Mavis Gallant Writing Awards

The Mavis Gallant Writing Awards is an initiative of the Estate of Mavis Gallant and the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Cape Breton University.  The awards are being offered for the first time this year, 2016.  This is the only Mavis Gallant Award sponsored by the Estate of Mavis Gallant.

The award was established to honour a brilliant, courageous friend and master storyteller whose art in fiction and non-fiction was shaped by her lifelong search to understand 20th-century experience.  It is in the spirit of Gallant’s single-minded resolve to live autonomously as a writer that her Estate wishes to recognize excellent writing by CBU students enrolled in any area of study.

Award Criteria

The Mavis Gallant Writing Awards 11 x17 Poster PROOF

Best Essay
Category 1: $1000 awarded to 1st or 2nd Year student
Category 2: $1000 awarded to 3rd or 4th Year student

Submisson deadline: April 30. Questions? Email:

Guidelines for Submission


The Estate has chosen to establish the award here at CBU because of Mavis’ affinity for Cape Breton Island.  Mavis began her friendship with Cape Breton in 1984 when she accepted an invitation from Mary K. MacLeod to read at CBU and the Mabou High School in Inverness County.  In a letter after these events, she remembered the students of Mabou as the most prepared and attentive of her many audiences –  curious, inquisitive and so present to her words.  She never forgot the Mabou Ceilidh, the priest fiddling, the Rankins playing and our students sitting close to her asking questions.  Some students later sent their own work to her in Paris.  She always replied.

For over 30 years Mavis nurtured her friendship with Cape Breton.  Since she left Montreal in 1950 she settled in France but was often on the move, excited by travel, always searching, observing and writing.  Travelling to new places – Germany, Spain, Italy, Eastern Europe, Finland, Russia, North America – filled her with hope and anticipation, but the one place she loved to return to most of all was Cape Breton.  She cherished her honorary doctorate from Cape Breton University.

Born in Montreal in 1922 and educated in Montreal, Toronto and New York, Mavis Gallant, in 1950, at the age of 28, left a successful career as a journalist with the Montreal Standard to live and work in Europe as a writer. She lived in Menton, on the French Riviera until 1962 when she moved permanently to Paris where she lived until her death in 2014.

Mavis Gallant is one of Canada’s most significant cultural and literary figures.  After her death she was celebrated and remembered internationally for her stunning writing and indomitable spirit.  Michael Ondaatje put it this way: “I just adored her writing.  Hers are the great stories of our time. So subtle, dangerous, hilarious.  The full human condition.  My hero.” Her hundreds of stories, essays and works of non-fiction were published in all major European and North American literary magazines and journals.  Her work has been translated and anthologized in several languages.

In recognition of her outstanding contribution to literature Mavis Gallant has been the recipient of many honours and awards. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Foreign Honourary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a recipient of the Washington College Literary Award, the Governor-General’s Award for Fiction and the Canada-Australia Prize. In 2006 she was the first author writing in English to receive the Priz Athanase-David from the government of Quebec. She was a companion of the Order of Canada.