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Last Modified: April 12, 2023
Nominate a Deserving Alberta Writer

What writer does not dream of a gift of time? Wrap up that gift in a $50,000 cheque and you are beginning to understand one of the motives behind The Prairie Grindstone Prize, a new literary award announced March 1, 2023. Conceived, developed, and funded by an anonymous donor who loves Canadian literature and has a special appreciation for the talent of prairie writers, this annual prize will be awarded this year to one Alberta writer, next year to a Saskatchewan writer, and alternating in this way in the future.

It could be argued that literary works written later in a career are more interesting. Writers find their stride and their abilities expand. But writing over years, even decades, may not be sustainable. The Prairie Grindstone Literary Prize is designed to recognize emerged and continually emerging writers at the midpoint of a thriving career with the hope that a financial boost of time, short term financial security, or opportunity might offer an incentive to keep writing.

But The Prairie Grindstone Literary Prize is not a book prize. It is an award that acknowledges the achievements of an engaged mid-career prairie writer.

What defines an engaged mid-career prairie writer? For the determination of this prize, it is a writer of tremendous range and depth, who has professionally published at least four books of fiction, poetry and/or nonfiction, who has built a strong reputation and presence within the literary community, and who shows promise to continue publishing high quality work for years to come. They must also have lived in the province of nomination (this year, Alberta) for at least five years.

The prize is intended to support current and future work. This award will, we hope, spur the winner to finish a project, or carve out time to think creatively about a new project. To take risks, to go on research trips, or attend workshops or retreats. Perhaps to tackle a long-planned and difficult project. But prize winnings can also be used to pay bills. Or babysitters. The recipient of this award will be able to make whatever decision is best for him/her/them. And the accountability for winning? Almost nothing. Twice during the award period, we will metaphorically knock on the winner’s door (mid-way and towards the end) to ask, how is your writing year going?

And though this is indeed a prize that aims to elevate prairie writers while cultivating appreciation for and understanding of Western Canada’s landscape, people, history and culture, the writing the jury considers is not limited to the celebration of wide open skies, bleakly oppressive winter landscapes or the land and its people over different eras. Prairie writers have a vast array of stories to tell and the Prairie Grindstone jury is open to considering a wide range of subject matter and style.

The winner will be selected by a four-member jury who will debate, discuss and read, if not familiar with the writers’ body of work, during the month of May. For this inaugural prize year, our jurors are: Aritha van Herk, perhaps the writer and teacher most responsible for illuminating the prairie novel to writers and readers over the past decades; Carol Holmes, past executive director of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, an avid reader and member of Alberta’s literary scene; Tomas Jonsson, curator, writer and visual artist residing in Treaty 4 Territory (Regina), where he is Curator of Moving Image and Performance at the Dunlop Art Gallery; and Lisa Murphy Lamb, jury chair, as well as an author, director of former literary, creative space Loft 112, and recent recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal.

Who knows? Nominating a writer whose work and contribution you admire might not only grant them the $50 000 gift of time, but also an opportunity to share their past work with a wider audience, making connections with new readers. We also hope The Prairie Grindstone Literary Prize can be a catalyst for the winner’s future work, a boost of encouragement and a sincere thank you for shaping a more layered and rich Canadian literary landscape. And maybe, it can be debated, that the later works penned are not the more interesting ones, but wouldn’t it be exciting to find out? Nominate a deserving Alberta writer for The Prairie Grindstone Prize today, before the April 15th deadline.

Here’s what you need to know at a glance:

  • Deadline: April 15, 2023 at midnight. 
  • Writers may not self-nominate, so we invite members of the writing community to nominate a deserving Alberta writer with a one page letter stating why. That’s it.
  • Winner announced June 1, 2023.
  • Find full details through our website.
  • IG: @prairiegrindstoneprize
  • FB: Prairie Grindstone Prize.
  • Contact us or send nomination through our email: Lisa Murphy Lamb—Jury Chair or Stacey Walyuchow—Marketing and Design.
  • Email:


Headshot of Lisa Murphy Lamb

Lisa Murphy Lamb is author of Jesus on the Dashboard (Stonehouse Publishing, 2017), community builder, literary and arts programmer. As former owner of Loft 112 a literary, community and arts space in Calgary’s East Village, Lisa won the Mayor’s 2021 SANDSTONE CITY BUILDER Award and this year the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee award. Important to building community, Lisa is forever on the hunt for interesting and important stories to bring us together and those that tell them. She is the Jury Chair of The Prairie Grindstone Literary Award and the liaison between the anonymous donor committee and the public