Faculty, Instructor and Graduate Finalists for Governor General's Award

October 13, 2010 - News Release

A University of Guelph professor, a University of Guelph-Humber instructor and a Guelph-Humber graduate are among finalists for the 2010 Governor General's Literary Awards.

Drama professor Judith Thompson, School of English and Theatre Studies, was selected for her play Such Creatures. Karen Connelly, who will teach in the creative writing master of fine arts (MFA) program at Guelph-Humber, was chosen for her memoir, Burmese Lessons: A Love Story. Sandy Pool, a recent MFA graduate, was nominated for her narrative poem Exploding Into Night.

The nominees were announced Wednesday by the Canada Council for the Arts.

This year’s award recipients will be announced Nov. 16 in Montreal. Winners will receive $25,000, and finalists will be awarded $1,000.

One of Canada’s most distinguished playwrights, Thompson won Governor General’s drama awards in 1989 for The Other Side of the Dark and in 1984 for White Biting Dog.

Set in 1945 Germany and modern-day Toronto, Such Creatures tells the stories of a teenaged girl dealing with gangs, weapons, addictions and foster families and of a woman recalling her imprisonment as a teenager at Auschwitz. Both characters draw on Shakespeare’s words in The Tempest to express themselves.

The idea for Such Creatures emerged after a Guelph student read a letter by an Auschwitz survivor, written at 15, for a class assignment. Thompson said she was so haunted by the story that she was compelled to create a character.

A U of G faculty member since 1992, she won the 2009 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award for her play Palace of the End. In 2008, she was a finalist for a Governor General's Literary Award and was the first Canadian to win the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

A two-time Genie Award nominee and a finalist for the inaugural Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, Thompson has won the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award. In 2005, she was named an Officer of the Order of Canada, considered the country’s highest honour for lifetime achievement.

Connelly has written nine books of poetry, non-fiction and fiction. Burmese Lessons: A Love Story is based on her journey through Southeast Asia in 1996. Her memoir meshes the political history of Myanmar (formerly called Burma) and Thailand with personal experiences, including those of a child labourer and a bereaved mother.

Connelly has won the Pat Lowther Award for poetry, the Governor General’s Award for non-fiction and Britain’s Orange Broadband Prize for New Fiction for her first novel, The Lizard Cage. Published in 2005, The Lizard Cage was compared by the New York Times Book Review to works by George Orwell, Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Nelson Mandela, and was hailed in the Globe and Mail as “one of the best modern Canadian novels.”

Pool’s narrative poem Exploding Into Night, her first poetry collection, delves into a grisly murder that took place in the Parkdale area of Toronto. A selection of poems from this collection won first place in the 2009 Elora Writers' Festival poetry contest. Pool was in the inaugural class of Guelph-Humber’s MFA creative writing program and graduated in 2007.

This year’s Governor General’s finalists are featured in today’s Globe and Mail.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982 or d.healey@exec.uoguelph.ca.

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