Three finalists will be spotlighted for the 2022 Writers’ Trust of Canada  Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers. The prize is presented annually to an emerging writer who identifies as (but is not limited to) lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or Two-Spirit for an outstanding debut book in any genre. Books published between January 1, 2020 and May 31, 2022 were eligible for submission.

The 2022 finalists are: Bilal Baigfrancesca ekwuyasi, and Matthew James Weigel. The prize winner will receive $10,000 while each finalist will receive $1,000. This year, for the first time, the winner will be announced at the annual Writers’ Trust Awards on November 2.

Incorporating the Dayne Ogilvie Prize into Writers’ Trust’s array of fall awards is an important and necessary step in elevating the writing of Canadian LGBTQ2S+ emerging writers,” said Charlie Foran, executive director of Writers’ Trust. “Canada is home to a thriving and vibrant LGBTQ2S+ literary community that continues to be influential within the country’s arts scene, and it’s time we recognize those stories on the same stage as our other awards.”

Bilal Baig is a queer, trans-feminine, Muslim playwright, performer, and workshop facilitator. Their first play, Acha Bacha, had its world premiere in 2018. Baig is a facilitator at Story Planet, where they develop workshops for youth in under-resourced neighbourhoods in Toronto focused on creative writing and literacy. They are also the Playwrights Unit Facilitator for the Paprika Festival and the lead and co-creator of the television series Sort Of. Baig lives in Toronto.

With Acha Bacha, Bilal Baig preserves the sacredness of subtleties expressed in Urdu without compromise,” said the jury. “Their work expertly navigates translation, capturing unspeakable and complex truths that are often lost in translation. The characters find their way to themselves by expressing love, loss, longing, and betrayal in contexts that acknowledge and affirm their realities. The text is an important addition to Canadian literature and offers a much-   needed perspective on what it feels like to search for love, self-acceptance, and pockets of safety while living in the Pakistani diaspora as a second-generation queer person.”

francesca ekwuyasi is a writer and multidisciplinary artist from Lagos, Nigeria. Her debut novel, Butter Honey Pig Bread was a finalist for CBC’s Canada Reads and was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, a Governor General’s Literary Award, the Amazon Canada First Novel Award, and the ReLit Award. ekwuyasi lives in Halifax.

It is clear from the very first sentences that francesca ekwuyasi’s Butter Honey Pig Bread is an ambitious and assured debut,” said the jury. “What is extraordinary, though, is that from those first sentences the novel keeps expanding in both breadth and depth like a slowly unfurling universe. ekwuyasi gives us not one protagonist but three, each their own galaxy of complexity. This work is filled with many pleasures, by turns sensuous and sensual, magical and mystical, but also deadly serious in its exploration of harm and reconciliation. A profound work of love, Butter Honey Pig Bread reminds us that the best novels can hold what cannot be contained.”

Matthew James Weigel is a Dene and Métis poet and artist. He is the designer for Moon Jelly House press and his words and art have been published in ArcThe Polyglot, and The Mamawi Project. Weigel is a National Magazine Award finalist, a Cécile E. Mactaggart Travel Award winner, and  the 2020 Vallum Chapbook Award winner. His chapbook, It Was Treaty / It Was Me, is available now. Whitemud Walking is his debut collection. Weigel lives in Edmonton.

Matthew James Weigel’s Whitemud Walking is a feat of both imagination and design,” said the jury. “At the levels of content, form, and book design, Weigel renders the high-pressure act of gleaning from colonial archives some sense of Indigenous life and political thought. He skillfully blends the traditions of conceptual poetry and Indigenous autobiography to make something beautiful and endlessly innovative that brings into focus the act of treaty-making as one of deep care from an Indigenous point of view. The book adds up to an intimate and researched call to refuse the colonial imperative to separate ourselves from the landscape, from the land.  Whitemud Walking is a book about the past that is so alive it thrums.”

The finalists were selected by a jury composed of Billy-Ray Belcourt, Samra Habib, and Zoey Leigh Peterson.

About the Prize 

Robin Pacific established this prize in 2007 to honour her late friend, Dayne Ogilvie, who was a respected editor, writer, literary manager, and passionate lover of all the arts. The Dayne Ogilvie Prize rewards LGBTQ2S+ writers of any age who are in the developing stages of their career and whose body of work to date demonstrates great literary potential. Past winners of the prize include Michael V. Smith, Zoe Whittall, Farzana Doctor, Kai Cheng Thom, and, most recently, Jillian Christmas.

About the Writers’ Trust of Canada

Writers’ Trust of Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to advance, nurture, and celebrate Canadian writers and writing through a portfolio of programs including 11 national literary awards, financial grants, career development initiatives for emerging writers, and a writers’ retreat. Writers’ Trust programming is designed to champion excellence in Canadian writing, to improve the status of writers, and to create connections between writers and readers. Canada’s writers receive more financial support from Writers’ Trust than from any other non-governmental organization in the country. Additional information is available at  

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist based in Toronto with a focus on tourism, lifestyle, entertainment and community issues. He has written several travel articles and has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He’s willing to take on any assignments of interest, attend parties with free booze, listen to rants, and travel the world in search of the great unknown. He’s eager to discover the new, remember the past, and look into the future.