It's a busy time for Canadian literary prize news, following last week's announcement of the newly-merged Griffin Poetry Prize longlist and with next week seeing the always-eventful CBC Canada Reads debates. The latest today is a special announcement from The Writers' Trust of Canada, detailing a major new literary award focused on nonfiction.
The $75,000 Weston International Award is being launched as a companion to the prestigious $75,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. Essentially, in a sort of reverse-Griffin-Prize move, the Weston Award has become the Weston Awards, with the added international writer category.
The new award honours career achievement of an international author for a body of nonfiction work, unlike the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize, which is awarded for a single book. The latter will be bumped up to $75,000 from $60,000, in order to match the new prize, landing the prizes amongst the biggest in the world for nonfiction.
Targeted at establishing literary fellowship between Canadian authors and their colleagues abroad, a goal of the award is to bring global perspectives home and bolster the Canadian voice internationally.
The Weston International Award is generously supported by the Hilary and Galen Weston Foundation through a $1.5 million funding commitment to Writers’ Trust over three years to elevate and embolden nonfiction writers at home and abroad, marking a second major donation for the Trust following a $3 million commitment in 2021 from former Blackberry CEO Jim Balsillie, who sponsors the Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and The Balsillie Prize for Public Policy.
“As global citizens, we all benefit from books that have the power to inform and expand our collective knowledge. In supporting Writers’ Trust of Canada’s national and international nonfiction prizes, our Foundation hopes to encourage writing that demonstrates rigor and research, influences our shared perspectives, and builds bridges where once there were none,” said The Hon. Hilary M. Weston. “This is a unique opportunity for Canadian authors to celebrate their international peers while at the same time promoting their own work on the world stage.”
Eligible authors for the Weston International Award must have published at least three books of outstanding literary merit in the genre of nonfiction that are written in English or else widely available in translation. An authors’ eligibility is limited to one of two Weston Awards.
The selection for the winner of the new prize will involve a three-person international advisory committee and a five-person Canadian jury. Members of the international advisory committee create a non-publicized longlist of writers, after which the Canadian jury reads books from these writers’ bibliographies and chooses a sole prizewinner. The winner is selected based on an evaluation of their bodies of work in line with an adherence to markers of research, truth, and a facts-first approach to nonfiction.
The international advisory committee is composed of: Mariella Frostrup, one of the United Kingdom’s most respected broadcasters and columnists; Pico Iyer, author of 16 books of fiction and nonfiction translated into 23 languages; and Sam Tanenhaus, author and former editor of The New York Times Book Review and The New York Times.
The Canadian jury is composed of writers Kamal Al-Solaylee, journalist and author of three award-winning books of nonfiction; Denise Chong, economist and internationally published author of four works of nonfiction; Wayne Grady, author, translator, and professor of nonfiction at the University of British Columbia; Charlotte Gray, author, historian, and Member of the Order of Canada; and Kate Harris, bestselling nonfiction author and former Rhodes scholar.
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The winner of the Weston International Award will be announced on June 20. They will travel to Toronto in September and deliver a talk on a subject related to the importance of nonfiction.
For more information about the new prize and all the Writers' Trust support programmes for writers, visit their website.