Thursday, October 25, 2012

A prize of their own

(I know. That title was a cheap shot).

I read with interest the recent announcement of the Rosalind Prize, a new Canadian literary prize for fiction by women (seen via Pickle Me This). As Kerry points out, the statistics about women writers in other literary prizes in Canada are pretty bad.

What do you think about this? Do we still need a room of our own?

Or, are literary prizes in general worthwhile schemes, or do you believe that "writing is not a competitive or comparative endeavour," to quote Richard Greener?


  1. I've been volunteering since March with Room, formerly known as Room of One's Own - Canada's oldest literary journal by and for women (publishing since 1975).

    I joined them for practical reasons: more resume ammunition. And I've been known to call myself a feminist, when such labels are required, but tend to think of myself as a human before I think of myself as a woman. So there is my bias in answering your questions.

    Yes, I think women still need a room of our own. I think the Rosalind prize is a good idea (though I cringe that it was named for a character created by a man), and necessary. Equality for the genders simply does not exist. It's getting better (I think, from my Caucasian, educated, North America-living perspective) but the numbers show that male authors are reviewed and rewarded more often than females. Reviews and awards mean sales. Sales mean a track record. A track record means more editors are more willing to take a look at your work. They will take a closer look, or a second look, if you have already been published or won something. Literature is a business. Businesses need to make money.

    However, my idealistic side strongly believes that writing (or any artistic anything: film, photography, music....) is not a competitive or comparative endeavour. I see awards of all kinds as political, corporate gongshows. But they still hold the allure of hope and promise, and I think it's important to keep hope alive. Something to strive for? I've read amazing books by male and female writers that don't win prizes and don't seem to be on anyone with any pull or power's radar, but I am still happy that they exist.

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head. I have to say I was a bit put off by the Giller ceremony this year (am I getting older and more cynical? Or is that ceremony just really freaking boring?) but I still think that what Jack Rabinovitch did in creating the Giller was completely worthwhile.

    Oh, hey, you know what's ironic? Giller is named for a woman! But only 7 women winners in 18 years.....