Mayor's Arts Award for Literary Arts

Profile image of Joanne Arnott and Wil to Write (Wil George)

2017 recipients

Joanne Arnott


Joanne Arnott is a Métis/mixed-blood writer and arts activist, originally from Manitoba, at home on the West Coast. Her first book, Wiles of Girlhood, won the Gerald Lampert Award (LCP 1992). She published eight further books, including Halfling spring (Kegedonce 2014), A Night for the Lady (Ronsdale 2013), Mother Time (Ronsdale 2007), and (as editor) Salish Seas: an anthology of text + image (AWCWC 2011).

Her essays and poetry appear in over 25 anthologies and a similar number of journals. She has been called to judge poetry and nonfiction on behalf of BC Book Prizes, the Governor General’s Awards, and others. A frequent performer, Arnott was a founding member of the Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast, a past volunteer with The Writers Union of Canada (National Council) and The Writers’ Trust of Canada (Author’s Committee). A grand multipara, mentor, editor, and blogger, Arnott is currently Poetry Editor for EVENT Magazine.

Wil to Write (Wil George)

Emerging artist

Wil to Write (Wil George) is a Coast Salish poet from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Wil to Write’s work is published in various literary magazines and literary journals, including Ricepaper magazine and Salish Seas Anthology published by Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast. His poetry book, Survival In Its Many Shapes, was published by UNIT-PITT Projects. Wil to Write's poetry focuses on water bodies (inlets, rivers, oceans, etc.) and the land (mountains, forests, shorelines, etc.). He also uses Wolf and Raven from traditional Salish stories in contemporary settings, and to address contemporary issues.

Past recipients

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Betsy Warland


Betsy Warland has written 12 books of poetry, creative non-fiction, and lyric prose including bestseller Breathing the Page – Reading the Act of Writing (2010). In April 2016, Oscar of Between – A Memoir of Identity and Ideas was one of two books that launched Caitlin Press’ new imprint, Dagger Editions.

In 1975, Betsy initiated the Toronto Women’s Writing Collective. She also initiated and co-coordinated the Women and Words – les femmes et les mots conference (Vancouver, 1983), which brought together a thousand women from across Canada. She designed and directed The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University from 2001-2012 and initiated the annual DTES Writers’ Jamboree at Carnegie Centre (2008-2012).

In 2004, Betsy co-founded the cross- Canada Creative Nonfiction Collective; in 2007 she founded the six-month Vancouver Manuscript Intensive program, where she continues to mentor. She has been a professional creative writing teacher and manuscript consultant/editor for the past 30 years.

Jónína Kirton

Emerging artist

Jónína Kirton, a prairie born Métis/Icelandic poet and facilitator, currently lives in Vancouver, the unceded territory of the Coast Salish people. Jónína graduated from The Writer’s Studio at Simonn Fraser University in 2007, is currently a member of their Advisory Board and is the liaison for their Aboriginal Advisory Board. She is also a member of the Room Magazine Editorial Board. 

Her work has been featured in numerous anthologies and literary journals including, Ricepaper’s Asian/Aboriginal Issue, V6A: Writing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out, Pagan Edge, First Nations Drum, Toronto Quarterly and Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine.

Her first collection of poetry, page as bone – ink as blood, released in April 2015 by Talonbooks, has been described as “restorative, intimate poetry, drawing down ancestral ideas into the current moment’s breath.” Her next collection of poetry, An Honest Woman, is scheduled for release in the Spring 2017 with Talonbooks.

Kate Braid


Kate Braid has written, edited and co-edited 11 books of poetry and non-fiction about subjects ranging from Emily Carr and Glenn Gould to BC mine workers and fishers.

In addition to co-editing with Sandy Shreve the ground-breaking book of Canadian form poetry, In Fine Form, she has published six books of poetry.

Her poetry has won or been shortlisted for a number of awards – local, provincial and national – and her essays and poems are widely anthologized.

