RBC Taylor Prize to end after 20 years of celebrating non-fiction

TORONTO — After 20 years of celebrating non-fiction writing, organizers say the RBC Taylor Prize will shut down next year.

The Charles Taylor Foundation says the prize, which comes with a $30,000 cheque, will be handed out for the last time in March.

First awarded in 2000, the prize honours late Canadian writer and historian Charles Taylor’s commitment to literary non-fiction.

In a news release Thursday, the foundation said it has “more than fulfilled” its original mandate of fostering appreciation for the genre.

It said trustees and sponsor RBC Wealth Management conducted an “in-depth analysis” that found literary non-fiction has become ”a major component of Canadian publishing” over the past two decades.

“It became clear last year that we had achieved every goal Charles and I set out,” founder Noreen Taylor said in a statement.

“While I know that there are huge changes on the horizon for writers, publishers, and the platforms they use to communicate their stories, I am confident that the current interest in well-written Canadian non-fiction will continue to sustain and engage its readership.”

Taylor said more than 100 Canadian non-fiction writers have benefited from the prize program.

The winner of the RBC Taylor Prize takes home a total of $30,000, and each finalist receives $5,000.

Previous recipients include Carol Ann Shields, Charles Foran, Thomas King, Ian Brown and Tanya Talaga.

Since 2013, the winner has also chosen a protege to receive the $10,000 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award. The mentorship program was expanded in 2018 to pair each of the finalists with an up-and-coming writer.

Members of the CanLit community mourned the prize’s shuttering on social media.

Alicia Elliott tweeted that winning the emerging writer award in 2018 made a huge impact on her career and helped her finish her book, “A Mind Spread Out on the Ground.”

“Creative non-fiction is, in my opinion, the most exciting work in Canada right now,” Elliott wrote. “It’s especially disappointing because BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of colour), queer, trans, disabled writers, and/or women are finally getting the support for their work they deserve.”

The Charles Taylor Foundation says it will hold a celebration of past laureates before the final winner is announced at a Toronto luncheon on March 2.

Organizers say a record 155 books have been submitted for the 2020 prize.

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