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Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction

Winner: $60,000; Finalists: $5,000
Finalists announced September 28, 2016 
Winner revealed November 2, 2016


Writers of nonfiction books begin with a single puzzle piece – a discovery, a belief, an idea – and build their picture out of words and story. The Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction celebrates the best in Canadian nonfiction writing, from history to biography, essay to memoir, and commentary to criticism. The 2016 prize winner will be announced at the Writers' Trust Awards in Toronto on November 2.

2016 Jury

nonfiction author and journalist Carolyn Abraham, 2016 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction JurorCarolyn Abraham is the author of two books, Possessing Genius and The Juggler’s Children, both of which were finalists for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction. She is a journalist who was the science writer for The Globe and Mail for 14 years, and before that wrote for the Ottawa Citizen. Born in England, Abraham moved to Canada as a child and currently lives in Toronto.


journalism professor and author Stephen Kimber, 2016 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction JurorStephen Kimber 
is a professor of journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax and an award-winning writer, editor, and broadcaster. He is the author of a novel and nine books of nonfiction, including What Lies Across the Water, which won the 2014 Evelyn Richardson Memorial Award.

and nonfiction writer and folklorist Emily Urquhart, 2016 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction JurorEmily Urquhart
’s writing has appeared in Reader’s Digest, The Walrus, and elsewhere. Herfirst book, Beyond the Pale, based on her National Magazine Award-winning story, was a Maclean’s bestseller, a finalist for the BC National Award for Canadian Nonfiction, and a 2015 Globe and Mail Best Book. After ten years dividing her time between St. John’s and Victoria, Urquhart recently moved to Kitchener, Ontario.


2015 Winner

Rosemary Sullivan Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva  HarperCollins Canada

Rosemary Sullivan
Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva 
HarperCollins Canada

Rosemary Sullivan Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva  HarperCollins Canada

Jury Citation

Compelling figures are essential in a great biography. They need not be famous or historically significant but they do require an author to bring to life their passions, ideas, feats, and failures. Rosemary Sullivan achieves all of it with an insightful yet empathetic portrait of Svetlana Alliluyeva. Stalin’s Daughter expansively intertwines history, political intrigue, espionage, and domestic drama, yet Sullivan hones the episodes to one struggle: Alliluyeva’s attempt to escape her father’s shadow. When the “Soviet Princess” died, she was treated in the media more like a post-Cold War curiosity. Sullivan’s book delivers a fully wrought literary heroine.

About the Book

Svetlana Alliluyeva lived her life in the shadow of one of history’s most monstrous dictators—her father, Josef Stalin. Communist Party privilege protected her from the mass starvation and purges that haunted the Soviet Union, but she did not escape tragedy—the loss of her mother, two brothers, aunts and uncles, and a lover deliberately exiled to Siberia by her father. As she gradually learned about the extent of her father’s brutality after his death, Svetlana could no longer keep quiet and in 1967 shocked the world by defecting to the United States—leaving her two children behind. Her life in America was fractured; she moved frequently, married disastrously, shunned other Russian exiles, and ultimately died in poverty. Rosemary Sullivan adroitly pieces together an intimate biography of a woman doomed to be a political prisoner of her father’s name.

About the Author

Rosemary Sullivan has written poetry, short fiction, biography, and literary criticism. Her recent books include Villa Air-Bel and Labyrinth of Desire. She is a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and a recipient of the Lorne Pierce Medal, awarded by the Royal Society of Canada for her contribution to literature and culture. An Officer of the Order of Canada, Sullivan lives in Toronto. 

About the Honourable Hilary M. Weston, CM, OOnt

Hilary Weston

The Hon. Hilary M. Weston served as the 26th lieutenant-governor of Ontario from 1997 to 2002. As the Queen’s representative in Ontario, Mrs. Weston was responsible for the Crown’s constitutional and representational roles in the province. Since leaving public office, Mrs. Weston has continued to pursue her diverse interests. She led Renaissance ROM, the largest fundraising campaign in Canadian cultural history, transforming the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. She is a trustee of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and serves on the board of the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Aga Khan Museum. She is also Chair of Prince’s Charities Canada.

Mrs. Weston is a director of Wittington Investments, the family holding company, and Selfridges Group; and is a member of the International Advisory Board of Sotheby’s. She has served as deputy chair of the board of Holt Renfrew, promoting Canadian designers in the retailing business.

Mrs. Weston founded the Ireland Fund of Canada and remains a patron of this non-denominational organization promoting peace in Ireland. Her interests in homes and gardens resulted in the publication of In a Canadian Garden (1989) and At Home in Canada (1995). She served as first Chancellor of the Order of Ontario and was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2003. She received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. Mrs. Weston was invested by the Queen as a Commander in the Royal Victorian Order in October 2015 and is the recipient of several honorary degrees. 

About the Prize

The prize is awarded for literary excellence in the category of nonfiction, which includes, among other forms, personal or journalistic essays, history, biography, memoirs, commentary, and criticism, both social and political. Finalist works will, in the opinion of the jury, demonstrate a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style, and technique. This award succeeds the Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize, which was established in 1997.


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Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing  
Second Deadline

Nov 16, 2016
For books published between
Sept 14 - Dec 31

Woodcock Fund



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