I was thrilled today to learn that Without Honour, my book about the 2009 Shafia honour killings, has been longlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction (formerly the Charles Taylor Prize). This prestigious award is given annually to a book that “combines a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style, and a subtlety of thought and perception.” It’s an honour to earn a place on a roster of gifted writers – and award events often feature great parties – though I’ll have to get on the shortlist for that. The shortlist will be announced January 15 and the winner revealed March 10. It’s humbling to see that I’m in the company of formidable literary figures, including past Taylor nominees such as personal idol Stevie Cameron, the legendary investigative journalist who was on the Taylor shortlist in 2011 for On the Farm, her definitive account of the Pickton serial murder case.
Many writers lament the solitariness of the craft – countless hours spent alone pecking at a keyboard or typewriter, and, often, untold additional hours spent scrawling on a notepad. I’m in the George Orwell camp when it comes to the emotional investment in the process: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness,” Orwell said. “One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” While the process may be solitary and wearying, it isn’t singular. Writers may be alone (often) but they’re not (often) lonely. And that’s why I’d like to thank again the many people who made it possible for Without Honour to earn a Taylor Prize nomination. Foremost are folks who have bought and read the book. You honour the memories of Zainab, Sahar, Geeti and Rona by committing to explore a dark story.
My brilliant editor at HarperCollins Canada, Kate Cassaday, drove me to do better with every sentence. Daphne Hart, my agent at the Helen Heller Agency, found the perfect home for the book. Copy editor Sarah Wight was meticulous.
My number one fan and promoter is my wife, Sarah Crosbie.
And how did I find out about the Taylor longlist honour today? Did an embossed envelope arrive at my home a few days prior, carrying the news on a crisp sheet of card stock? Did I receive a congratulatory message by urgent courier? Perhaps an emissary arrived at my door, bearing the happy news? None of the preceding.
I am grateful to Pages on Kensington bookshop in my hometown of Calgary, for alerting me on Facebook this morning, with a congratulatory post on my wall. Apparently, the process is really secretive.
Here’s the complete Taylor Prize longlist announcement:
RBC Taylor Prize announces 2014 Longlist
Noreen Taylor and jurors Coral Ann Howells, James Polk, and Andrew Westoll reveal a dozen stellar works of literary non-fiction, just in time for Christmas book shopping!
1. The Juggler’s Children: A Journey in Family, Legend and the Genes that Bind Us by Carolyn Abraham (Toronto, Ontario), published by Random House Canada
2. The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Century by Charlotte Gray (Ottawa, Ontario), published by HarperCollins
3. Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark: The West Versus the Rest Since Confederation by Mary Janigan (Toronto, Ontario), published by Vintage Canada
4. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King (Guelph, Ontario), published by Doubleday Canada
5. The Once and Future World: Nature As it Was, As it Is, As it Could Be by J.B. MacKinnon (Vancouver, BC), published by Random House Canada
6. The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan (Oxford, England), published by Allen Lane
7. How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit by Witold Rybcynski (Philadelphia, PA), published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
8. The Dogs are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan by Graeme Smith (Afghanistan), published by Knopf Canada
9. Arthur Erickson: An Architect’s Life by David Stouck (Vancouver, BC), published by Douglas & McIntyre
10. Without Honour: The True Story of the Shafia Family and the Kingston Canal Murders by Rob Tripp (Calgary, Alberta), published by HarperCollins
11. Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad by Alison Wearing (Stratford, Ontario), published by Knopf Canada
12. Little Ship of Fools: 16 Rowers, 1 Improbable Boat, 7 Tumultuous Weeks on the Atlantic by Charles Wilkins (Thunder Bay, Ontario), published by Greystone Books