Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Finalists for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction

I went to a very nice press conference this morning where the finalists for the inaugural Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction were announced. (To clarify, the Writers' Trust has had a nonfiction prize for years, but this is the first prize under the new name, which came about in May when the Writers' Trust announced Weston was the prize's new sponsor.)

Anyway, there were many President's Choice snacks (Weston's son is Galen Weston, executive chairman of Loblaws Companies Limited, who is frequently featured in ads for PC products) and, to add to the drama, before each finalist was named, a CBC Radio personality read an excerpt from their book. It was quite nice, I thought, to get a taste of how different each book's style and content are. And they are perhaps the most dynamic group of finalists for a literary award I've seen.
  • Charles Foran for Mordecai: The Life and Times (Knopf Canada), which also won the 2011 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction. In his Skype session with Eleanor Wachtel, Foran said he didn’t encounter Mordecai Richler’s work until Grade 10, when he read The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, a novel that seemed purposefully rough-edged compared to the others on the reading list. 
  • Charlotte Gill for Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe (Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation). Gill is a veteran tree-planter who planted over a million trees in 17 seasons. Her short story collection Ladykiller was nominated for the 2005 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and won the Danuta Gleed Award in 2006. 
  • Richard Gwyn for Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times (Random House Canada), which is the second volume of Gwyn’s biography of Canada’s first prime minister. The first volume, John A: The Many Who Made Us was published in 2007 and won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction. 
  • Grant Lawrence for Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound (Harbour Publishing), which was also a finalist for the 2011 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction. Lawrence is the lead singer in the Vancouver band The Smugglers and hosts several shows on CBC Radio 3. 
  • Ray Robertson for Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live (Biblioasis), is the product of Robertson’s struggle with serious depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. He is the author of six other books including, What Happened Later, which was nominated for the Trillium Award in 2008. 
Each finalist receives $5,000 and the eventual winner (who will be announced on Oct. 25) will receive an additional $55,000, which makes this the richest prize in Canadian literature.

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