tore ol’ ducey down
and replaced it with a new diamond: telus field.
it lacked character and cachet, and instead of hot dogs and popcorn
those cold steel bleachers just smelled like money

i have kept my dad’s red tartan christmas shirt
and my brother’s soccer jersey
they all think i’m a fool for saving these things.
i have trouble letting go.

july 2014

A splash about Kissing

nightswimming LMI’m excited to announce, for those who haven’t already heard, that my second poetry manuscript, titled Kissing Keeps Us Afloat, will be published next September by Frontenac House as part of their annual four-pack, Quartet 2014. I hope those of you who liked White Shirt (Dektet 2010) will enjoy this book as well. The official launches will be next fall, likely in Calgary and Toronto, with some more intimate reading events in the Edmonton area. I’m very excited about this new publishing adventure and will keep you posted as more details emerge.

Right now we’re in the early stages, kicking around cover design ideas, zoning in on the final edit, smoking cigars … and I’ve just sent three copies out into the universe to writers who have generously and graciously agreed to write blurbs for the back of the book.

This book charts much of the same volatile territory as White Shirt – lust, family, secrets, lies. I can confirm that there’s a lot of kissing in this book, and a lot of water. It’s a wet, wet book. From joyous pillow lips to night swimming, first love to last rites, Kissing Keeps Us Afloat is awash in things that buoy us and things that nearly destroy us.

“MacFayden’s poems are bright, colorful splashes of language … boisterous,
roughhousing, tomboyish poems. But for all of their energy
and muscle-flexing, they have a wonderful, carefully crafted artistry
that contains and balances their zesty play on words, zany metaphors
and sexual exuberance. … Poetry and humanity both need her lusty,
never-give-up, never-stay-down spirit wrapped in masterfully executed poems.”
(Rob Jacques, poet and technical writer)


My brother started collecting squirrel skulls at the age of seven. But it is not yet time for madness to enter the story.

My mother found a ring at the Canadian National Exhibition Princess Gates. But it is not yet time for turquoise to enter the story.

I fell in love on the Paris Metro. But it is not time for Trocadero to enter the story.

Still, we have to enter somehow, with the story of something. So how about the story of the thimble in my jewelry box – and how it is the only thing left from my father’s house. He burned mom’s recipes and gave away her coats. Who would want them? he asked the daughter, seriously.

So I rescued her thimble and keep it preserved. And I guess that in itself is a little bit of madness and, in fact, is proof that it’s never too early for madness to enter a story.

Collecting squirrel skulls is certainly madness. My brother didn’t kill the squirrels, I hope you didn’t think that; that would be seriously mad. No, he just saved and preserved skulls he found in the woods; he had good eyes, good skills for such a thing. Our father had been a naturalist and taxidermist from the age of 13 so in our family this sort of thing was considered not even close to madness. When my father’s mother, my grandmother Clem, killed herself at 38, her madness was swept under the rug. His collections of bird and small animal skulls provided some kind of intricate, earthy solace.

The ring? Why did I save my mother’s thimble instead of the turquoise ring? I don’t know, really. The thimble seemed more her to me. She sewed some clothes for me with it. If you know what I mean.

trocadero-2I’m starting to think the turquoise ring would fit better inside a story about love on the Paris Metro. So now it is time to introduce Trocadero to the story.

There is no Eiffel Tower stop, you see; you have to know that you get off at Trocadero if you want the best view of the tower. There is a flat plane leading up to it, and always lots of people selling Eiffel Tower trinkets. Key chains. Pens. Sunglasses. Statuettes. Bottled mineral water that says Evian on the label but you suspect has been replaced with tap water. Counterfeit Evian. Paris is just that kind of place. You love and trust it even as you are suspicious of everything.

Trocadero. Did I really find love there? Seriously? No.

But I really love the sound of Trocadero. Troc-a-de-ro. Trocadero. I also love the sound of Vavin – which is a Metro stop close to another Paris tower – the less famous, big black monolith of Montparnasse that’s world-class ugly and completely soul-less. Apparently there is a view, but why would you go up to see that when you can just sit in the Odessa Cafe and enjoy the swirling sepia tones of the City of Light?

Vavin. Va-vin … Va va va voom … TROCADEEEEEEERO!

I fell in love with a boy on the Paris Metro. He was wearing a turquoise ring and reminded me a bit of my little brother. He made art that induced madness in squirrels.