Literary Prizes

Montreal writer Chanel M. Sutherland wins 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize

Chanel M. Sutherland won the 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize for her story Umbrella. Will you be next? The 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize is open for submissions until Feb. 28, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

The 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize is open for submissions until Feb. 28, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. ET

A smiling Black woman with long dark hair in a garden wearing a red blouse
Chanel M. Sutherland is a writer and product marketing director living in Montreal. (Submitted by Chanel M. Sutherland)

Chanel M. Sutherland won the 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize for Umbrella

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

Sutherland's winning story was published on CBC Books. You can read Umbrella here

Sutherland's story was selected from nearly 2,000 entries. 

Featured Video2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize winner Chanel M. Sutherland, reads an excerpt of her essay Umbrella on As It Happens

Born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sutherland moved to Canada when she was 10 years old. She's currently a product marketing director living in Montreal. 

She wrote Umbrella because she wanted to confront racial microaggressions and remove the subtleties that these actions and comments often hide behind.

"Over the years I tried to figure out why that specific experience mattered so much — why it affected me and ultimately changed me. Because of it, I started paying more attention to the in-between of people's words and actions," Sutherland said in an interview with CBC Books.

"Writing Umbrella was a challenging experience because I had to restrain myself. There were so many emotions that I felt and connected to during the process, but I knew they would only oversaturate the story. That's why it is so satisfying to know that the jurors understood what I was trying to accomplish. This whole experience is like walking in a dream!"

The 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize jurors were Jenny Heijun Wills, M.G. Vassanji and Tim Cook.

"Umbrella is a story about race, gender and sexuality that is both familiar and unique, told with a restraint that characterizes its speaker in masterful ways. Here is a story about Black girlhood that bespeaks the ironic ways desire, belonging and acquiescence are, at times, inextricable. The result is a compelling, lively and informative piece that offers insight as it deploys literary skill from beginning to end," the jury said in a statement.

The four finalists for the 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize are Alison Hughes of Edmonton for Funhouse Mirrors, Barbara Mackenzie of Yellowknife for Northern Spring, Lee Thomas of Fredericton for My Summer Body and Sarah Van Goethem of Bothwell, Ont., for A Borrowed Husband

They will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts.

The jury selected the shortlist from a longlist of 28 writers that was compiled by a team of writers and editors from across Canada.

Francis Ouellette won the Prix du récit Radio-Canada 2021 for La ballade de Ti Crisse.

The 2020 winner was Burnaby, B.C., writer Jonathan Poh for his story Value Village.

The CBC Literary Prizes have been recognizing Canadian writers since 1979. Past winners include David Bergen, Michael Ondaatje, Carol Shields and Michael Winter.

The 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize is now open for submissions.

You have until Feb. 28, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. ET to submit your original, unpublished works of nonfiction, up to 2,000 words. There is no minimum word requirement.

You may submit memoir, biography, humour writing, essay (including personal essay), travel writing or a feature article. 

The entry fee is $25, which covers the costs of administering the prize.

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