Manitoba Book Awards Cuts
Recently we were informed of cuts targeting cash prizes to authors at the Manitoba Book Awards. Working with the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers, the letter below was sent yesterday. We will continue to work with the AMBP with the aim of continuing these awards.
July 31, 2013
To: Premier Greg Selinger
The Hon. Flor Marcelino, Minister of Culture, Heritage & Tourism
Ms. Cindy Stevens, Deputy Minister CH&T
Ms. Veronica Dyck, Assistant Deputy Minister CH&T
Mr. Sam Baardman, Director of Arts Branch
Mr. Victor Enns, Publishing Consultant, Arts Branch
On behalf of the Manitoba Writers’ Guild and the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers (AMBP) we write to express our disappointment in the province’s decision to no longer support the three provincial book prizes – the Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction/Prix Alexander-Kennedy-Isbister pour les études et essais, the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, and le Prix littéraire Rue-Deschambault – with cash awards for the winning writers. The Isbister and Laurence awards (administered by the AMBP) are presented annually and the rue-Deschambault (administered by the Guild) is presented every second year, as part of the Manitoba Book Awards.
Support for Manitoba writers is vital. A cash prize validates the important role that Manitoba writers play in expressing the province’s unique culture. Furthermore, it provides a writer with much needed resources to work on new material and reinforces the importance of their craft in our cultural industry. With so few opportunities for writers to be recognized by their home province, it is discouraging to see the Province of Manitoba withdraw its support from writers while many other provinces, including Ontario’s respected Trillium Book Awards, continue to honour writers with cash prizes.
These three awards, with prizes of $3,500 each (making the total cost of all three prizes $8,750 a year, averaged over two years) were established by the provincial department of Culture, Heritage and Tourism in the year 2000 to promote excellence, honour local writers, and increase public awareness of the quality and diversity of Manitoba books. The awards have been accomplishing these goals. An impressive list of contemporary writers including Miriam Toews, David Bergen, Simone Chaput, Armin Wiebe, and J.R. Léveillé have been recipients of these awards over the last twelve years. Many of these writers have gone on to receive international acclaim, a fact that speaks to the high quality of Manitoba’s writers. Many of the winning books are set in Manitoba and bring our unique culture and history to the forefront of the literary world, proving that audiences want to read about our province and its people. As administrators of these awards, we have also been exceptionally proud that these awards honour writers in both official languages.
These awards were named to honour important historical figures that helped shape our province, while celebrating the accomplishments of present-day local writers.
The Margaret Laurence award for Fiction was named as a tribute to the Neepawa writer best known for her Manawaka novels, including The Stone Angel (1964). She has put Manitoba on the map for a nation of readers.
The Alexander Kennedy Isbister award for Non-Fiction recognizes the contributions of the late explorer, fur trader, teacher and notable
Aboriginal rights reformer.
Le Prix littéraire Rue-Deschambault is named in honour of a well-known book written by renowned writer Gabrielle Roy (1909-1983). She is considered by many to be one of the most important francophone writers in Canadian history and one of the most influential Canadian authors.
We appreciate that the province will continue to support the administration of the awards. Although we understand the budget concerns faced by the province and the difficult decisions that the province must wrestle with, we hope the province will reconsider its decision and continue to provide cash prizes for writers.
Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact either Carolyn Gray, Executive Director of the Manitoba Writers’ Guild or AMBP Executive Director Michelle Peters. Ms. Gray may be reached by phone at 204.944.8013 or by email at email@example.com. Ms. Peters may be reached by phone at 204.947.3335 (office) or 204.793.1678 (cell), or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your consideration.
Joanne Epp, President – Manitoba Writers’ Guild
Carolyn Gray, Executive Director – Manitoba Writers’ Guild
Cheryl Miki, President - Association of Manitoba Book Publishers
Michelle Peters, Executive Director - Association of Manitoba Book Publishers