This week, Blue Met announced the creation (and first winner) of the Blue Metropolis Violet Prize. You can read the announcement here.
I’ve been working hard on this for the past six months. Last year, when Blue Met asked if I wanted to create an LGBTQ prize to add to their roster of awards, I said yes. Canada only has one real LGBTQ literary prize (that I know of), and that is the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Prize for emerging writers. I thought, if we were to do it, we should create something to recognize the contributions of established writers (who are often overlooked for their books), and in both official languages.
I enlisted the help of my good friend Robbie Schwartzwald, a professor at Université de Montréal. Between the two of us, we came up with the criteria. We knew that we wanted to award it to a writer for their body of work, and not just one title. And we thought it important to have two separate juries, and give the prize to a French-language writer one year and an English-language writer the next.
In order for it to carry weight, the prize would need to have a significant purse. So we brought our proposal to Air Canada to see if they would support the initiative. Air Canada has a long-standing tradition of supporting the gay and lesbian community (they were one of the first corporate sponsors we had for Divers/Cité back in the 90s). I was thrilled when they accepted our proposal.
For this first year, we decided to award a French-language writer and put together a jury composed of three well-respected professionals: Domenico A. Beneventi (professor of comparative literature at Université de Sherbrooke), Marie-Ève Blais (librarian at L’Euguélionne, Montreal’s feminist bookstore) and Line Chamberland (professor in UQAM’s sexology department). Together they selected poet, novelist and essayist Nicole Brossard as this year’s winner. A legend in Quebec, Nicole has made a lasting impact on feminist and lesbian culture with her more than 40 books. I couldn’t be happier with their selection.
Nicole will receive a $5,000 prize, provided by Air Canada, at a special prize ceremony co-presented by Never Apart on April 26. And that’s just the beginning. Blue Met gave me the green light to produce another LGBTQ series for this year’s festival (April 24-29, 2018). I’m calling it Violet Metropolis, and we’ll have five events, in English and French. The events will be announced on March 19 at the festival press conference. Watch this space in the coming weeks for more info.