About the Awards


In 1975, the Canadian Authors Association reinstated its awards for literary achievement, a program originally begun in 1937 with the creation of the Governor General’s medals for literature (now overseen by Canada Council for the Arts). The primary goal in reinstating the awards program was to honour writing that achieves excellence without sacrificing popular appeal.

Three awards were offered in the program’s first year—fiction, poetry and drama. The award for Canadian History, the Lela Common Award, was added in 1997, and the award for emerging writers was first offered in 2006.

Referred to by CBC’s The Journal as “The major awards given annually by authors to authors,” the Canadian Authors Association Literary Awards program complements the Canadian Authors Association’s ongoing tradition of writers helping writers. Judging is carried out by panels selected in strictest confidence. Past award recipients have included Carol Shields, Hugh MacLennon, W. P. Kinsella, Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, and Leonard Cohen—and many other literary stars.

A more detailed account of the history of the Canadian Authors Association awards is found in chapter 18 of Syllables of Recorded Time: The Story of the Canadian Authors Association 1921-1981 by Lyn Harrington, 1981. This volume should be available in libraries and Canadian Authors Association members have access to a PDF version in the Members Area.

Current awards at a glance

Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction

Established: 1975
For: full-length English language literature for adults by a Canadian writer
Prize: $2000 and a silver medal

The Lela Common Award for Canadian History

Established: 1997
For: historical nonfiction on Canadian topics by a Canadian writer
Prize: $2000 and a silver medal

This award was made possible by a generous bequest from the estate of Lela Florence Common, a long-time member of the Canadian Authors Association. Lela Common had a life-long interest in history, and was active in research and writing on historical topics.

Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry

Established: 1975
For: full-length English-language book of poems for adults, by a Canadian writer
Prize: $2000 and a silver medal

Canadian Authors Association Emerging Writer Award

Established: 2006
For: a writer under 30 years of age deemed to show exceptional promise in the field of literary creation
Prize: $500




Each year a trustee for each award appointed by the Canadian Authors Association selects up to three judges. Identities of the trustee and judges are confidential. Decisions of the trustee and judges are final, and they may choose not to award a prize in any awards year.


The winners are announced at the Canadian Authors Association Literary Awards Gala held during the association’s annual CanWrite! writers’ conference.

The association added a shortlist component to the fiction, poetry and Canadian History awards in 2009. Shortlists are announced in the spring of the awards year.

Prior to 2009, only award winners were announced.

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