katherena vermette to chair inaugural Carol Shields Prize for Fiction jury

The $150,000 U.S. prize will be the biggest fiction prize in North America. Rounding out the jury are Canadian writers Anita Rau Badami and Merilyn Simonds and American writers Monique Truong and Crystal Wilkinson.

The $150,000 U.S. prize will be the biggest fiction prize in North America

katherena vermette is a Métis author from Winnipeg who has written fiction, poetry and children's books. (Vanda Fleury)

katherena vermette will chair the five-person jury for the inaugural Carol Shields Prize for Fiction. Rounding out the jury are Canadian writers Anita Rau Badami and Merilyn Simonds and American writers Crystal Wilkinson and Monique Truong.

The Carol Shields Prize will award $150,000 U.S. ($199,853 Cdn) to a single work of fiction by a woman or non-binary writer. The prize was first announced in 2020, and Melinda Gates quickly came on as one of the financial supporters.

The Carol Shields Prize for Fiction will be open to English-language books published in the U.S., or Canada, including translations from Spanish and French. Writers must be citizens or permanent residents of Canada or the U.S.

vermette is a Métis writer from Winnipeg who has written fiction, poetry and children's books. Her poetry collection North End Love Songs won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry. Her debut novel, The Break, won the Amazon Canada First Novel Award and was defended by late comedian Candy Palmater on Canada Reads 2017.

Her most recent book is the novel The Strangers, which won the 2021 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. She is also the author of the graphic novel series A Girl Called Echo.

A composite photo of two women. On the left, a woman with shoulder-length brown hair wearing a red dress. On the right, a woman with curly white hair and glasses wearing a black top.
Anita Rau Badami, left, and Merilyn Simonds are two of the jurors for the inaugural Carol Shields Prize for fiction. (Submitted by the Carol Shields Prize)

Badami is the author of the novels Tamarind Mem, The Hero's Walk, Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? and Tell it to the Trees. The Hero's Walk was defended by actor Vinay Virmani on Canada Reads 2016. In 2000, Badami received the Marian Engel Prize, which is awarded to a mid-career Canadian writer for both their body of work so far and the potential of their future work.

Simonds is a writer from Kingston, Ont., who has written 20 books, including the nonfiction books The Convict LoverGutenberg's Fingerprint and the novel Refuge. She is the founder and first artistic director of the Kingston WritersFest. Her latest book, Woman, Watching, was published in 2022.

Simonds is also judging the 2023 CBC Nonfiction Prize, which is currently open for submissions.

A composite photo of a smiling woman wearing black with large glasses and dreads and a woman with black hair leaning on a table.
Crystal Wilkinson, left, and Monique Truong are the two American jurors for the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction. (Mecca Gamble, Submitted by the Carol Shields Prize)

Wilkinson is currently the poet laureate of Kentucky. She is the author of the poetry collection Perfect Black, the short story collections Water Street and Blackberries, Blackberries and the novel The Birds of Opulence.

Truong is a Vietnamese American writer who currently lives in Brooklyn. She is the author of the novels The Book of Salt, Bitter in the Mouth and The Sweetest Fruits.

The longlist will be revealed on March 8, the shortlist will be announced on April 6 and the winner will be revealed on May 4.

The Carol Shields Prize was founded by Canadian writer Susan Swan and Janice Zawerbny, an editor at HarperCollins Canada.

Planning for the prize began back in 2012 after Swan participated in a discussion of the status of women in writing on a panel that included Kate Mosse, who established the U.K. Women's Prize for Fiction and Australian writer Gail Jones. It was moderated by Shields's daughter Anne Giardini.

Looking at statistics generated by arts organizations like VIDA and CWILA, Swan found that women writers were being reviewed in publications far less than their male counterparts.

The historical numbers for major literary awards are particularly dismal — only 15 women have won the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1910 and about a third of the winners of Canada's oldest literary prize, the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction, have been women.

The winner of the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction will also be asked to select an emerging writer to mentor for a year.

Shields, the prize's namesake, was one of Canada's best-known writers.

Her books include the novels The Stone Diarieswhich won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in 1992 and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1993, Larry's Party and UnlessShe died in 2003.


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated there was a five-year residency requirement for eligible writers.
    Feb 07, 2023 1:29 PM ET

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