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Hilary Weston teams up with Writers’ Trust to create Canada’s richest non-fiction prize

The Writers’ Trust of Canada has found a new sponsor for its non-fiction prize, giving a big financial boost – and adding a dash of celebrity – to the annual award.

The Writers’ Trust announced today that former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Hilary Weston, wife of grocery and retail magnate Galen Weston, has stepped up to sponsor the prize, increasing the purse from $25,000 to $60,000 and making it among the richest literary prizes in the country. Only the $65,000 Griffin Poetry Prize is worth more.

For those keeping tabs, the Weston Prize, which will be handed out for the first time this fall, becomes not only the richest non-fiction prize in the country, but also the most lucrative literary award offered by the Writers’ Trust, which also administers the $25,000 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the $25,000 Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award, among others.

It also means that non-fiction has arguably become the most prize-rich category in Canadian letters, with the $40,000 B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-fiction, the $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction, the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing (also administered by the Writers’ Trust), the $25,000 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction, and the $20,000 National Business Book Award all vying for attention. The Lionel Gelber Prize, presented by the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and open to international entries, is worth $15,000.

The Weston Prize will be handed out at a gala event in Toronto this fall. A press release from the Writers’ Trust notes the prize will include an educational component that will “provide Canadian high schools with resources to connect prize finalists and their writers with young readers.”

In the release, Weston said: “Our writers are held in great esteem worldwide for the quality, and range of their ideas and ability to express them. I am honoured to have this unique opportunity to recognize our writers and contribute to meaningful efforts aimed at further enhancing the status of non-fiction writers in Canada and around the world.”

Writers’ Trust chair Peter Kahnert said: “This generous sponsorship, combined with Mrs. Weston’s personal support, leadership and partnership, is transformational in taking our efforts to a whole new level of excellence to reward and recognize some of our finest writers. This new award will help shine a light on great Canadian writers and their writing for many years to come.”

The Writers’ Trust Non-fiction Prize was established in 1997 but has been without a sponsor since 2008. James FitzGerald, who won last year for What Disturbs Our Blood: A Son’s Quest to Redeem the Past (Random House Canada), received $25,000.

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