Writers’ Trust of Canada renaming fiction prize after Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson


The Writers’ Trust of Canada is renaming their fiction prize in honour of Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson.

With the name change comes an increased prize purse. The Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize will award $60,000 to the year’s best work of fiction, up from the $50,000 that was awarded in previous years.

The prize will now be funded by businessman and philanthropist Jim Balsillie. Balsillie is the former co-CEO of Research in Motion.

The Writers’ Trust of Canada has awarded an annual fiction prize since 1997.

Last year’s winner was Gil Adamson for her novel Ridgerunner.

Other past winners include Austin Clarke, Alice Munro, Lawrence Hill, Miriam Toews, Emma Donoghue, André Alexis and David Chariandy.

Neither Atwood nor Gibson were ever nominated for the prize that now bears their name.

Digital Archives14:18Graeme Gibson and Margaret Atwood discuss writing

Graeme Gibson interviews the acclaimed writer. 14:18

The Writers’ Trust of Canada is an organization that supports Canadian writers through literary awards, fellowships, financial grants, mentorships and more. 

It gives out seven prizes in recognition of the year’s best in fiction, nonfiction and short story, as well as mid-career and lifetime achievement awards.

The organization gave out more than $970,000 to support Canadian writers in 2020.

Atwood and Gibson were among the five co-founders of the Writers’ Trust of Canada, alongside fellow writers Pierre Berton, Margaret Laurence and David Young.

“The Writers’ Trust is the quiet giant of Canadian literature and Graeme and I often marvelled at how far it had come over the years,” Atwood said in a press statement. “We knew the role a major prize could have on a writer’s confidence and career, not to mention their bank account. I can’t wait to discover the new voices and new stories that this prize rewards.”

“The Atwood Gibson Prize is fantastic news for Canadian writers,” fellow co-founder and playwright Young said in a press statement.

“Margaret and Graeme lit the founding fire that brought the Writers’ Trust into being so many years ago. This prize is a perfect way to commemorate their vision and commitment to the broad ecosystem of our literary culture.”

Gibson died in 2019, at the age of 85. Atwood and Gibson were longtime partners, they had one child together.

Gibson was a noted conservationist and the author of seven books: the novels Five Legs, Communion, Perpetual Motion and Gentleman Death and the nonfiction books Eleven Canadian Novelists Interviewed by Graeme Gibson (which included a conversation with Atwood), The Bedside Book of Birds and The Bedside Book of Beasts.

He also co-founded Writers’ Union of Canada and served as president of PEN Canada. He has also been a council member of World Wildlife Fund Canada and chairman of the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, which he was instrumental in establishing. He became a member of the Order of Canada in 1992. 

Atwood is one of Canada’s most celebrated writers. She has been publishing poetry, fiction and nonfiction since the 1960s. Her acclaimed books include The Handmaid’s TaleAlias GraceOryx and Crake and The Edible Woman. Her early poetry collection The Circle Game won the Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry. She would go on to win 

She also won the Booker Prize twice, in 2000 for The Blind Assassin and in 2019 for The Testaments. She shared the 2019 prize with British writer Bernardine Evaristo. She also won the Giller Prize in 1996 for Alias Grace.

She was named a companion to the Order of Canada in 1981. She also co-founded the Griffin Poetry Prize.

The 2021 finalists for the Atwood Gibson Prize will be announced on Sept. 28, 2021. The winner will be announced on Nov. 3, 2021.



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