CW MFA: 2021 in Review
While our ever-growing alumni list makes it impossible to account for all MFA community achievements, we always try to capture some annual highlights to share…
Firstly, congratulations to those who published books in 2021 (which you can learn more about and order directly through the links provided in the author’s names). We welcomed new novels from Elisabeth de Mariaffi, Sophie McCreesh, Jael Richardson, Zoe Whittall, and David Whitton; a memoir from Hollay Ghadery; and poetry collections from David Bradford, Liz Howard, Sheniz Janmohamed, and Bardia Sinaee. Alumni Eufemia Fantetti and Ayelet Tsabari were also co-editors of—and contributors to—Tongues: On Longing and Belonging Through Language, an anthology which features essays by fellow MFA grads Sahar Golshan and Janet Hong, among others.
Spoken Word artist Britta B. also performed at a number of festivals this year, while playwrights Robert Chafe, Anna Chatterton, Christopher Duthie, Natasha Greenblatt, and Radha S. Menon, presented theatre works both virtually and in-person. Emily Kellogg co-created the popular horror-fiction podcast Parkdale Haunt, and Rebeccah Love’s short film, Parlour Palm, became available on CBC Gem.
Current MFA candidate Deepa Rajagopalan won this year’s RBC/PEN Canada New Voices Award for her short story, “Peacocks of Instagram.” Sheung-King’s You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked. was a Governor General’s Award fiction finalist, as well as an Amazon First Novel Award finalist, along with Jael Richardson’s Gutter Child (also a CBC Best Book of 2021, and year-end overall National Bestseller). Zoe Whittall’s internationally acclaimed The Spectacular nabbed a spot on the CBC Best Books of 2021 list, and Chris Bailey’s fiction was included in Best Canadian Short Stories 2021. Yohani Mendis was longlisted for the CBC Nonfiction Prize.
During our last annual update, we were able to share the news of graduate—and now incoming MFA Faculty member—Canisia Lubrin’s Windham Campbell Prize and OCM BOCAS Prize wins. Her stunning sophomore poetry book, The Dyzgraphxst, has since won the coveted Griffin Poetry Prize (Canada), and was also named co-winner of the Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry. Canisia, Yohani Mendis and Zoe Imani Sharpe were also recently featured in Best Canadian Poetry 2021, while A. Light Zachary and Kayal Vizhi were longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize.
Congratulations to alumna Manpreet Dhaliwal, who received the prestigious University of Guelph D.F. Forster Medal this year—an award which recognizes academic achievement, motivation, leadership and citizenship and is presented annually to one convocating Master's student and one PhD student. Sheniz Janmohamed is currently writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto Scarborough, and Julie Mannell joined the editorial of Dundurn Press’s new Rare Machines imprint. Our grads hold leadership roles at universities, colleges, and other venues across Canada and abroad and make meaningful contributions to the literary community in countless ways.
Warm congrats to MFA instructor Carrianne Leung, who will be joining Canisia Lubrin as one of the newest Assistant Professors in Creative Writing in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. SETS introduces a new Creative Writing undergraduate major this fall to join our hugely successful MFA, which celebrated its fifteenth anniversary in 2021 with an online event, Write Now: Change the Future, part of the Toronto International Festival of Authors. Heartfelt thanks to Catherine Bush for her many deeply formative years designing and leading our MFA program as she steps down as MFA Coordinator in July 2022. Canisia Lubrin will take over in the Coordinator position. We wish Catherine the best in her continued teaching duties and special projects at the University of Guelph. Want an in-depth discussion on the past, present, & future of the U of G Creative Writing MFA and new CW Major? Check out this recent Word on the Street feature with current and incoming program co-ordinators, Catherine and Canisia (linked here).
The MFA continues to publish HELD Magazine, which is committed to prioritizing contributors who identify as Black, Indigenous, racialised, 2SLGBTQ+, and those living with disabilities. Our Speakeasy reading series saw another successful virtual season, hosted by Nadia L. Hohn and Emily Kellogg, and we recently welcomed alumna Libby Johnstone as our MFA administrator.