Hon. Hilary M. Weston and the Writers' Trust Present $60,000 Literary Award to Graeme Smith for Account of Afghan War

TORONTO, Oct. 21, 2013 /CNW/ - The Writers' Trust of Canada announced tonight that Graeme Smith has won the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction for The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan, published by Knopf Canada. The prize is the richest annual literary award for a book of nonfiction published in Canada.

The prize was awarded by the Honorable Hilary M. Weston in Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario at a salon-style gathering of more than 200 members of the literary, philanthropic, and visual arts communities. Renowned Canadian performers enlivened the evening with dramatic readings of the nominated titles. These special guest actors were Ella Ballentine, Sid Bobb, Kevin Bundy, David Ferry, and Karen Robinson. The event was hosted by Shelagh Rogers, broadcast journalist and host of CBC Radio One's The Next Chapter. Along with the $60,000 prize, Smith received a sculpture created by crystal artist Mark Raynes Roberts.

Prize finalists were selected by a jury composed of novelist and cultural critic Hal Niedzviecki; writer and last year's prize winner Candace Savage; and writer and creative nonfiction writing instructor Andreas Schroeder. In selecting the winner they were joined by founder and executive director of War Child Canada Samantha Nutt and CBC broadcast journalist Evan Solomon. Their citation reads:

      When Graeme Smith travelled to the war in Afghanistan as a young and idealistic journalist in 2005, he fully believed that the international community could "bring the whole basket of civilization to Afghanistan: peace, democracy, the rule of law." The Dogs Are Eating Them Now is his painfully detailed, eyebrow-raising account of what he saw during his six years of reporting on that effort for the Globe and Mail: a tragic mix of cultural ignorance, miscommunication, greed, brutality, and political naiveté that no amount of individual courage and dedication could ultimately overcome. A graphic but determinedly even-handed memoir that does much to counter the reams of official spin this topic has endured over the years.

Graeme Smith covered the Afghan war for the Globe and Mail from 2005 to 2009. He has also been a correspondent for the paper based in Istanbul, Delhi, and Moscow. For his investigative reporting Smith has received numerous awards, including three National Newspaper Awards, the Amnesty International Award, the Michener Award, and, for his multimedia series "Talking to the Taliban," an Emmy Award. Currently based in Kabul, Smith is a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, which offers non-partisan analysis and advice to governments and intergovernmental bodies on the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict.

Four finalists for this year's prize received $5,000 each:

  • Thomas King for The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday Canada)
  • J.B. MacKinnon for The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be (Random House Canada)
  • Andrew Steinmetz for This Great Escape: The Case of Michael Paryla (Biblioasis)
  • Priscila Uppal for Projection: Encounters with my Runaway Mother (Dundurn Press)

"It is a tremendous honour to showcase these five extraordinary writers and their powerful stories," said Mrs. Weston. "The exceptional quality and range on show by this country's nonfiction writers is recognized internationally and we remain delighted that the prize has helped raise the profile of such remarkable practitioners of the craft."

The Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize is grateful to Loblaw Companies Limited for making the five prize finalists titles available in select Loblaw banner stores nationwide. A list of Loblaw banner stores across Canada is available at http://loblawstores.ca/LCLOnline/.

Additional support for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize is provided by media partner CBC Books.

For more information on this year's finalists and to download high-resolution images of the nominated authors and their books, visit writerstrust.com.

About Mrs. Hilary M. Weston, CM, OOnt
Mrs. Hilary M. Weston served as the 26th lieutenant-governor of Ontario from 1997 to 2002. As the Queen's representative in Ontario, Mrs. Weston was responsible for the Crown's constitutional and representational roles in the province. Since leaving public office, Mrs. Weston has continued to pursue her diverse interests. She led Renaissance ROM, the largest fundraising campaign in Canadian cultural history, transforming the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. She is a trustee of St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle and serves on the board of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Mrs. Weston is also a corporate director of Wittington Investments and Selfridges Group Ltd. She has also served as deputy chair of the board of Holt Renfrew, promoting Canadian designers in the retailing business.

Mrs. Weston founded the Ireland Fund of Canada and remains a patron of this non-denominational organization promoting peace in Ireland. Her interests in homes and gardens resulted in the publication of In a Canadian Garden (1989) and At Home in Canada (1995). She served as first chancellor of the Order of Ontario, was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2003, and is the recipient of six honorary degrees.

About the Prize
The prize is awarded for literary excellence in the category of nonfiction, which includes, among other forms, personal or journalistic essays, history, biography, memoirs, commentary, and criticism, both social and political. Finalist works will, in the opinion of the jury, demonstrate a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style, and technique. This award succeeds the Writers' Trust Nonfiction Prize, which was established in 1997.

About the Writers' Trust
The Writers' Trust of Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to advance, nurture, and celebrate Canadian writers and writing through a portfolio of programs, including literary awards, financial grants, scholarships, and a writers' retreat. Writers' Trust programming is designed to champion excellence in Canadian writing, to improve the status of writers, and to create connections between writers and readers. Canada's writers receive more financial support from the Writers' Trust than from any other non-governmental organization or foundation in the country. 

SOURCE: The Writers' Trust of Canada

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For more information and interview opportunities contact:
Becky Toyne, 416-871-0502, bt@beckytoyne.com

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