Writer Carol Shields in London, Feb. 16, 2000. Photo: David Levenson/Getty Images
Five Canadian Writers Make the Long List for the Inaugural Carol Shields Prize for Fiction
The US$150,000 English-language literary award for female and nonbinary writers redresses the inequality of women in the publishing world / BY Kim Honey / March 8th, 2023
It’s fitting that the long list for the first Carol Shields Prize for Fiction by women and non-binary writers was announced March 8, on International Women’s Day.
That’s because female writers in Canada make 55 per cent of the income earned by their male counterparts. When it comes to readers, the gender gap is immense, with 19 per cent of men reading female writers compared to 55 per cent of men reading male writers.
After 10 years of planning, organizers Don Oravec – the former executive director of the Writers’ Trust of Canada – Canadian bestselling author Susan Swan and HarperCollins Canada executive editor Janice Zawerbny announced 15 Canadian and American authors are in the running to win the grand prize of US$150,000 (CDN $200,000), donated by bank sponsor BMO. “Exceptionally diverse in its writers and stories, its breadth and depth of subject, style and form, this inaugural long list is a truly stellar representation of all the amazing women and non-binary writers currently sharing their voices in Canada and the United States,” said the jury, which includes acclaimed Canadian writers like katherena vermette, Merilyn Symonds and Anita Rau Badami.
The five Canadian writers chosen from 250 eligible entries are 2022 Giller Prize winner Suzette Mayr for The Sleeping Car Porter, Giller finalist Tsering Yangzom Lama for We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies, Chelene Knight for Junie, Emma Hooper for We Should Not Be Afraid of the Sky and Francine Cunningham for God Isn’t Here Today. A list of all 15 authors nominated for the award, which will be announced May 4, is on the Carol Shields Prize website.
The richest literary prize in the world, it is named after the celebrated American-Canadian writer who died in Victoria, B.C., in 2003. She won the Pulitzer Prize and the Governor General’s fiction award for her 1993 novel The Stone Diaries, which traced nine decades of Daisy Goodwill Flett’s life with an “almost painfully attuned ear for the nuances of language and the way they attach to feelings and probe the most delicate layers of human consciousness,” as The New York Times wrote in its 1994 book review.
The prize is managed by the Carol Shields Foundation, which supports women writers through scholarships, bursaries, mentorships and workshops.
The winner will receive a residency at the famed Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland and Labrador, while the four finalists will receive US $12,500 (CDN $17,000) each.