The University of Guelph’s Creative Writing MFA program had much to celebrate in 2016, including the program's ten-year anniversary, which we honoured with an event at this year's International Festival of Authors (IFOA). Graduates and current students also published more than a dozen books and presented several new theatrical works. It’s unlikely we’ve captured everything, but here’s an attempt at a year-in-review snapshot of some well-deserved recognition received by members of our MFA community.
There were some big wins this year, quite literally...Liz Howard’s debut poetry collection, Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent, won the Griffin Poetry Prize (and made the National Post’s ‘NP99'), and Soraya Peerbaye’s Tell: Poems for a girlhood, won the Trillium Book Award for Poetry (in addition to being shortlisted for the Griffin). Zoe Whittall received the K.M. Hunter Artist Award for Literature this year for her outstanding body of work across genres; Adnan Khan was the recipient of the 2016 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award; and Ayelet Tsabari received the Edward Lewis Wallant Award for Jewish fiction for her story collection The Best Place on Earth.
Zoe Whittall’s The Best Kind of People was a Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist, a ‘Globe 100’ and ’NP99’ pick, and named a book of the year by Now Magazine, CBC, and the 49th Shelf. Andrew Kaufman won a ReLit Award for The Tiny Wife, and in fiction for the younger set, Jael Richardson’s The Stone Thrower, Mahak Jain’s Maya, and Richard Scrimger's Lucky Jonah were named CBC Best Books of 2016. Matt Lennox’s second novel Knucklehead is currently long-listed for Canada Reads 2017, and faculty member Michael Winter’s Minister Without Portfolio was a Canada Reads finalist last spring.
In the realm of drama and performance, Anna Chatterton was named one of Now Magazine’s top ten theatre artists of the year (she wrote/co-wrote four shows, performing in two of them); Mark Marczyk's touring production of Counting Sheep won the Scotsman Fringe First Award and the Summerhall Top Prize at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; and Kathleen Hepburn’s short film Never Steady, Never Still won 3 Leo Awards (best short film, best director, and best screenplay). Rebecca Love was also chosen by TIFF and The Globe and Mail as one of Toronto's DIY filmmakers to watch.
2016 saw graduates included in several annual anthologies: Jeff Latosik and Kilby Smith-McGregor in Best Canadian Poetry; Mahak Jain in the Journey Prize Stories; and Lauren Carter in Best Canadian Stories. No less than ten of our graduates participated in the IFOA, and many more travelled to participate in festivals and residencies across Canada and internationally (of particular note: Andy McGuire’s trip to China as an IFOA delegate and Claire Caldwell’s trip to the Yukon as a Berton House Writer-in-Residence). Congratulations are also due to faculty member Judith Thompson, who received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Queens University.
We are proud of our alumni who are also leaders in the broader community. Jael Richardson, founding Artistic Director of the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD), organized a ground-breaking weekend of events in Brampton in May and has secured funding for the festival’s return in 2017; Kathy Friedman and Eufemia Fantetti began running workshops as part of InkWell, their creative writing initiative delivered in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association; Laurie Graham became publisher of the magazine Brick; and alumni Jacob McArthur Mooney named alumni Canisia Lubrin as an incoming co-host of the venerated Pivot Reading Series.
Sadly, this was also the year we lost Iris Turcott, an outstanding faculty member and friend. Her impact on many MFA drama students, and Canadian theatre at large, has been immeasurable. We’ll miss you, Iris.