Dianne Warren

Dianne Warren, fiction writer, playwright (b at Ottawa 28 Aug 1950). Dianne Warren grew up in Saskatchewan and attended the UNIVERSITY OF REGINA, where she did coursework with writers such as Joan Givner and Ken MITCHELL, and graduated in 1976 with a BFA in visual arts.

Warren's first short story was published in the anthology Saskatchewan Gold in 1982, and her fiction has since appeared in such anthologies as The Old Dance, Fire Beneath the Cauldron, and Concrete Forest and in various literary journals. Her story collections include The Wednesday Flower Man (1987), Bad Luck Dog (1993), which won three Saskatchewan Book Awards, including Book of the Year, and A Reckless Moon (2002).

Warren's published plays include Serpent in the Night Sky, which was a finalist for the 1992 Governor General's Award for Drama, Club Chernobyl (1994), which won the City of Regina Book Award, and The Last Journey of Captain Harte (1999). All three plays premiered at 25th STREET THEATRE, where they were directed by Tom Bentley-Fisher. Warren has also written several dramatic works for CBC radio.

Set in northern Saskatchewan, Serpent in the Night Sky combines realism with mythic imagery to clarify the struggle between good and evil that underlies the relationships in a dysfunctional family. Warren's drama is similar in style to that of US playwright Sam Shepard, whose work she admires, but whereas Shepard is largely concerned with masculine identity, Warren's writing is distinguished by its strong female characters. In Serpent in the Night Sky, Joy, a teenage runaway, and Marlene, an eccentric survivalist, combine forces to exorcise Gator, who threatens to destroy any possibility of love within the family. Warren's visual arts background also informs her drama, particularly Club Chernobyl, which is set in a nightclub designed to resemble the inside of a damaged nuclear reactor. This eerie environment provides the context and theatrical metaphor for the characters' confrontations with their darkest fears. Warren has expressed dissatisfaction with the limited production opportunities and audiences for new Canadian plays, however, and has increasingly focused her attention on writing fiction.

Among her most admired stories are "Hawk's Landing" and "Long Gone and Mister Lonely," both of which appear in A Reckless Moon, a collection of seven long stories thematically unified by the motif of recklessness. "Hawk's Landing" is set at a derelict resort on an isolated bank of the Missouri River in Montana, and the closing off of possibility in protagonist Edna Carlsberg's life is reflected in both the gradual confinement of her daily existence to the three rooms she shares with her aging mother in the otherwise boarded-up lodge, and her identification with her neighbour's wild thirteen-year-old grandson. "Long Gone and Mister Lonely" traces how a trivial miscommunication results in a young woman's sexual rejection by an older man, and how this seemingly fleeting and inconsequential experience in turn causes her to take up with and eventually marry and have a child with a different man who is clearly immature, insensitive, and incapable of caring for anyone but himself. The woman's realization that she does not love her husband is precipitated by her chance witnessing of an accident that reveals a farm wife's devotion to her ailing husband, and that clarifies her own sense of sole responsibility for her young child's well-being. The subtle complexity and depth of characterization that distinguish these works and others caused the GLOBE AND MAIL's reviewer of A Reckless Moon to rank Dianne Warren "in the big league of story writers."

Among her honours are the National Magazine Gold Award for Fiction, the Western Magazine Award for Fiction, and the 2004 Marian Engel Award. In 2010 Dianne Warren won the prestigious GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD for her first novel, Cool Water. Set in the fictional Saskatchewan town of Juliet, the novel takes place over the course of a single day. It examines the hidden fears, small triumphs, and everyday concerns that roil underneath the surface of a range of the town's inhabitants, presenting a moving and nuanced portrait of the innumerable ties of community.