After teaching creative writing for 12 years, Kate now gives readings, lectures and workshops across Canada, sometimes centred on her 15 years of experience as a construction carpenter and activist for Women in Trades.

She is one of the organizers of the Dead Poets Live Reading Series and frequently serves on book prize juries. In 2012, she was declared one of the Vancouver Park Board’s Remarkable Women of the Arts.

Rob Taylor

Emerging artist

Rob Taylor is the author of the poetry collection The Other Side of Ourselves (Cormorant Books, 2011) and four poetry chapbooks, most recently Smoothing the Holy Surfaces (The Alfred Gustav Press, 2012).

In 2004, Rob co-founded Simon Fraser University’s High Altitude Poetry, which distributed 10,000 free student poetry zines. In 2006, he co-founded One Ghana, One Voice, Ghana’s first online poetry magazine.

He is a past poetry editor at PRISM international and Red Fez magazines.

In 2011, Rob helped “resurrect” the Dead Poets Reading Series. He is a board member with the BC Book Prizes and a member of a medical research project exploring how poetry can increase physician empathy around the diagnosis of depression.

Rob is currently completing his master’s degree in creative writing at UBC, and lives in Fairview with his wife and son. In his free time, he coaches the Burnaby North Secondary School’s ultimate frisbee team, which he co-founded.

Daniel Francis


Daniel Francis, 2014 Mayor's Arts Award for Literary Arts honoureeDaniel Francis was born and raised in Vancouver and is the author of two dozen books, principally about Canadian, British Columbian, and local history.

His books cover a diverse range of subjects from prostitution in his native city to the history of whaling, and are recognized for combining engaging narrative with the investigation of deeper historical themes.

Daniel is editorial director of the Encyclopedia of British Columbia (Harbour Publishing), which has been acclaimed as one of the most important books about the province ever published. His biography Mayor Louis Taylor and the Rise of Vancouver won a City of Vancouver Book Award. For several years, he has written a regular column on books for Geist magazine, the Vancouver-based literary quarterly.

In 2010, Daniel was shortlisted for the prestigious Pierre Berton Award, which recognizes excellence in bringing Canadian history to a wide popular audience.

Michal Kozlowski

Emerging artist

Michal Kozlowski, 2014 Mayor's Arts Award for Literary Arts emerging artistMichal Kozlowski was born in Krakow, Poland and now calls Vancouver home. He is the assistant publisher of the literary magazine Geist. He has written dozens of reviews and articles for Geist, many about Vancouver artists, photographers, and publishers.

Michal is the author of the children’s book Louis the Tiger Who Came from the Sea, which was shortlisted for a Chocolate Lily Award in 2013. His fiction has also appeared at External website. He is a founding member of the Vancouver Memory Collective and a director of the Vancouver Memory Festival, an annual festival made up of talks, readings, and exhibitions on the subject of public memory.

George Fetherling


2013 Literary Arts Honoree George FetherlingGeorge Fetherling, a poet, novelist and cultural commentator, has been a wide-ranging and prolific figure in Canadian writing for more than 45 years. He has published many works concerned with Vancouver and British Columbia, including his book The Sylvia Hotel Poems, his novel Jericho, and his collection of short fiction Tales of Two Cities. For six years he was the regular book columnist for the Vancouver Sun. His most recent publications are a volume of selected poems entitled Plans Deranged by Time and a memoir in diary form, The Writing Life: Journals 1975-2005.

The Globe and Mail has cited him as a person “who, for most of his life, has been thinking about what makes good writing, and it shows.” The Montreal Gazette has called him “a mercurial, liberal intelligence…
the kind of which English Canada has too short a supply.” To the Toronto Star he is simply a “legendary” figure in Canadian writing. In all, he has published 50 volumes of fiction, verse, memoir, travel narrative, history, and criticism. Xtra described him as “something of a national literary treasure.”

