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Hon. Hilary M. Weston and the Writers’ Trust Announce Year’s Best in Canadian Nonfiction: 
Finalists for $60,000 Literary Award Named

Hon. Hilary Weston speaks with Grant Lawrence

(Hon. Hilary M. Weston speaks with prize finalist Grant Lawrence via FaceTime. Credit Tom Sandler Photography)

September 20, 2011 – The Writers’ Trust of Canada announced today five finalists for this year’s Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, the richest annual literary award for a book of nonfiction published in Canada, and introduced an educational component of the prize that seeks to provide Canadian high schools with resources to connect young readers with the finalists and their work.

This year’s nominees offer a collection of absorbing and enlivening biographies and memoirs. Their subjects include a Glasgow-born Father of Confederation; an iconic scribbler viewed by some as a bĂȘte noire of Canadian culture; the soggy and gritty details of the tree-planting life; adventure in a family cabin on the rugged Canadian coast; and what it is that makes life worth living.

The finalists are (click on cover for more info):

MordecaiCharles Foran
Charles Foran | Mordecai: The Life & Times 
Published by Knopf Canada

Eating DirtCharlotte Gill
Charlotte Gil
l | Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe
Published by Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation

Nation MakerRichard Gwyn
Richard Gwyn | Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times; Volume Two: 1867-1891
Published by Random House Canada

Grant LawrenceGrant Lawrence
Grant Lawrence | Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound 
Published by Harbour Publishing

Why Not?Ray Robertson
Ray Robertson | Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live
Published by Biblioasis

Each of the five finalists will receive $5,000, with the eventual prizewinner receiving a total of $60,000. The prize will be awarded in Toronto at Koerner Hall at the Telus Centre for Performance and Learning during an event and after-party on October 25.

Finalists were selected by a three-member jury composed of Brian Brett, a writer and farmer from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia; Devyani Saltzman, a writer and curator of literary programming for Toronto’s Luminato Festival; and Russell Wangersky, a writer and editorial-page editor of the St. John’s Telegram.

Popular CBC Radio and Television personalities announced the finalists at a press conference attended by leading publishers and literary agents. Held in the Conservatory Theatre of Toronto’s Telus Centre for Performance and Learning, the event featured Eleanor Wachtel, host of CBC Radio One’s Writers & Company, Nora Young, host of CBC Radio One’s Spark, Dwight Drummond, host of CBC News Toronto, Laurie Brown, host of CBC Radio 2’s The Signal, and Paul Kennedy, host of CBC Radio One’s Ideas. Each read excerpts from the nominated books. In a surprise twist, the five prize finalists joined the event from their homes via FaceTime.

As part of the education component of the prize, Mrs. Weston unveiled a teaching resource booklet that will provide Canadian high-school educators with a tool to introduce the writing and ideas of the prize finalists to young readers. The booklet will be distributed to select schools across the country.

“Having such deep admiration for the astonishing abilities of Canadian writers I am honoured to play a part in celebrating these worthy writers,” said Mrs. Weston. “Our aim is to shine a spotlight on such deserving artists and spread the word about their remarkable books to readers in Canada and around the world.”

“This prize is a tremendous vehicle for highlighting the extraordinary talents of Canada’s literary nonfiction community,” said Peter Kahnert, Writers’ Trust Chair and senior vice-president, Raymond James Ltd. “The Writers’ Trust is extremely grateful to Mrs. Weston for her personal support, leadership, and partnership in creating such a rich opportunity for our writers.”

About the Honourable Hilary M. Weston, CM, OOnt

Hilary WestonHon. Hilary M. Weston served as the 26th lieutenant-governor of Ontario from 1997 to 2002. As the Queen’s representative in Ontario, Mrs. Weston was responsible for the Crown’s constitutional and representational roles in the province. Since leaving public office, Mrs. Weston has continued to pursue her diverse interests. She led Renaissance ROM, the largest fundraising campaign in Canadian cultural history, transforming the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. She is a trustee of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and serves on the board of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Mrs. Weston is also a corporate director of Wittington Investments and Selfridges Group Ltd. She has also served as deputy chair of the board of Holt Renfrew, promoting Canadian designers in the retailing business.

Mrs. Weston founded the Ireland Fund of Canada and remains a patron of this non-denominational organization promoting peace in Ireland. Her interests in homes and gardens resulted in the publication of In a Canadian Garden (1989) and At Home in Canada (1995). She served as first chancellor of the Order of Ontario, was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2003, and is the recipient of six honorary degrees. 

About the Prize
The prize is awarded for literary excellence in the category of nonfiction, which includes, among other forms, personal or journalistic essays, history, biography, memoirs, commentary, and criticism, both social and political. Finalist works will, in the opinion of the jury, demonstrate a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style, and technique. This award succeeds the Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize, which was established in 1997.

About the Writers’ Trust
The Writers’ Trust of Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to advance, nurture, and celebrate Canadian writers and writing through a portfolio of programs, including literary awards, financial grants, scholarships, and a writers’ retreat. Writers’ Trust programming is designed to champion excellence in Canadian writing, to improve the status of writers, and to create connections between writers and readers. Canada’s writers receive more financial support from the Writers’ Trust than from any other non-governmental organization or foundation in the country.


For further information:
Sherry Naylor, MDG & Associates, 416-368-8253,

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