B.C. writer Susan Cormier wins 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize for essay about 'magic' of beekeeping

Cormier won $6,000, a writing residency and publication on CBC Books for her essay Advice to a New Beekeeper.

Cormier won $6,000, a writing residency and publication on CBC Books

Susan Cormier is a Métis writer who works in print, performance and film. She lives in Langley, B.C. (Bryant Ross)

Susan Cormier has won the 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize for her essay Advice to a New Beekeeper

She will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and will also attend a writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

Cormier's essay was published on CBC Books. You can read Advice to a New Beekeeper here.

Métis writer Cormier works in print, performance and film. By day, she is a beekeeper and co-owner of C.R. Apiary in Langley, B.C. By night, she is the producer of Vancouver Story Slam.

She wrote Advice to a New Beekeeper because she wanted people interested in beekeeping to be aware that honeybees require knowledgeable, dedicated and hands-on care. For Cormier, this piece was an attempt to convey some of the things that a beekeeper won't learn from books and videos.

"The right person to keep bees is someone who's interested in learning that magic, not someone who thinks bees are magical fairy creatures that you can sit back and be like, 'Whoa, they're so good for the ecology.' A lot of the conversations I have in my head when I'm working with the bees revolve around trying to summarize that," Cormier said in an interview with CBC Books.

The 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize jurors were Jenna Butler, Sharon Butala and Marcello Di Cintio

The jury selected the winner and the shortlist from a longlist of 31 writers that was compiled by a team of writers and editors from across Canada.

"A polished piece that seamlessly blends scientific fact and lyric prose, Advice to a New Beekeeper catches the reader's attention from the opening line. The writer navigates the terminology of the hive with familiar skill and not a word out of place, in much the same way as the bees are carefully deployed to various essential tasks within the workings of a colony. Intelligent, imaginative and utterly gorgeous, Advice to a New Beekeeper captivates throughout," the jury said in a statement.

LISTEN: Susan Cormier reads her winning essay

Susan Cormier is the winner of this year's CBC Nonfiction Prize. Here she is reading her winning essay, "Advice for a New Beekeeper," drawn from her own experience keeping bees.

The other four finalists are Cayenne Bradley of Victoria for Your House, Kerissa Dickie of Fort Nelson, B.C., for Seh Woo, My Teeth, Y. S. Lee of Kingston, Ont., for Tek Tek and Jane Ozkowski of Bloomfield, Ont., for Storkatorium. They will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Cormier's winning essay was selected from over 1,700 entries.

"The CBC Nonfiction Prize is one of the most prestigious awards for short-form writing in the country; I am thrilled to have been selected," Cormier told CBC Books. 

"The fact that 12 adjudicators chose my writing out of thousands for the longlist is wonderful. And the fact that the three final judges, all of whom are esteemed authors, named me as the winner is even more so." 

LISTEN: Susan Cormier speaks about her winning essay on On The Coast

Langley's Susan Cormier speaks with Gloria Macarenko about her essay "Advice to a New Beekeeper" that beat out 1,700 other entrants to win a two week writing residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

Cormier was particularly thrilled that one of the judges, Jenna Butler, is also a beekeeper. Butler's memoir Revery: A Year of Bees was a finalist for the 2021 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.

"I treasure the fact that one of the final judges is herself a respected beekeeper. It is one thing to write with confidence for audiences who are unfamiliar with your subject; it is quite another to sway the favour of a reader who is an expert in the field. I am humbled, excited and somewhat gobsmacked to receive such praise."

LISTEN: Susan Cormier's interview on Radio West

We meet Susan Cormier, the BC author who is the winner of the CBC Non-Fiction Prize

Simon Brousseau won the Prix du récit Radio-Canada 2022 for La signature du père.

The CBC Literary Prizes have been recognizing Canadian writers since 1979.

The 2021 winner was Montreal writer Chanel M. Sutherland for her story Umbrella. Other past CBC Literary Prize winners include David BergenMichael OndaatjeCarol Shields and Michael Winter.

If you're interested in other CBC Literary Prizes, the 2023 CBC Short Story Prize is open for submissions until Oct. 31, 2022.

The 2023 CBC Nonfiction Prize will open in January and the 2023 CBC Poetry Prize will open in April.

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