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