April 6, 2023

UCalgary authors take all 3 finalist spots for W.O. Mitchell Book Prize

Suzette Mayr, Vivek Shraya, and Joshua Whitehead vie for prestigious literary award
Suzette Mayr, Vivek Shraya, and Joshua Whitehead
From left: Suzette Mayr, Vivek Shraya, Joshua Whitehead. University of Calgary files

UCalgary’s exceptional contribution to the Calgary literary scene was recognized from on high this week as the shortlist was announced for the prestigious W.O. Mitchell Book Prize and the three finalists are all UCalgary writers.

Suzette Mayr, Vivek Shraya, and Joshua Whitehead, all of whom teach, or have recently taught, in the Department of English, were named as the finalists for the esteemed prize, awarded each year by The City of Calgary and the Writers’ Guild of Alberta.

Mayr, a long-standing professor in the department, is nominated for The Sleeping Car Porter, a novel already much heralded after it landed her Canada’s top literary award last year when she won the $100,000 Giller Prize. Shraya, an associate professor, is nominated for People Change, and Whitehead, an assistant professor, is up for Making Love With the Land.  

UCalgary’s sweep of the W.O. Mitchell Book Prize shortlist speaks to the continuing excellence of the Department of English Creative Writing Program says author and professor Aritha van Herk, no stranger herself to literary awards and great acclaim.

“It’s a measure of the energy that emanates from our creative writing program,” van Herk says. “Fostering creative cauldrons like this adds so much to the University of Calgary’s reputation and culture. This demonstrates how incredibly important it is.”

UCalgary writers also made a strong showing this week as the Writers’ Guild of Alberta announced its finalists for the 2023 Alberta Literary Awards. The Sleeping Car Porter netted Mayr another nomination, this time for the Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction. Meanwhile, Shraya was nominated for the R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature for Revenge of the Raccoons.

Alberta Literary Award winners will be announced at a gala celebration on June 3. Finalists will be doing readings in Edmonton and Calgary on April 23 and 26, respectively. Details of those readings have yet to be announced.

The three W.O. Mitchell Book Prize finalists will be doing public readings on April 13 at 7 p.m. at Shelf Life Books. The winner will be announced at a ceremony June 14.

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