Ottawa’s Elizabeth Hay wins $60K Writers’ Trust prize for non-fiction

Elizabeth Hay. Photo: Mark Fried

Ottawa writer Elizabeth Hay has won the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust prize for non-fiction for her memoir of acting as a guardian and caregiver for her aging parents called All Things Consoled: A Daughter’s Memoir (McClelland & Stewart).

“Hay’s prose elevates this ordinary rite of passage — the death of one’s parents — to something rare and poetic,” raved jury members Michael Harris, Donna Bailey Nurse and Joel Yanofsky. “Page-after-page this is a masterclass in observation — a lesson in how meaning can emerge from grief.”

ARTSFILE’S Paul Gessell said of Hay’s memoirAs a novel, this book would have been heartbreaking. But, being a memoir, it is 10 times more powerful. Those of us who have lived through similar experiences with aging, ailing parents can discern the truth to Hay’s book. For the uninitiated, be prepared for what may be coming.”

In January, 2009, Hay’s parents, Gordon and Jean, left their home in London, Ont., for a seniors residence in Ottawa South. Gessell wrote: “Jean, an artist, had various cognitive and mobility issues. Gordon, a retired school principal, was healthier but was as foul-tempered and gruff as he had been for much of his life. They left their London home to become, in Elizabeth’s words, ‘two eroding icebergs sitting in my bay’.”

Hay’s memoir is a timely story for our times.

The winner of the $50,000 Writers’ Trust fiction prize is B.C. writer Kathy Page for her novel Dear Evelyn (Biblioasis), a wartime romance inspired by love letters between her own mother and father.

Page beat out four other contenders, including Esi Edugyan and Rawi Hage.

Other winners:

• Winnipeg writer David Bergen won the $25,000 Matt Cohen Award for his distinguished career.

• Toronto’s Alissa York received the $25,000 Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award (which Hay won in 2002) which honours a writer of fiction for their mid-career body of work.

• Jordan Scott of Royston, B.C., won the $25,000 Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize. The award goes to a mid-career poet.

• Christopher Paul Curtis, of Windsor, Ont., won the $25,000 Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People.

• Shashi Bhat of New Westminster, B.C., was the winner of the $10,000 Writers’ Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize which recognizes the best short story published by an emerging writer in a Canadian literary magazine, Her story is called Mute and was published by The Dalhousie Review.

Share Post
Written by

Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.