Dave Greber could talk about writing for hours on end. The Calgary-based freelancer had an unquenchable enthusiasm for storytelling.
“You could see him come alive discussing writing,” says Dave’s partner, Shirley Dunn.
Twenty years after his death, Greber’s passion lives on in the form of awards for freelancers that Dunn created in his name.
Greber spent the latter part of his career writing books and articles focused on social justice issues and teaching writing at Mount Royal College. When he died suddenly in 2000, a visit from a group of his students inspired Dunn to find a way to honour his memory.
“I knew from what he said that the time between getting a contract to publish a book and the time of publication was very dry financially,” says Dunn.
She decided to create a fund to offer cash prizes for social justice-related books and magazine articles. Writers can submit their work for the award either pre- or post-publication.
The Dave Greber Freelance Writers Awards are aimed at helping freelancers pursue social justice journalism and reach a wider audience with their work.
“The hope is that social justice journalism impacts the general public,” says Dunn. “I chose social justice because in the latter years Dave was doing a lot of social justice writing, particular around the Holocaust. He was the child of Holocaust survivors.”
The Greber Awards were first granted in 2004 and have been given to fourteen writers in Canada since then. In 2016 Dunn created a third award, offered through Bar-Ilan University in Israel, to honour Greber’s Jewish heritage and his unfulfilled desire to pursue a PhD at an Israeli university.
Dunn says she and the other members of the jury follow the careers of the writers who win Greber Awards.
“We track them as much as we can, just to see that they’re okay, that they’re still working, that they’ve been satisfied with the work they’ve done. Because I know how hard this particular kind of writing is,” she says.
She expresses pride in the roster of freelancers who have won the awards, most recently Vancouver author Roberta Staley and Toronto-based magazine journalist Nicholas Hune-Brown.
“We’ve had some fabulous writers,” she says. “A lot of them have done very well with their second and third publications.”
Above all, Dunn hopes to keep Greber’s name alive with the awards she created in his name.
“He was bright and gregarious and knowledgeable, and kind and creative. Hugely creative,” she says. “And I thought ‘well that just can’t go to waste. Death may have him, but that can’t go to waste.’”
The deadline for this year’s Dave Greber Freelance Writers Awards is just a month away — on June 26. For more information, or to submit your work see the Greber Awards website.
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