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Thunder Bay authors win Writers' Trust awards

Ruby Slipperjack and Diane Schoemperlen honoured at Toronto ceremony
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THUNDER BAY -- The Writers' Trust of Canada has recognized the work of two Thunder Bay authors.

The 2017 Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People goes to Ruby Slipperjack.

The city resident, a member of the Eabametoong First Nation, will receive $25,000 along with the award, which recognizes a body of work.

In announcing the award at a ceremony in Toronto Tuesday night, the jury described Slipperjack as a trail-breaker in the field of Indigenous literature and of children's literature in general.

It said her work welcomes readers into the lives of young Anishinabe protagonists "whose vigorous, resilient voices carry us into family and community, into tiny northern towns and reserves, and over a fast expanse of forest, rock, river and lake. In subject matter and setting, she ranges where no other children's writer has gone."

In its citation, the jury told Slipperjack "you remind us all of the power of culture, family, traditions, inheritance."

The retired professor in Lakehead University's Indigenous Learning Department has written seven novels including, most recently, Dear Canada: These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens.

Diane Schoemperlen, born and raised in Thunder Bay, received the Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life, also worth $25,000.

Schoemperlen, currently living in Kingston, has published several collections of short fiction and three novels.

In its citation, the selection committee said "she has dissected not only genres but words themselves, penetrating the arcane elements of language as a means of getting at what is fundamental to the human heart."

There was also a third Thunder Bay connection to the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust awards competition.

Toronto Star reporter Tanya Talaga was a finalist for the $60,000 prize for nonfiction for Seven Fallen Feathers, which focuses on the tragic deaths of Indigenous students in Thunder Bay.