Books

Ryerson prof Laurie Petrou wins $50K US literary prize for unpublished thriller Sister of Mine

Laurie Petrou is the first winner of the Half the World Global Literati Award, which recognizes unpublished work featuring women as main characters.
Laurie Petrou is the winner of the first Half the World Global Literati Award. Her novel Sister of Mine beat out finalists from the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. (CBC Books)

Ryerson University professor Laurie Petrou has been named the inaugural winner of the Half the World Global Literati Award, a $50,000 U.S. ($64,575 CDN) literary prize that honours unpublished work featuring women as lead characters.

Petrou's psychological thriller Sister of Mine took home the top prize, beating out finalists from the U.S., the U.K., Australia and South Africa.

"[I'm] overjoyed. I am beyond thrilled. Trembling," said Petrou to CBC Books the morning of her win.

"I love the idea of this award... I think consciously or unconsciously a lot of people still prize male stories over female stories. Sometimes it takes something like this to remind us that women and girls have stories worth reading about."

Petrou's novel tells the story of two sisters bound together - for better or worse - by a dark secret.

"I would love to see the manuscript get out into the world. I can't wait to see what happens next," said Petrou.

Prize spokesperson Caroline Bowler said, "The judges rewarded the taut writing of a compulsive page-turner, which explores the complex relationship between two sisters with a damaging secret."

Two other Canadian writers also won awards. Lisa Hagen from New Hamburg, Ont. won the screenwriting category for her script Dancing on the Elephant, while McGill University student Danna Petersen-Deeprose won the short story category for her story "Looking for Lost Girl."

Hagen and Petersen-Deeprose will each receive a cash prize of $1,000 U.S. ($1,291.50).

It was an almost all-Canadian sweep for the international award, except for American writer Jude Roth whose screenplay Plan B won the People's Choice Award and Japan-based writer Suzanne Kamata, who won an award for her biography Squeaky Wheels.

The Half the World Global Literati Award launched this year with the aim of balancing out a trend that indicates many major awards are given to books about male characters. Writers were encouraged to submit an unpublished novel, short story or screenplay in any genre featuring women as main characters.

The judging panel includes Anne Harrison, producer of the Oscar-nominated film The Danish Girl, scholar Dr. Lisa Tomlinson, journalist Margie Orford, Cassandra's Angel author Gina Otto, Harper's Bazaar Singapore editor-in-chief Kenneth Goh, Darkness and Warrior Chronicles series author K.F. Breene, environmental activist Michael Marckx and Half the World Holdings executive director Debra Langley.

The Half the World Global Literati Awards were created by Half the World Holdings, a global investment platform specializing in companies where women are the main consumer demographic.

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