Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Rising Stars: In Conversation

composite image of Writers' Trust five rising star authors arrange horizontally.

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Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Rising Stars: In Conversation

Wednesday June 5, 2019, 7 pm

Join the Writers’ Trust of Canada in celebrating the rising stars of Canadian literature. The country’s next generation of literary talent takes the stage at the unveiling of a multi-faceted career development program that advances their careers and highlights their work with an endorsement from a proven, influential author. Five notable Canadian writers have each chosen one writer who is poised to produce exceptional and enduring creative work. 

Join us to hear from the selectors:  David Chariandy, Charlotte Gray, Taras Grescoe, David Adams Richards, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, and the writers they have chosen: Melissa J. Gismondi, El Jones, Chelene Knight, Dana Mills, Deborah Ostrovsky.


Melissa J. Gismondi is a writer and journalist, who holds a PhD in American history from the University of Virginia. Her writing has appeared in major media outlets, including The Washington Post, Salon, Toronto Star, and The Walrus, among others. As a radio and podcast producer, she contributes to national network programs on CBC Radio and the podcast BackStory. She splits her time between Toronto and Charlottesville, Virginia. Gismondi was selected as a Rising Star by Charlotte Gray.

El Jones is a spoken word poet, professor, radio host, and community activist living in Halifax, where she served as Municipal Poet Laureate from 2013 – 2015. Her first book of poetry, Live from the Afrikan Resistance!, was published in 2014. She was appointed Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in 2017, and is the co-creator of Black Power Hour, a radio show developed collectively with prisoners aired on CKDU-FM. Her weekly column appears online in the Halifax Examiner. Jones was selected as a Rising Star by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.

Chelene Knight is the author of the poetry collection Braided Skin and the memoir Dear Current Occupant, winner of the 2018 Vancouver Book Award. Her writing is widely anthologized and has appeared in multiple Canadian and American literary journals. In addition to her work as a writer, Knight is managing editor at Room, programming director for the Growing Room Festival, and CEO of #LearnWritingEssentials. Knight is currently working on a novel set in Vancouver’s Hogan’s Alley, forthcoming in 2020. She was selected as a Rising Star by David Chariandy.

Dana Mills released his debut collection of stories, Someone Somewhere, with Gaspereau Press in 2013. He has been a finalist for the Writers’ Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize and a ReLit Award. Mills has published work in Geist, The New Quarterly, and subTerrain and is currently working on a novel. He lives in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, with his wife and young son. Mills was selected as a Rising Star by David Adams Richards.

Deborah Ostrovsky is a Montreal-based editor, translator, and writer of creative nonfiction. She is a recipient of the Marian Hebb Research Grant and is currently investigating a project about the last private owner of the Magdalen Islands in the mid-20th century. Ostrovsky has contributed to publications in Canada, the United States, and Europe, including Geist, Maisonneuve, McSweeney’s, carte blanche, and Tablet, and her work has been translated in Courrier International. Ostrovsky was selected as a Rising Star by Taras Grescoe.

 David Chariandy won the 2017 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for Brother. His debut novel, Soucouyant, was nominated for 11 literary awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Award. His first work of creative nonfiction, I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter, was published in 2018. Earlier this year, Chariandy was announced as a Windham-Campbell Prize winner for his body of work, a prestigious international literary award administered by Yale University. A professor at Simon Fraser University, Chariandy lives in Vancouver.

Charlotte Gray is the author of 10 works of literary nonfiction and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Her biographies of Isabel Mackenzie King and Alexander Graham Bell were both finalists for Writers’ Trust nonfiction prizes. While at the Berton House Writers’ Retreat, Gray researched and wrote her history of the Klondike Gold Rush, Gold Diggers: Striking it Rich in the Klondike, which was later adapted into a television miniseries. This fall she will publish Murdered Midas: A Millionaire, His Gold Mine, and a Strange Death on an Island Paradise. Gray lives in Ottawa.

Taras Grescoe won the 2008 Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize for Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood. On four other occasions, he has been a finalist for Writers’ Trust nonfiction prizes. His sixth and most recent work of nonfiction, Shanghai Grand: Forbidden Love and International Intrigue in a Doomed World, was a finalist for the BC National Award for Creative Nonfiction and the Mavis Gallant Prize for Nonfiction. This fall, he will publish Possess the Air: Fascism, Freedom, and the Fate of Mussolini’s Rome. He lives in Montreal.

David Adams Richards is a recipient of the Writers’ Trust’s Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life. A novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and poet, in 2017 he was appointed to the Senate of Canada, representing New Brunswick. He received a Governor General’s Literary Award for the novel Nights Below Station Street in 1988, and won again for his nonfiction book, Lines on Water: A Fly Fisherman’s Life on the Miramichi, a decade later. In 2000, Mercy Among the Children won the Giller Prize. This fall he will publish Murder: And Other Essays. Richards lives in Fredericton.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson was a finalist for the 2017 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for This Accident of Being Lost. She is an activist, musician, and writer of several books, including The Gift Is in the Making, Islands of Decolonial Love, and As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance. In 2014, she won the inaugural RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writer Award. She is a faculty member at the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning in Denendeh, Northwest Territories. Simpson is Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg and a member of Alderville First Nation. She lives in Peterborough, Ontario.


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