The Trillium Awards, the annual ceremony for Ontario-based authors, took place, fittingly, at the Toronto Reference Library last week. The awards have honoured some of Canada’s most famous writers, like Michael Ondaatje, Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood, and this was an extra-special night in celebration of the event’s 25th year. Nominees wore pink flowers, while past winners wore white to differentiate themselves in the massive crowd of literati (we guess wearing trilliums would be a little premature for the pink-flowered crowd). As it has since 1994, the event also fêted French- speaking nominees, so hosts Heather Hiscox of CBC News and Karen Thorn-Stone, president of the Ontario Media Development Agency, jumped between French and English (it becomes a rather long night when you hear everything twice). Though Hiscox sounded fluent, Thorn-Stone’s delivery seemed a touch forced—she even quipped, after her first French foray received a round of applause, “Now you’re just making fun of me.”
Just because these are book people didn’t mean the room didn’t get rowdy: nominee Tony Burgess (in our favourite look of the gala, an orange T-shirt under a blazer paired with cargo shorts) was spotted banging the table—and even playfully tapping a friend’s forehead—in proud acknowledgment of fellow writers, while other guests hooted and hollered to the sounds of musical guests The Good Lovelies. One of the big guests was Liberal MPP Michael Chan, minister of tourism and culture, who went around to every table (he wished a table of young volunteers “a good summer”) and helped announce the winners. (We noticed him leaving the event in a chauffeured hybrid SUV.) Kevin Shea, chair of the OMDC, thanked Chan and joked, “It’s good that the minister can relax a little bit—the budget was approved today.” Nick Thran, who won for English poetry, stammered, joking, “I get nervous waking up in the morning.” The big prize (complete with a $20,000 cheque) went to Phil Hall for his book of poetry Killdeer, who stated simply: “I’m glad you liked the book.”
As guests filed out following the festivities, the mood abruptly changed from jovial to sombre: even though the Ref was closed, it seems all of the fiction fans had a great appreciation for the silence-in-libraries rule.