Donna Besel, 2021 Rural Recognition Prize

Donna Besel has been awarded the Rural Recognition Prize, one of the Manitoba Arts Council’s 2021 Prizes in the Arts.

Donna describes herself as a “Boreal writer”, drawing inspiration from the forests of Eastern Manitoba where she has lived her whole life.

“Her writing is deeply rooted in the boreal forest,” said writer Sally Ito. “As a rural artist, she explores and exposes all that is raw, harsh, and beautiful for the inhabitants of that world.”

Her work has gained recognition from CBC Literary Awards and national contests. Her collection of short stories, Lessons from a Nude Man, earned two Manitoba Book Award nominations and a spot on McNally Robinson’s annual bestseller list. Most recently, Donna was awarded first prize in Prairie Fire’s 2019 Creative Nonfiction Contest.

In addition to her accomplishments as a writer, Donna has had a substantial impact on Manitoba’s arts community throughout her career. Beyond the boreal forests, Donna has made her mark all over Manitoba – in Neepawa, Minnedosa, Selkirk, Flin Flon, Falcon Lake, Brandon, and many more communities through readings, workshops and mentorships.

“She is a tireless promoter of and mentor to other artists in rural Manitoba,” said writer Susan Sorensen, who nominated Donna for the prize. “Donna has thrown herself into the Manitoba cultural scene with an energy that is unmatched.”

In 2009, she worked to establish and develop the Winnipeg River Arts Council in Eastern Manitoba and has served on its board as secretary and communications chair. Also, she has taught creative writing and storytelling for over 10 years to hundreds of students through MAC’s Artists in Schools program.

“I know Donna as someone deeply committed to bringing the arts to rural communities,” said writer Ron Neufeld. “As a teacher, she brings not only her expertise to the classroom, but also encouragement and a wealth of knowledge about the writer’s craft. With humour and perception, she has a unique ability to ‘unleash the writer within.’ I certainly am a better writer because of her insight and encouragement.”

The Manitoba Arts Council Prizes in the Arts

The Manitoba Arts Council’s Prizes in the Arts celebrate achievements in the arts, honouring the excellence, resourcefulness, and imagination of individuals, groups, and organizations working in Manitoba.

Rural Recognition is a $10,000 prize awarded every other year to a rural artist, arts group, or arts organization in recognition of their achievements.

Know someone worth celebrating? This fall, MAC will be accepting nominations for the Manitoba Arts Award of Distinction, recognizing the highest level of artistic excellence and contribution to the development of the arts in Manitoba. Nominate an exceptional artist or arts/cultural professional by December 15, 2021.