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Davy, Ollman, Desforges win at Hamilton Literary Awards

Awards for fiction, non-fiction and poetry handed out by the Hamilton Arts Council.

Three Hamilton authors have new accolades after winning at the 29th annual Hamilton Literary Awards, handed out Dec. 12.

Former Hamilton Spectator reporter Denise Davy won both the non-fiction category and the Kerry Schooley Book Award for Her Name Was Margaret: Life and Death on the Streets. From Hamilton publisher Wolsak & Wynn Publishers, her book powerfully and emotionally documents the journey of Margaret Jacobson, who struggled with mental illness and  homelessness.

Davy analyzed more than 800 pages of medical records and conducted interviews with Margaret's friends and family, as well as those who worked in psychiatric care, to create a portrait of a woman who was shuffled through a revolving door of psychiatric admissions and discharged to rundown boarding houses. Jacobson died in 1995 while homeless in Hamilton.

Hamilton-based cartoonist Joe Ollmann won in the fiction category for his graphic novel Fictional Father, which chronicles a highly successful cartoonist’s depiction of the loving relationship of a father and son and the stark contrast with the cartoonist’s real-life treatment of his own son.  

Jaclyn Desforges won for Danger Flower in the poetry category. Publisher Palimpsest Press says Desforges “leads enlightened witnesses through a wild garden where archetypal tales are treated with tongue-in-cheek irreverence. Amidst nesting dolls and opossums, poison oak and Tamagotchis, the poet navigates gender roles, sexual indiscretions, episodic depression, and mothering, forming essential survival strategies for a changing world. Danger Flower is a necessary debut.”

The awards were announced at a ceremony at Theatre Aquarius’ Norman and Louise Haac Studio Theatre that included readings from the shortlisted works.

On-demand viewing of the event is available exclusively for Cogeco and Rogers television subscribers by Broadcast Sponsor, Cable 14, at cable14.com.

In total, 11 works by Hamilton and area writers were shortlisted by the Hamilton Arts Council (HAC) for a Hamilton Literary Award.

The awards are in their 29th year and recognize excellence in works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry published the previous year by authors in the Greater Hamilton Area and Six Nations of the Grand River. The awards also include the Kerry Schooley Book Award, which recognizes books that are most evocative of the city of Hamilton and the surrounding area.

Schooley (1949-2010), a Hamilton-born poet, teacher, publisher, editor and noir-fiction writer, was an important and influential contributor to the Hamilton literary community.

This year’s ceremony was hosted by Anuja Varghese, a Hamilton-based QWOC (queer woman of colour) writer, editor, and arts administrator. Varghese’s debut short story collection Chrysalis will be released in 2023.

“We are thrilled to have Anuja Varghese as the awards’ host this year. Anuja brings literary excellence through her own work, and a sincere appreciation for Hamilton literary communities,” Megan Divecha, program coordinator for Hamilton Arts Council, said in a press release.

“We anticipate an enriching evening for authors, publishers, local booksellers and book enthusiasts.”

Visit here for more information about the Hamilton Literary Awards.

HAC, founded in 1969, and incorporated in 1973, is one of the longest-serving community arts councils in Ontario. It envisions a dynamic arts community that is innovative, impactful, diverse and professionally sustainable and advocates for the arts as integral to a healthy community.

The shortlisted works


Gary Barwin – Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted
Pasha Malla – Kill the Mall
Joe Ollmann – Fictional Father


Denise Davy – Her Name was Margaret
Dawn Cheryl Hill – Memory Keeper
Jolie Phuong Hoang – Three Funerals for My Father: Love, Loss and Escape from Vietnam
Margaret Nowaczyk – Chasing Zebras
Bernadette Rule ­– Dark Fire


Jaclyn Desforges – Danger Flower
Michael Mirolla – At the End of the World
John Terpstra – Call Me Home

Kerry Schooley Book Award

Denise Davy – Her Name Was Margaret
Pasha Malla – Kill the Mall
Margaret Nowaczyk – Chasing Zebras