Roberts Creek author Andreas Schroeder was presented with the Graeme Gibson Award during the Writers’ Union of Canada annual general meeting on May 26.
Schroeder has authored 23 books in his extensive career including fiction, poetry, non-fiction and a series of titles for young adults. He has also mentored and taught and is currently the Rogers communications chair in creative non-fiction at the University of British Columbia.
But this special award, established by the Union in 1991, is not for his writing achievements. According to a Union press release, it is awarded for “varied and remarkable contributions to improve the circumstances of writers in Canada.”
The keystone of Schroeder’s service to Canadian writers was his leadership in achieving and establishing Public Lending Right (PLR) in this country. PLR provides for a modest but critical annual payment to Canadian book authors whose works are available in Canadian libraries for lending.
“Every Canadian writer has Andreas to thank, Andreas and all those who worked so hard over the years for PLR,” said Greg Hollingshead, Writers’ Union chair. “It’s been a wonderful legacy for a quarter century of Canadian writing.”
Schroeder was the chair of the Writers’ Union in 1976/77 and was instrumental in creating the PLR. It took 11 years of lobbying and organizing effort among writers, publishers, librarians and government before the commission came into being. He then became its founding chair and continued to serve until 2008. By PLR’s 25th anniversary in 2011, it was mailing cheques totalling $9.9 million to 17,487 Canadian authors.
Reached at his home after the presentation, Schroeder spoke about a towering figure in the Union’s history, Graeme Gibson, for whom the award is named and who received the first honours.
“He served the Union in a splendid fashion,” Schroeder said. “He has a brilliant sense of what would work and I consulted him many times, particularly during the PLR crusade.”
Schroeder notes that 600 to 800 new authors apply to PLR every year and that lack of funding has continued to be a problem. He noted that there has been no new money budgeted since the Harper majority government.
Schroeder is currently working on a motorcycle memoir; he’s been riding for nearly 50 years. He will also be publishing another young adult non-fiction book, Robbers, for Annick Press.