Surprised Writer Wins Top Prize for First Novel

The 24th annual Canadian Christian Writing awards presents the top prizes for best writing in 2011.

She could hardly believe her ears. As an excerpt was being read from her book The Third Grace, Deb Elkink was both astonished and elated at being selected as the Grace Irwin Award winner at the 24th annual Canadian Christian Writing Awards gala. Elkink skipped to the podium to the delight of the 200-plus attendees gathered in the World Vision Canada auditorium.

"I was shocked because I was a little disappointed, because I hadn't won in the category in which I'd been listed," says Elkink - who'd received an Award of Merit in the Novel-Contemporary category. "I'm absolutely delighted."

The $5,000.00 award - donated by John W. and Eleanor Irwin - represents Canada's largest literary award for writers who are Christian. It recognizes the best book published during the previous year.

This year, five of the 53 books entered were shortlisted for the Grace Irwin Award: Deb Elkink, The Third Grace; Erin E. M. Hatton, Otherworld; Greg Paul,Close Enough to Hear God Breathe; Jayne E. Self,Murder in Hum Harbour; and Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts. Greg Paul and Jayne E. Self each received an Honourable Mention.

"The decision was difficult," says Ray Wiseman, one of the judges for the Irwin Award. "I found consistently better writing than I encountered in judging previous awards programs. The characters came alive and stepped from the pages; the metaphors dazzled me with their literary creativity in both fiction and nonfiction."

The annual writing awards, sponsored by The Word Guild, celebrate the best in Canadian writing in periodicals, anthologies, and books by authors who write from a Christian worldview.

These awards have been given since 1988, when they were known as The God Uses Ink Awards. This year, 360 entries were received for 35 different categories, from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Submissions from Canadians living in the United States and Uganda were also entered.

Elmer Thiessen of Waterloo, Ontario, won in two categories - Apologetics/Evangelism and Culture - and received an Award of Merit in the Academic category for his book The Ethics of Evangelism: A Philosophical Defense of Proselytizing and Persuasion.

Wendy Nelles, co-founder of The Word Guild, won top prize in Article-Inspirational/Devotional and Awards of Merit in Article/Long Feature and Article/Profile/Human Interest for her article "Soulmates" in the popular anthology A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider.

Notable among the awards is that sixteen articles from A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider were shortlisted and nine of these won either first prize or an award of merit.

The night culminated with the presentation of the Leslie K Tarr Award for Lifetime Achievement to Jean Vanier, author of nearly 30 books, including the classic Becoming Human, and the founder of L'Arche communities worldwide.

During his presentation Pat Chown, partner in Foundation Distributing Inc. - the award sponsor - remarked: "'Ethos,' meaning the character or trustworthiness of the source, is one of three elements listed by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle as key to persuasive writing. If that is the case, it explains the profound influence of the writings of Jean Vanier. He writes from his life experience; out of weakness and as a fellow student, with honesty and authenticity."

Many of the finalists and guests at the celebration, along with others from across Canada, are meeting from June 14-16 at the 28th annual Write! Canada conference in Guelph - Canada's largest conference for writers who are Christian.

The complete media release, including the listing of the award winners, is available here:

Media: for more information or photos, contact Mary Ann Benjamins at

The Word Guild is a growing team of more than 325 Canadian writers, editors, speakers, publishers, booksellers, librarians and other interested individuals who are Christian. From all parts of Canada and many denominational and cultural backgrounds, they are united in their common passion to positively influence individuals - and ultimately the Canadian culture - through life-changing words that bring God's message of hope.

The Word Guild encourages the exploration of God-given gifts and talents; provides opportunities for people to work together; and fosters excellence in the art, craft, practice and ministry of writing, editing and speaking.

In addition to Write! Canada, its annual flagship event, The Word Guild sponsors a number of awards programs for published and unpublished writers, including Canada's largest literary prize for writers who are Christian, the $5,000 Grace Irwin Award. It also holds an annual black-tie writing awards gala in Toronto, and regional Write! events in locations such as Vancouver, Winnipeg, Halifax, Montreal, and London, Ontario.

Three categories of membership, renewed yearly, are available: professional writers and editors; associate members, who are beginning to put together a body of published work; and affiliates working in publishing, bookselling, libraries, etc. Membership benefits include discounted rates for Write! Canada.

More information at

Media: For photos or more information, email Judy Bingley, The Word Guild Administrative Assistant, at info [at] thewordguild [dot] com.