Rahat Kurd

Emerging artist

2013 Literary Arts Emerging Artist Rahat KurdRahat Kurd is a poet and a prose writer at work on a memoir about creating Muslim culture in Canada. She was mentored by Betsy Warland in the Vancouver Manuscript Intensive Program in 2012, and has read her work at Real Vancouver Writers’ Series, Simon Fraser University lunch poems, the Writers’ Studio Readers Series, and at the Rhizome Café.

Her work has been nominated for National Magazine Awards in the categories of Poetry and Personal Journalism (2011) and shortlisted for a CBC Literary Award (2007). Her essays on art, film, books, and culture have been anthologized by Granta and appeared in several publications including Maisonneuve, Geist, and The Literary Review of Canada. Kurd wrote and illustrated Reading Rights: A Woman’s Guide to the Law in Canada, which was commissioned by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and published in 1999 by Quarry Press.

William New


2012 Honouree Artist William NewWilliam New is a poet, children's writer, and literary commentator. He was born and raised in Vancouver and educated at the University of British Columbia and the University of Leeds. New is now retired from teaching at UBC, where for 18 years he also edited the journal Canadian Literature.

His most recent book, YVR (2011), is a set of poems about Vancouver as it was during his childhood and as it is now. Among his other 50 books are Underwood Log (shortlisted for the Governor General's Award), The Year I Was Grounded (Honour Book, Lion & Unicorn Award for North American poetry for children), Vanilla Gorilla, Borderlands: How We Talk About Canada, and the Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada.

An avid gardener, New is married with two children and two grandchildren. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2006.

Onjana Yawnghwe

Emerging artist

2012 Emerging Artist Onjana YawnghweOnjana Yawnghwe was born in Chiang Mai, Thailand to Shan parents who escaped Burma in the 1970s. She grew up in Vancouver and was educated at the University of British Columbia, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in English Literature.

She began writing poetry 12 years ago upon discovering the work of American poet Galway Kinnell. Yawnghwe's poems have been published in a number of journals and anthologies, including 4 Poets and The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2011.

More recently, she collaborated with JackPine Press to produce the chapbook The Imaginary Lives of Buster Keaton, copies of which were made entirely by hand.

Yawnghwe makes a living as an office worker at a Vancouver non-profit and lives in Burnaby with her husband Shane and Pique the cat.

The 2012 peer jury was Brian Kaufman, Evelyn Lau, and Alan Twigg.

Alan Twigg


2011 Literary Arts Honouree Alan TwiggAlan Twigg has written sixteen books, produced six television documentaries, hosted a CBC television series, and can be frequently head on CBC radio's North by Northwest program in a segment called Turning Up The Volumes.

He is the publisher/owner and writer of BC Bookworld, Canada's largest circulated independent publication about books, founded in 1987 Alan also founded and manages a public service reference site for and about more that 9,700 BC authors.

Among his many awards, he was the first recipient of the Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contributions to literature and publishing in British Columbia. Alan founded or co-founded the BC Book Prizes, the VanCity Women's Book Prize, and the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for BC authors. Most recently, Alan contributed the introduction to a new biographical study of Chekhov.

Glynis Whiting

Emerging artist

2011 Literary Arts Emerging Artist Glynis WhitingGlynis Whiting is a Vancouver-based filmmaker who switches hats from producer to director to writer, often within the same project.

Glynis has more than 20 films under her belt, many shot locally, including Gone Sideways and The Weight of the World for CBC's The Nature of Things, When Girls Do It for CTV, and TAP!, her current project featuring the fabulous Hot Flash Hoofers.

What she's always wanted to do more than anything else is to write prose. Glynis started her first prose project at the age of five, but it wasn't until the autumn of 2010 that she completed her first novel about a female chemist who lives in Vancouver and uses her highly tuned senses to solve homicide cases. A Nose for Death is currently being considered by Thistledown Press for publication while she's already at work on the second novel in the Nosy Parker Murder Mystery series.

