The $25,000 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize released its shortlist this morning, the first of the Big Three Canadian fiction awards to do so. The Governor General’s Literary Awards, also worth $25,000 to the winner, will announce its shortlist on Wednesday (Oct. 2) and the richest of them all, the $50,000 Scotiabank Giller, will follow on Oct. 8.
The RWT has some overlap with the 13-book Giller long list, already released on Sept. 16: Lynn Coady’s much-talked about short-story collection, Hellgoing, and Caught, Lisa Moore’s novel, made both lists. More striking, though, is just how fine a year it’s turning out to be for the House of Anansi. Now owned by Scott Griffin, the founder of the lucrative Griffin Poetry Prize, the 45-year-old independent publisher not only has what it modestly (and correctly) calls “a culturally significant backlist,” it has lately added edgy and commercially successful crime writing, including Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee series, to its literary and often prize-winning fiction. It published both Coady and Moore, and the RWT jurors—writers Caroline Adderson, Alison Pick, and Miguel Syjuco—even added a third Anansi title, A Bird’s Eye by Cary Fagan, to the five-name shortlist. They were joined by Colin McAdam for A Beautiful Truth, a novel published by Hamish Hamilton Canada, a Penguin imprint, making it the sole representative of a major publisher on the shortlist. The fifth nominee was Krista Bridge’s novel The Eliot Girls, published under the Douglas & McIntyre name after D&M, mired in bankruptcy, sold the imprint to Harbour Publishing.
A good list for independent publishing, then, made bittersweet by D&M’s all-too-familiar fate—shaping and editing an award-nominated book that’s actually released by some other company. The winner will be announced on Nov. 20.
Finalists for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize:
• Krista Bridge, The Eliot Girls (Douglas & McIntyre)
• Lynn Coady, Hellgoing (House of Anansi Press)
• Cary Fagan, A Bird’s Eye (House of Anansi Press)
• Colin McAdam, A Beautiful Truth (Hamish Hamilton Canada)
• Lisa Moore, Caught (House of Anansi Press)
Each of the five finalists will receive $2,500, with the eventual prizewinner receiving a total of $25,000. The finalists were chosen by a jury of Caroline Adderson, Alison Pick, and Miguel Syjuco. They read 115 books from 50 publishers. The prize is sponsored by Rogers Communications Inc. (the owner of Maclean’s).