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Indigenous writer Eden Robinson awarded 2017 Writers’ Trust Fellowship

Writer Eden Robinson has been awarded the 2017 Writers' Trust of Canada Fellowship, an honour that includes a $50,000 award.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Eden Robinson, a novelist and member of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations of British Columbia, has been named this year's recipient of the Writers' Trust Fellowship, an honour that includes a $50,000 award.

"I'm still a little stunned," Ms. Robinson told The Globe and Mail.

The fellowship was announced on Tuesday evening at a black-tie fundraiser at Toronto's Ritz-Carlton. It is not the first time the Kitamaat-based writer has made an acceptance speech of late; just last year she won the Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award for a mid-career writer, worth $25,000 to her.

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Ms. Robinson is one of the five shortlisted novelists in contention for this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize, for her novel Son of a Trickster. The winner will be announced on Nov. 20 and will be awarded $100,000, Canada's richest literary prize. The four also-rans will receive $10,000 apiece.

Son of a Trickster, the first volume in a planned trilogy, is a story of teen angst set in small-town British Columbia. The book was reviewed in The Globe as a revisitation of her typical territory of matter-of-fact violence and familial dysfunction, filled with the kinds of things Ms. Robinson does well. "She revels in the dynamics of families that fracture but never quite fly apart," reviewer Nathan Whitlock wrote. "And her depictions of the complex interplay between First Nations peoples of varying levels of wokeness and cultural immersion are undeniably funny and subtle."

The recent prizes (and the Giller windfall that may come) may allow Ms. Robinson, 49, to set aside her freelance teaching and writing assignments to become a full-time novelist.

"I'm thinking about it very seriously," she said with a laugh.

Indeed, the fellowship is intended to free writers from financial concerns and provide an opportunity to work with as much creative freedom as possible. The Writers' Trust of Canada is a charitable organization devoted to the advancement of Canadian writers through programs that include not only the fellowship but an array of literary awards, grants, scholarships and the Berton House Writers' Retreat in Dawson City, Yukon.

Ms. Robinson's first novel, Traplines, was published in 1996. Four years later, the follow-up Monkey Beach was a Giller finalist. Son of a Trickster took eight years to write.

It was the money from the Engel/Findley Award that allowed Ms. Robinson to complete Trickster Drift, the yet-to-be-published sequel to Son of a Trickster, in just 12 months. "It usually takes me five years to write a novel," she said. "It's tough. You're squeezing in writing between your life and the hustle."

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