Saskatoon-area poet Louise Bernice Halfe among top winners at 2017 Sask. Book Awards

Yann Martel and Louise Bernice Halfe were among the winners at Saturday's Saskatchewan Book Awards in Regina.

Bernice Halfe's latest book of poetry, Burning in this Midnight Dream, received three prizes.

Two went to her personally — the Rasmussen, Rasmussen & Charowsky Indigenous Peoples' Writing Award and the Saskatchewan Arts Board Poetry Award — while the third, the Indigenous Peoples' Publishing Award, was awarded to her publisher, Coteau Books.

"I just wasn't expecting it so it was really humbling to receive recognition," said Bernice Halfe the next day from her home in St. Denis, about 40 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

Halfe's collection of poems explored her feelings and experiences as a survivor of a residential school in Alberta. She attended Saturday's ceremony with her sister and niece — both also residential school survivors — and says she hopes other survivors take to expressing themselves.

"I just want people in my community to be more literate, and to know what's going on within their own lives. That it's OK to have dialogue." 

Competing against a big name 

Bernice Halfe competed in one category against none other than Yann Martel, the celebrated author of Life of Pi. 

"Oh yeah. I looked at Yann's name and I thought, 'I don't have a hope in hell.' Not that I was hoping. But it was pretty neat to be alongside those big names," she said.

Martel's latest novel, The High Mountains of Portugal, ultimately nabbed two awards in two other categories: Regina Public Library Book of the Year Award and the City of Saskatoon and Public Library Saskatoon Book Award.

Martel's book connects three novellas spanning several decades and all taking place in titular Portugal.

This marks the first time Martel, who lives in Saskatoon, has received a Saskatchewan Book Award.

The awards were presented at a ceremony at Regina's Conexus Arts Centre Saturday night.  

Full list of winners in all 14 categories

Awards for Writers

Regina Public Library Book of the Year Award
The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel (Penguin Random House)

Muslims for Peace and Justice Fiction Award
New Albion by Dwayne Brenna (Coteau Books)

University of Saskatchewan Non-Fiction Award
A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905 by Bill Waiser (Fifth House Publishers)

Rasmussen, Rasmussen & Charowsky Indigenous Peoples' Writing Award
Burning in this Midnight Dream by Louise Bernice Halfe (Coteau Books)

O'Reilly Insurance and The Co-operators First Book Award
Along Comes a Wolfe by Angie Counios and David Gane (Your Nickel's Worth Publishing)

Saskatchewan Arts Board Poetry Award
Burning in this Midnight Dream by Louise Bernice Halfe (Coteau Books)

Young Adult Literature Award
The Pain Eater by Beth Goobie (Second Story Press)

City of Saskatoon and Public Library Saskatoon Book Award
The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel (Penguin Random House)

City of Regina Book Award
Towards a Prairie Atonement by Trevor Herriot (University of Regina Press)

Jennifer Welsh Scholarly Writing Award
No Free Man: Canada, the Great War, and the Enemy Alien Experience by Bohdan S. Kordan (McGill Queen's University Press)

Prix du livre français
La voix de mon père by Madeleine Blais-Dahlem (Éditions de la nouvelle plume)

Awards for Publishers

Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport Publishing Award
University of Regina Press for Towards a Prairie Atonement by Trevor Herriot

Advancing Education Award for Publishing in Education
University of Regina Press for Measures of Astonishment: Poets on Poetry presented by the League of Canadian Poets

Indigenous Peoples' Publishing Award
Coteau Books for Burning in this Midnight Dream by Louise Bernice Halfe