CBC Literary Prizes

Anthropocene Diary by Jean McNeil

Jean McNeil has made the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Anthropocene Diary.

2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist

Jean McNeil is an award-winning writer living in London, U.K. (Diego Ferrari)

Jean McNeil has made the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Anthropocene Diary.

The winner will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and will have their work published by CBC Books.

Four finalists will receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and will have their work published by CBC Books.

The shortlist will be announced on Sept. 24. The winner will be announced on Oct. 1.

About Jean

Jean McNeil is the author of several books, including Ice Diaries: an Antarctic Memoir, which won the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival's Grand Prize in 2016, and was named a best nature book of the year by The Guardian in 2018. Her story The Kusi made the 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist. She has undertaken residencies with the British Antarctic Survey, in the Falkland Islands, in Svalbard and Greenland and has been writer-in-residence on several ship-based oceanographic expeditions. 

Entry in five-ish words

"Dispatches from a warming planet."

The story's source of inspiration

"From 2018 until early 2020 I travelled a great deal, usually to speak about climate change or undertake research for my books. Everywhere I went – Malaysia, Kenya, the U.S., Spain – as well as at home in England, I found myself in places where the temperatures were freakishly high, and the weather becoming bizarre. I wanted to record my registering of the warming planet against a backdrop of increasingly polarised politics.

"Also, our growing awareness that we are in a new era, the Anthropocene, in which the impact of man is permanently altering the geological record of the earth, is a huge idea, almost un-absorbable. It has to be understood against the stuff of ordinary life: art exhibitions, meditations on the original landscapes of our lives and how they have changed, conferences, meetings, feelings. Anthropocene Diary is a subjective account of the intimidating reality of climate change."

First lines

July 27th, 2018. Holkham, Norfolk, England, 33 degrees.
The 40th straight day of a heatwave. No rain now for four weeks, maybe five. The grass is tobacco. Jets scrape across glassy skies.

Drive to Holkham Beach before heading to a reception at Malcolm's in Blakeney. Holkham is the only beach which has the dimensions and the emptiness of my Nova Scotia childhood: grove of pines, cool mesh knitted by their needles, dun sand, genial seals.

I walk to the shoreline: dunes, salt lagoons, cracked-open horizon that doesn't tally with the British isles. Lately I am seeing everything from above, as if my life is being shot from a drone. 

About the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize

The winner of the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity. Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.

The 2021 CBC Short Story Prize is currently open for submissions. The 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize will open in January. The 2021 CBC Poetry Prize will open in April.

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