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Emily Urquhart and John Vaillant Amongst 2023 Finalists for Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction

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This morning, the Writers’ Trust of Canada announced five finalists for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, the biggest nonfiction literary award in Canada. The prize has become even more lucrative for winners this year, with a bump from the previous prize purse of $60,000 to the new award of $75,000.

The prize, along with the newly established $75,000 Weston International Award are supported by the Hilary and Galen Weston Foundation through a multiyear funding, which is focused on supporting and encouraging nonfiction writers in Canada and internationally.

The winner will be announced on November 21 at the annual Writers’ Trust Awards ceremony, hosted at CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto.
A jury composed of Canadian nonfiction writers Eve JosephMichelle Porter, and Dan Werb selected this year’s shortlist. In total, 99 titles were submitted by 55 publishing imprints. Each finalist receives $5,000; the winner receives an additional $70,000. For works in translations, translators will receive a portion of prize monies.

Nonfiction has enjoyed a robust increase in readership in recent years, as the genre evolves to include works that blend more personal essay and memoir style writing alongside traditional research and academia. Recent nonfiction prize lists have reflected the genre's evolution to more narrative-driven work while still covering timely and often urgent subjects. 

The 2023 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction finalists are:

  • My Road from Damascus: A Memoir by Jamal Saeed (Kingston, Ontario), translated by Catherine Cobham (St Andrews, Scotland), published by ECW Press
  • Ordinary Notes by Christina Sharpe (Toronto), published by Knopf Canada
  • Unbroken: My Fight for Survival, Hope, and Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls by Angela Sterritt (Vancouver), published by Greystone Books
  • Ordinary Wonder Tales: Essays by Emily Urquhart (Kitchener, Ontario), published by Biblioasis
  • Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast by John Vaillant (Vancouver), published by Knopf Canada

Finalist John Vaillant is no stranger to Writers' Trust awards: he won a previous iteration of the Writers' Trust nonfiction prize (then called the Pearson Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize) for his book The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed. His debut novel was nominated for Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize (then called the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize). Saeed, an activist based in Kingston, Ontario, has won acclaim for his writing in multiple genres, as has Urquhart, who holds a doctorate in folklore. Sharpe, a Toronto-based professor, has won international praise for her previous nonfiction work, which often explores Black life and identity. Sterritt's book is the lone debut on the list. She is a Canadian Screen Award-winning journalist who has worked with the CBC for 20 years and is also an artist. 

Three books on the list are published by independent presses (Toronto's ECW Press, Windsor's Biblioasis, and Vancouver's Greystone Books), with the remaining two titles published by Knopf Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada. 

Past winners of the Weston Prize include 2023 juror Dan Werb for The Invisible Siege, Tomson Highway for Permanent Astonishment, Rosemary Sullivan for Stalin’s Daughter, and Naomi Klein for This Changes Everything.

For more information, including full summaries of the nominated books and biographies of the finalists, visit the Writers' Trust website