Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Prize Watch: Shaughnessy Cohen Prize to John Vaillant for Fire Weather

No disrespect to the other nominees, but I was pleased to see John Vaillant's Fire Weather being awarded the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing at the Writers' Trust annual Politics and the Pen dinner in Ottawa.  

Fire Weather was shortlisted for the American Pulitzer Prize (and for the Hilary Weston Nonfiction Prize in Canada) and has won a bunch of other awards here and internationally. 

Update, May 9:  Helen Webberley asks: 

Elizabeth Shaughnessy Cohen must have been an impressive lawyer and politician since her prize for political writing is given at the annual Writers' Trust. Is the prize highly regarded amongst writers?

She was popular more than prominent, perhaps. She was a twice-elected MP in the Canadian Parliament, until she dropped dead of a brain hemorrhage in the Commons chamber in 1998, aged just 50. Friends and colleagues sponsored the award in her name. It has added cachet from being administered by the Writers' Trust of Canada, the leading non-governmental source of literary prizes in Canada, and also from being awarded in Ottawa at a lavish event popular with the Ottawa political class: "Politics and the Pen" -- and not at their main prize-giving in November each year. It was held a few times in the rotunda and adjacent corridors of the Parliament Building  -- I attended one and was much impressed -- but it now takes place in a hotel. It should be well regarded by writers, I think: strong, independent jurors, a purse of $25,000 shortlists of books not always noticed for literary awards. Wikipedia has this.  Over the years, jurors have often taken a broad view of what constitutes Political Writing -- as they probably should.

You are Australian, Helen. Does Australia have an equivalent political-books prize?

Follow @CmedMoore