The 2011 peer jury was Brian Kaufman, Daphne Marlatt, and Evelyn Lau.

Evelyn Lau


2010 Honouree Artist Evelyn LauEvelyn Lau was born in Vancouver in 1971. She is the author of five volumes of poetry, two collections of short stories, two works of non-fiction, and a novel. Her memoir Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid, published when she was 18, was made into a CBC movie starring Sandra Oh.

Evelyn’s poetry has been selected for the Best American Poetry and Best Canadian Poetry series; it has also received the Milton Acorn Award, a National Magazine Award for Poetry, and a Governor-General’s Award nomination. Her prose books have been translated into a dozen languages worldwide, and her essays in magazines have won four Western Magazine Awards. Evelyn has also sat on numerous literary juries and been a mentor to aspiring writers.

Kaitlin Fontana

Emerging artist

2010 Emerging Artist Kaitlin FontanaKaitlin Fontana is an award-winning writer, born and raised in Fernie, who currently resides in Vancouver. Her work has appeared in the Walrus, Maisonneuve, Event, Room, SPIN, Rolling Stone, and Exclaim!, among other publications.

In 2005, she won the Event Creative Non-Fiction contest and a National Magazine Award for her piece, Sleeping with the Dead.

She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and is currently working towards her MFA at UBC. Next fall, ECW Press will release Kaitlin’s first book, a history of Vancouver’s Mint Records. She is also at work on a book of essays. Kaitlin would like to thank the Mayor, her mother, Alistair Cook, and Evelyn Lau for the honour.

The 2010 peer jury was Stephen Osborne, Brian Kaufman, and Daphne Marlatt.

Brian Kaufman


2009 Honouree Artist Brian KaufmanBrian Kaufman founded subTerrain Magazine in 1988 to promote emerging and experimental writers and has seen 53 issues of the edgy literary magazine into print.

He has served as the executive director of the sub-TERRAIN Literary Collective Society since its inception, and has served on the boards of the Literary Press Group of Canada, the Association of Book Publishers of BC, and was a founding member of BCAMP (BC Association of Magazine Publishers).

Under the imprint of Anvil Press Publishers, Mr Kaufman has issued upwards of one hundred titles into print in all literary genres.

Susan Steudel

Emerging artist

2009 Emerging Artist Susan StuedelSusan Steudel is a three-time winner of the Vancouver International Writers Festival Contest. Her poem “Scenes” was shortlisted for the 2008 CBC Literary Awards, and her poem “Restricted Access: Route 3” was a finalist for Arc’s Poem of the Year Award in 2007. Her poetry has appeared in The Fiddlehead, subTerrain, and Existere and is forthcoming in The Malahat Review and CV2. Susan works as a court reporter in Vancouver and abroad. She lives with her partner and two sons.

The 2009 peer jury was Brad Cran and Stephen Osborne.

Daphne Marlatt


Based in Vancouver, Ms Marlatt has written more than 20 books of poetry, fiction, and essays. In the 1970s, she worked as an oral historian in both the Japanese-Canadian fishing community of Steveston and the multicultural neighbourhood of Strathcona, editing two collections of interviews for the Provincial Archives. In 2006, she was made a Member of the Order of Canada. Over the years, she has taught at several universities, particularly Simon Fraser, and has served as writer-in-residence and mentor to emerging writers at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

The 2008 peer jury was Amir Ali Alibhai, Greg Bellerby, Barbara Cole, David Dove, Arthur Erikson, Gathie Falk, Anne Marie Fleming, Susan Gordon, Michel Jacob, Bruno Marti, Terry McEvoy, Laurie McGauley, Barbara-Jo McIntosh, John McLachlan, George McWhirter, Eric Metcalfe, Jonathan Middleton, Melanie O’Brian, Stephen Osborne, Christina Ritchie, Jim Sinclair, Trudy Van Dop, Lorenz von Ferson, and Hal Wake.