Open Letter re: Manitoba Book Awards Cuts

We were disappointed to hear of the pending cuts to the prizes provided by the provincial government for three Manitoba Book Awards - the Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction/Prix Alexander-Kennedy-Isbister pour les études et essais, the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, and le Prix littéraire Rue-Deschambault – administered by the Manitoba Writers Guild and the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers. We have written the following open letter in support of their request to have this decision reversed.


Open Letter to the Province of Manitoba and the Department of Culture, Heritage and Tourism

August 13, 2013


To: Premier Greg Selinger

The Hon. Flor Marcelino, Minister of Culture, Heritage & Tourism

Ms. Cindy Stevens, Deputy Minister CH&T

Ms. Veronica Dyck, Assistant Deputy Minister CH&T

Mr. Sam Baardman, Director of Arts Branch

Mr. Victor Enns, Publishing Consultant, Arts Branch


On behalf of The Writers’ Collective of Manitoba, we write to express our disappointment that the Province will no longer be supporting the three provincial book prizes with cash awards for the winning writers, and to lend our support to the Manitoba Writers’ Guild (MWG) and the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers (AMBP).

The three awards – the Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction/Prix Alexander-Kennedy-Isbister pour les études et essais, the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, and le Prix littéraire Rue-Deschambault – honour local writers and increase public awareness of the quality and diversity of Manitoba books.

As an organization that represents and serves emerging writers in Manitoba, we know how important a thriving, local literary community is. Our members look to Manitoba writers as examples for how to bring their unique stories to the page and achieve success in the publishing world.

Provincial awards such as these provide a milestone for new and emerging writers to aspire to as they seek publishing opportunities at home and abroad. As the MWG and AMBP have stated, the cash prizes validate the important role Manitoba writers play in expressing the province’s unique culture, and provide much-needed resources to work on new material.

We join with the MWG and AMBP in asking the Province to reconsider its decision and continue to provide cash prizes for writers. At a total annual cost of $8,750 these prizes represent a small investment for the Province, but a significant support to the winning writers. We would remind the Province that creative industries play a significant role in our provincial economy and identity and that writers are an integral part of our creative industry.

Thank you for your consideration.




The Writers’ Collective of Manitoba

Hilary Friesen, President

Eve Dutton, Vice President

Kimberly Sperling, Secretary

Thembani Mdluli, Director

Anita Daher, Program Coordinator

Hilary Friesen

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5 Responses to “Open Letter re: Manitoba Book Awards Cuts”

  1. Debbie Strange says:

    Excellent letter, Hilary! I appreciate all of you for your onging commitment and your staunch support of our writing community. We are lucky to have you…

    On another note, congratulations on your marriage. In the words of Shakespeare, I wish you…

    “Honour, riches, marriage-blessing,
    Long continuance and increasing,
    Hourly joys be still upon you!
    Juno sings her blessings upon you.”


  2. Debbie Strange says:

    oops, make that ongoing commitment…

  3. Jeff Charney says:

    Perhaps the Manitoba Government feels the Manitoba Writing Community is “non-existent!” Therefore has decided to withdraw any or all funding ?

    Has there ever been a book written on all the good the Manitoba Government has done for the Community?

    I know there has been a lot of “bashing.” But c’mon folks , there is plenty of good as a result of our Elected Government. An example would be our highways. Throughout the Summer construction crews have been out there working on bits and pieces .. Making upgrades and repairs to our local streets and avenues. Making significant improvements. Perhaps we should spend a little ink in Compliment of their great effort. Ad a little cheerfulnes

  4. Hilary Friesen says:

    Debbie, thanks for the support!

    Jeff, we certainly understand that the provincial government has many competing funding priorities, and we believe that in many instances, it does do good work. However, given the comparative budgets, we don’t think that cutting the book award prize funding will make a sizeable dent in the investment needed to maintain our infrastructure. The small amount of funding required is negligible for the government, but potentially huge for the winning authors.

  5. Jeff Charney says:

    Dear Hilary,

    The prize of the contest is merely a “treat” for the winner. I believe it is the challenge the writer enjoys, the excitement, and in some cases, it may be the motivation of a contest.

    I also believe the future and beauty of mankind relies on our creative minds. And with that ,”we must always put our best foot forward.”

    Good luck at the contest !

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