Arts & Entertainment
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Queer writer wins George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award

'Being queer colours every minute of every day': Cameron

"I didn't expect I would ever get any kind of award because my work is so political," says 2010 George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award winner Anne Cameron. Credit: Harbour Publishing (Peter A Robson photo)

Queer writer Anne Cameron became the 16th recipient of the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to Canadian literature.

Cameron received the award at a ceremony held last month at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

“I feel totally intimidated,” Cameron, 71, told Xtra before receiving her award on July 29. “I feel as though now what I have to do is start writing at top speed, working overtime, just to deserve this award,” Cameron said as she joined the list of Woodcock award-winning BC writers, including Alice Munro, WP Kinsella, Jack Hodgins and Jane Rule.

Cameron admits to being an avid reader from an early age. “It [reading] was a safe place to go,” she says. “[Then] when I started writing it was to change the endings of the books,” she continues, adding that common fairy-tale endings just weren’t realistic for a working class, self-professed “salmon belly” who grew up on Vancouver Island, where she still lives.

During her professional 40-year writing career, Cameron has published more than 30 books, including novels, children’s stories, poems, legends and screenplays.

Her first publicly acknowledged work, Windigo (1974), was originally a poem, which she adapted into a screenplay. Later she would write the film Dreamspeaker (1979), which won more than 200,000 copies.

Cameron’s works are characteristically British Columbian and ingrained with First Nations culture, feminism, queer sexuality and the everyday working class.

“I didn’t expect I would ever get any kind of award because my work is so political,” Cameron says. “It is political in the sense that the personal is political. There are queers all through my books, and why not?” she asks. “Their being queer is not why they are in my stories. It’s just part of who they are,” she explains “There are queers throughout every neighbourhood; being queer colours every minute of every day. That’s who I am,” she asserts.

“Anne Cameron is a very powerful character in her own right,” says lesbian Vancouver city councillor Ellen Woodsworth, who presented the Woodcock award to Cameron as she declared July 29 Author Appreciation Day.

“Her books are cutting edge,” adds Alan Twigg, founder of BC BookWorld magazine and founder of the Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award.

“When we started the award 15 years ago, it was for people like Anne Cameron who are highly original and deeply British Columbian,” he elaborates. Anne is a “strong voice for the emancipation of women, regardless of their sexual preference.”

The city of Vancouver, the Vancouver Public Library and the non-profit Pacific BookWorld News Society sponsored the award ceremony.

Along with a cash prize of $3,000, Cameron’s name will be inscribed on a plaque and forever immortalized on the Writers Walk at Vancouver’s Library Square.