When I started working at Playwrights Canada Press in 2005, I remember literally jumping for joy when we learned that John Mighton’s Half Life had won the Governor General’s Literary Award in the drama category. It’s an award that instills a sense of achievement in both publishers and playwrights. It’s also the source of much elation for us – and, I hope, for readers,who discover these award-winning books.
The GGs, simply put, are the only literary awards that honour drama. As such, the awards have an immense impact on Playwrights Canada Press, the playwrights we publish, and the theatre community as a whole. Books published by Playwrights Canada Press have won 17 GGs since our inception in 1984, and all but one of those books are still available in print. Looking through the list of laureates over the years, I see that the juries have consistently chosen exciting and cutting-edge drama, and as such the award pays tribute to some of the biggest names in Canadian theatre, but also to relative newcomers.
For the playwrights who are GG winners and finalists, the award gives their work added distinction and longevity. When it is published, a play lives beyond the ephemeral moment of the live stage production. And when it has won a GG award, artistic directors are more likely to read the play and consider it for production.
For the Press, while the award certainly means a boost in sales, it also goes a long way in recognizing drama as a part of the literature of this country – something we often struggle with. The award acknowledges that plays are on equal footing with other types of literature and helps to introduce new readers to the genre.
Finally, winning the GG award also brings national attention to the books chosen as finalists and winners, and as a small publisher it’s difficult to achieve that kind of awareness on our own.
For more information about the Governor General’s Literary Awards, including the 2012 finalists, visit: ggbooks.canadacouncil.ca