The VMI Betsy Warland Between Genres Award

For a book published in Canada in 2021 that is a hybrid genre, or straddles two or more genres. The winner will receive $500 at a ceremony at The Vancouver Writers Fest in Fall 2021, presented by judge Wayde Compton with Betsy Warland, special guest of honour. Two Honourable Mentions (no cash prize) will also be awarded.

Why create The VMI Betsy Warland Between Genres Award?
Betsy Warland. Photo credit: Elee Kraljii Gardiner

Creative nonfiction writer, poet, essayist, teacher, manuscript consultant, and editor Betsy Warland’s 14 books are not easily classified or categorized in one genre, yet they have contributed greatly to Canadian literary history and continue to influence emerging authors. Many beloved books do not find a comfortable place on a bookshelf or on a prize list because they are innovative in terms of form, creating/inviting/forcing new ways of being read. Considered uncategorizable, they are overlooked or misread. Named in honour of Betsy Warland, this award celebrates work that disrupts convention about what a book should be, how it should read, what it should sound like, what subject matter is acceptable.

Judge Wayde Compton. Photo credit: Roger Hur

Inaugural judge Wayde Compton has written five books and has edited two literary anthologies. His collection of short stories, The Outer Harbour, won the City of Vancouver Book Award in 2015 and he won a National Magazine Award for Fiction in 2011. His work has been a finalist for two other City of Vancouver Book Awards as well as the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. In 2006 Compton co-founded Commodore Books, western Canada’s first Black Canadian literary press.

Compton has been writer-in-residence at Simon Fraser University, Green College at the University of British Columbia, and the Vancouver Public Library. From 2012-18, he administrated the Creative Writing Program in Continuing Studies at SFU, including the award-winning Writer’s Studio. His latest book, The Blue Road, a fantasy graphic novel for young adults, illustrated by April dela Noche Milne, was called a “touching allegory of the unexpected and burdensome trials of migration” in a starred Kirkus review. Compton is currently the chair of Creative Writing at Douglas College in New Westminster, BC.

Submission Details
  • Books must be published by a Canadian publisher.
  • Self-published books are eligible if they have gone through a formal, independent editing process, have an ISBN, and are available for purchase in Canadian bookstores.
  • Titles must be published between October 1, 2020-September 30, 2021.
  • Entry fee of $25.00 is payable by cheque to VMI or by etransfer to The entrance fee partially covers postage, fees for judges, and administration.
  • Submit one hard copy AND one digital copy.
    • Hard copy: Vancouver Manuscript Intensive
      3512 West 10th Avenue
      Vancouver BC V6R 2G1
    • Digital copy:
  • Submissions must be postmarked in the week of March 29-April 2, 2021 or July 26-30, 2021. Our submission manager cannot accept manuscripts outside those dates.
  • We accept one manuscript per author per year.
  • Submitted copies will be donated to writing programs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
  • In years without a suitable candidate the prize will not be awarded.
  • Queries may be directed to
More About the Award

Administered and sponsored by Vancouver Manuscript Intensive, The VMI Betsy Warland Between Genres Award recognizes titles that combine two or more genres, such as memoir and literary criticism, fiction and non-fiction, or memoir and poetry. Warland has written books as collaborations, conversations, and explorations. Her innovative exploration of language as well as blank space (the inscribed in conversation with the unwritten) has been constant in her multi-genre approach to writing. Perhaps most known for her language-focused writing and ways of working with silence, Warland considers the unsayable, the secreted, the unknowable: these are her obsessions—how we encounter them in love relationships, family, a homophobic society, a mono-truth society and the inner work of spiritual practice. Warland’s serpent (w)rite (a reader’s gloss) published in 1987, was one of the first “mash-up” books in Canada. Speaking about Bloodroot, written in 2000 and reissued in 2020 with an accompanying essay, Warland emphasizes “the narrative power of intentional blank space as much as the texted space to convey the story of loss, absence and the never-to-be-known or said.”

This award honours Warland’s trajectory and ethos by celebrating the importance of the hybrid and unclassifiable.

Warland was born in the United States in 1946 and immigrated to Canada in 1973, becoming a citizen in 1980. Trained as a visual artist, her creative efforts enjoy a spectrum of influence, including that of her deep belief in community. In 1975, she initiated the Toronto Women’s Writing Collective that produced numerous literary events and publications. She also initiated and co-coordinated the Women and Words—les femmes et le mots conference (Vancouver 1983), that brought together one thousand women from across Canada involved in all aspects of contemporary literature. Dedicated to emerging writers, Warland is the former director of The Writer’s Studio, part of Simon Fraser University’s Writing and Communications Program (2000-2011). In 2004, she co-founded the cross-Canada Creative Writers Nonfiction Collective and in 2006 she founded the hallmark manuscript development program, Vancouver Manuscript Intensive, where she continues to instruct and mentor authors as a Mentor Emerita. Warland received the Mayor’s Arts Award for Literature in Vancouver in 2016 and her archives are in the National Library of Canada.

Warland’s titles include:
  • Bloodroot—Tracing the Untelling of Motherloss, Inanna Publications, 2021 (with a new long essay by the author reflecting on the book twenty years later) 
  • Lost Lagoon—lost in thought, Caitlin Press, 2020
  • Oscar of Between—A Memoir of Identity and Ideas (lyric prose memoir). Caitlin Press, 2016
  • Breathing the Page—Reading the Act of Writing (twenty-four essays). Cormorant Books, 2010
  • Only This Blue (long poem and essay), Mercury Press, 2005
  • Bloodroot – Tracing the Untelling of Motherloss (prose), Second Story Press, 2000
  • What Holds Us Here (poetry), Buschek Books, 1998
  • Two Women in a Birth (poetry and prose with Daphne Marlatt), Guernica Editions, 1994
  • The Bat Had Blue Eyes (poetry and prose), Women’s Press, 1993
  • Proper Deafinitions (creative nonfiction), Press Gang Publishers, 1990
  • Double Negative (poetry and prose with Daphne Marlatt), gynergy books/Ragweed Press, 1988
  • serpent (w)rite (a long poem), Coach House Press, 1987
  • open is broken (poetry), Longspoon Press, 1984
  • A Gathering Instinct (poetry), Williams-Wallace, 1981
Examples of hybrid texts in the spirit of the Warland Between Genres Award:
  • Oscar of Between: a memoir of identity and ideas by Betsy Warland
  • If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino
  • Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson
  • Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
  • 2666 by Robert Bolaño
  • The Queen’s Throat by Wayne Koestenbaum
  • I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter by David Chariandy
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
  • The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagun

For further information: