Writers’ Trust Gala, Toronto
Founded in 1976 to advance Canadian writers and their work, the Writers’ Trust of Canada supports the CanLit community though 10 literary awards, programs such as retreats and even an emergency fund for authors in crisis. The funds to help make it all happen come in part from an annual gala; the latest was held Nov 14 at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel and netted $350,000.
The evening also served as a chance for the Writers’ Trust to give out their biggest fellowship of the year. Kari Cullen, chair of the organization’s board of directors, took to the stage to present the $50K Writers’ Trust Fellowship to Heather O’Neill, author of titles including Lullabies for Little Criminals and the 2014 Giller shortlisted work The Girl Who Was Saturday Night. Earlier in the evening, Writers’ Trust of Canada co-founder David Young honoured Graeme Gibson, one of the five founders of the trust, who died in September. Margaret Atwood, wife of Gibson, was not in attendance, but did contribute the sole lot in the evening’s auction: herself! Dinner with Ms. Atwood (who is another one of the founding WT members), plus seven of your nearest and dearest, chez vous, sold to the highest bidder – lawyer Marie Henein – for more than $20,000.
More than 400 people were in attendance, with at least one author for each table of 10. Among them: Téa Mutonji, John Irving, Zalika Reid-Benta, past Writers’ Trust Fellow Eden Robinson, and Amy Jones, who was the guest author at the table at which I was seated. Also out at the do, co-chaired this year by Barry Avrich and Jan Innes: Jim Balsillie, retired co-CEO of Research In Motion and founder and chair of the Centre for International Governance Innovation; the Power Plant director Gaëtane Verna; my seatmate, PR whiz Amy Burstyn Fritz, who served on the gala committee; other committee members including lawyer and author Mark Sakamoto and Janet Eger a communications consultant who also serves on the WT board; and Writers’ Trust executive director Mary Osborne, and incoming WT executive director, author and educator Charlie Foran.