Canadian writer Sheila Heti has been nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction, the prestigious English-language literary honour previously known as the Orange Prize.

Heti and her novel How Should A Person Be? were unveiled Wednesday as one of the list of 20 longlisted candidates for the 2013 edition.

First published in Canada in 2010, Heti's novel centres on a young writer re-evaluating her life and searching for meaning. It incorporates conversations, emails and other semi-autobiographical material from the author's own life. The book was released in the U.K. and U.S. in 2012.

Toronto writer Heti faces stiff competition for the £30,000 (nearly $46,000 Cdn) prize, which celebrates excellence in English-language fiction by female authors.

Notable rivals this year include Brits Zadie Smith and Hilary Mantel — who has racked up multiple trophies already for her latest Tudor-era novel Bring Up the Bodies — as well as American favourite Barbara Kingsolver. U.S. author Gillian Flynn is also a key competitor, nominated for her bestselling thriller Gone Girl.

The longlisted authors, which include established names as well as newcomers, are:

  • Kitty Aldridge, A Trick I Learned From Dead Men (U.K.)
  • Kate Atkinson, Life After Life (U.K.)
  • Ros Barber, The Marlowe Papers (U.K.)
  • Shani Boianjiu, The People of Forever are Not Afraid (Israel)
  • Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl (U.S.)
  • Sheila Heti, How Should A Person Be? (Canada)
  • A.M. Homes, May We Be Forgiven (U.S.)
  • Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behaviour (U.S.)
  • Deborah Copaken Kogan, The Red Book (U.S.)
  • Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies (U.K.)
  • Bonnie Nadzam, Lamb (U.S.)
  • Emily Perkins, The Forrests (New Zealand)
  • Michèle Roberts, Ignorance (U.K.)
  • Francesca Segal, The Innocents (U.K.)
  • Maria Semple, Where'd You Go, Bernadette (U.S.)
  • Elif Shafak, Honour (Turkey)
  • Zadie Smith, NW (U.K)
  • M.L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans (U.K.-Australia)
  • Carrie Tiffany, Mateship with Birds (Australia)
  • G. Willow Wilson, Alif the Unseen (U.S.)

"The task of reducing the list of submissions from over 140 to just 20 books was always going to be daunting, but this year's infinite variety has made the task even trickier," actress Miranda Richardson, chair of the five-member judging panel, said in a statement.

"The list we have ended up with is, we believe, truly representative of that diversity of style, content and provenance, and contains those works which genuinely inspired the most excitement and passion amongst the judges."

Richardson is joined on this year's panel by broadcaster Razia Iqbal, author and journalist Rachel Johnson, author JoJo Moyes and activist Natasha Walter.

Established in 1996 to champion fiction penned by female authors worldwide (whom organizers feel are often overlooked for other major literary awards), the Women's Prize picks one books as the best English-language novel of the year written by a woman — regardless of nationality, country of residence, age or subject matter.

British cellphone and internet service provider Orange, the original sponsor, announced it was ending its sponsorship of the prize in 2012. A new sponsor has yet to be announced.

Kingsolver and Smith are both past winners of the prize. Other recipients over the years include Andrea Levy, Ann Patchett, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Canadians Anne Michaels and Carol Shields.

The 2013 winner will receive a cheque for £30,000 and the bronze award dubbed the Bessie at a ceremony on June 5.