Nonfiction is sometimes overshadowed by its more glamorous fictional sibling, but the genre got a boostWednesday in Canada when one of the country’s wealthiest families stepped up to sponsor the Writers’ Trust of Canada Nonfiction Prize.
Sweetened from C$25,000 to C$60,000 for the winner and C$5,000 for up to four finalists, the Writers’ Trust Hilary Weston Prize will be one of the largest literary prizes in Canada. There are also plans in the works to present the awards at a fall gala similar to the C$50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize, which gives a huge bump in sales to the winning book each year. “We hope it will create as much excitement as the Giller Prize for fiction,” said Weston at a press conference announcing the new prize.” Each year, the Giller gala is televised nationally, and CBC is partnering with the trust this year with plans to promote the non-fiction books on several platforms.
The Writers’ Trust was founded 35 years ago by five Canadian authors – Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, Graeme Gibson, Margaret Laurence and David Young — to promote and nurture Canadian writers and writing. The charitable organization now provides more direct financial support to writers than any other NGO in the country, giving more than C$417,000 directly to 79 writers in 2009-2010. It’s nonfiction prize had been without a sponsor, however, since 2008, and board chair Peter Kahnert said this new funding will free up trust resources for other projects. “This generous sponsorship, combined with Mrs. Weston’s personal support, leadership and partnership is transformational in taking our efforts to a whole new level of excellence to reward and recognize some of our finest writers.”
Weston, served as the lieutenant governor of the province of Ontario, who represents the Queen in Ontario, from 1997 to 2002. She is also married to billionaire grocery magnate Galen Weston.
There will also be an educational component to the prize.“We’d like to come up with some project ideas for students based on the five finalists’ books,”said Don Oravec, executive director of the trust. “I’m hoping that the publishers will be interested in partnering with us to get the books into the high schools, at least the high schools in the towns where the writers were born or where they live.” He added that “the real goal is to keep the story going as long as possible after that announcement is made and the initial amount of coverage happens.”