News and Interviews

Kate Harris Picks Jessica J. Lee for 2019 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award

Jessica Lee

2019 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award winner Jessica J. Lee

Now in its sixth year, The Charles Taylor Foundation's Emerging Writer Award (sponsored by RBC Wealth Management) is a unique program aimed at encouraging talented emerging writers. Each year, the winner of the RBC Taylor Prize selects an up-and-coming nonfiction author with a promising publishing record, who not only receives a $10,000 award but is also mentored by the Taylor Prize winner.

Today it was announced that the 2019 Taylor Prize winner, Kate Harris (author of Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road), has chosen Jessica J. Lee as the Emerging Writer Award winner. 

Lee is a British-Canadian-Taiwanese author and environmental historian. She has a BA from University of Kings College, Halifax, an MA from University of London, and a PhD in Environmental History and Aesthetics from York University in Toronto. Her first book, Turning, was published in 2017. She has lived in Berlin since 2014, where she is Writer-in-Residence at the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology.

RBC Taylor Prize Founder Noreen Taylor was enthusiastic about Harris' choice, saying: "Jessica J. Lee is exactly the kind of writer we envision for the Emerging Author award. A multi-talented young person, Lee is about to break out on several fronts. She is a committed environmental historian who also just happens to be a talented writer and is also encouraging young diverse writers by editing and publishing The Willowherb Review. This award will assist Lee towards completing her multiple projects."

Harris described how impressed she was with Lee's working, calling Lee an "uber-talented Canadian author, whose first book, Turning, I deeply admired for its gorgeous mix of memoir and nature/travel writing. It’s about the year she spent swimming a different lake every weekend as a way of moving through heartbreak and depression. I also love the fact that she’s founded a literary magazine, The Willowherb Review, to celebrate and bolster nature writing by emerging and established diverse writers. She’s definitely a nonfiction voice I want to hear more from.”

In her response to learning the good news, Lee said "I’m completely surprised and honoured that Kate Harris selected me for the RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award. Since receiving the news, I’ve felt like a pool of jelly — it means a lot to me that I’ll be joining such a brilliant community of previous winners. The gift of time that an award like this brings is more than I can put into words: this will grant me time to really focus on finishing my next book and working on projects like The Willowherb Review. The opportunity to be in touch with a fellow writer, scholar, and nature-lover like Kate is extraordinary—I’m sure we’ll have quite a lot to talk about over the coming year. I’m so grateful to Kate and the award committee: thank you!"