Susan Swan and Janice Zawerbny have created a new prize for women’s fiction that has a hefty purse, including, as I think all good prizes should, a significant runners-up prize. What’s neatest about this prize is the obligation for the winner to pick an emerging woman to mentor. Good thinking and classy execution all around on this one.
Swan teamed up with a friend who works in book publishing, Janice Zawerbny, in an effort to continue to level the playing field. The result is a new annual prize, the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, which starting in 2022 will award $150,000 for a work of fiction published in the previous year by a woman or nonbinary person.
It is a sum that dwarfs the prize money for literary awards such as the Booker Prize (50,000 pounds, roughly $65,000), the Pulitzer Prize for fiction ($15,000) and the National Book Award ($10,000). The Nobel Prize for literature is one exception, with laureates receiving nearly $1 million.
“We wanted to go big on it so that people paid attention,” Swan said. In addition to the $150,000 grand prize, four finalists will each receive $12,500.