CW MFA: Year in Review
In light of the uniquely challenging times in which we find ourselves this spring, we feel privileged to share a snapshot of some of our student and alumni accomplishments over the past year. Let’s take the opportunity to celebrate.
Our grads have been busy as always. Becky Blake, Lauren Carter, Nancy Jo Cullen, Adnan Khan and Nick Tooke published novels and Christine Ottoni released a book of short stories. Eufemia Fantetti and Ayelet Tsabari published memoirs. Claire Caldwell, Mathew Henderson, Canisia Lubrin and Tyler Pennock published poetry. Shane Neilson published books of poetry and criticism. Playwrights David James Brock, Robert Chafe, Anna Chatterton, Simone Dalton, Radha Menon and Marilo Nunez saw their work produced at major regional theatres in Canada and the US, while filmmaker Kathleen Hepburn premiered a feature length drama internationally.
On the fiction front, Leanne Milech won the $10k Carter V. Cooper Fiction Award (Emerging Writer) for her short story “The Light in the Closet”; Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s novel Hysteria was nominated for the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award: and Janet Hong was a finalist for the PEN Translation Award for her translation of Ha Seong-nan’s Flowers of Mould & Other Stories from Korean. Nancy Jo Cullen’s The Western Alienation Merit Badge was also named a top book of 2019 by the 49th Shelf and Canisia Lubrin and Leanne Toshiko Simpson were included in the 31st edition of the Journey Prize Stories.
Our memoirists and nonfiction writers also gained notice. Simone Dalton was awarded the $10k RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award for a promising nonfiction newcomer. Ayelet Tsabari’s The Art of Leaving was a finalist for the Writer’s Trust of Canada’s Hillary Weston Prize for Nonfiction and named by Kirkus, the New York Times, Apple Reads and CBC Books as a top title of 2019. Over in the poetry world, Bardia Sinaee was a co-winner of this year’s Robin Blaser Poetry Award from The Capilano Review and Jimmy McInnes was included in Best Canadian Poetry 2019.
Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’ co-written and directed film The World Remembers When the Body Broke Open premiered on the festival circuit, eventually winning the $100k Toronto Film Critics Award, as well as honours ranging from ImagiNATIVE’s Best Dramatic Feature to the Vancouver Film Critics Best Canadian Film and Director awards, among others; it is now distributed by Ava Duvernay’s Array Releasing and available on Netflix USA. Kathleen also received an Outstanding Alumni Award from Simon Fraser University.
We are additionally thrilled to report that the University of Guelph MFA’s very own student team won the annual Toronto International Festival of Authors Lit Jam—an improv storytelling competition—not once, but twice in a row. Congrats to the 2019 and 2020 participants: Kai Taddei, Preeti Dhaliwal and Miguel Leandro Gamboa; and Britta Badour, Nathania Barnett and Matthew Cook, respectively.
In the broader community Jael Richardson, Artistic Director of the Festival of Literary Diversity, was recognized with the 2019 Writers Union of Canada’s Freedom to Read Award. Recent Writer- and Artist-in-Residence appointments include Liz Howard (Sheridan College), Radha Menon (McMaster University, Theatre Arts) and Canisia Lubrin (Queens University). Canisia will also be joining the our national Frankfurt Book Fair delegation for the upcoming spotlight on Canada. Shane Neilson co-founded the Guelph-based indie publisher Gordon Hill Press which will publish poetry, literary fiction and nonfiction, as well as criticism. Our graduates continue in leadership roles teaching writing through U of T, George Brown, Humber College, Humber School for Writers, Sheridan, the King’s College Nonfiction MFA, and many other venues.
Online initiatives continue to pop up to help us stay connected—keep tabs on our Facebook and Twitter feeds for more community news. You can check out some of the amazing projects our MFA community members are undertaking during COVID-19.
Cancelled launches and events are a particular blow right now. We encourage you to order books directly from publishers and indie bookstores to show support as you are able.