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Kenneth White: The Canadian Council is abusing its mission by eliminating factual nonfiction.

Why the Sutherland House broke into a new annual award in nonfiction literature

Toronto-based publisher The Sutherland House has introduced a prize for researched nonfiction in response to the shunning of fact-based nonfiction for grants and prizes by the Canada Council.
Toronto-based publisher Sutherland House studies in response to the fact-based nonfiction evasion of grants and awards by the Canadian Council. Introduced a non-fiction award.Photos by Getty Images / iStock

The following is permission from The official newsletter SHuSH Obtained and reprinted. Sutherland House Inc. is a Toronto-based non-fiction book publisher founded by Canadian author and publisher executive Kenneth Whyte.

By Kenneth Whyte

Since the launch of this newsletter in May 2019, we have been in Canada. The crisis of non-fiction publishing.

It all started with our recognition that the Canadian Council has decided that books that rely primarily on facts rather than the voice of the author are not art. Personal history, personal memoirs, and personal essays meet the artistic standards of the Canadian Council and are therefore eligible for grants and awards. Writing objective fact-based journalism, essays, history, biographies, business and science, not much.

I was plagued by the idea that the distance the author chooses to take from the subject (for example, first and third person) is what creates or destroys the work of art. The same is true for the author's fidelity or lack of verifiable facts.

Also, government agencies such as the Canadian Council have a writer's subjective experience with other people's governments of credible fact-based information in the public sphere. We were so upset about the lack that we were sending over $ 500 million to our failed newspaper chain. If Ottawa is truly concerned about the quality of public discourse in Canada and the information available to voters, the Canadian Council withdraws its policy and brings fact-based nonfiction to the same level as fiction, poetry and personal literature. You will be instructed to help with. ..

SHuSH pursued the problem. Explained why funding the Canadian Council is important. Most Canadian publishers go out of business without subsidies or are significantly reduced, so naturally they create books that make money. The nonfiction studied is expensive and time consuming to produce at its best. When relatively disadvantaged by art funders, it begins to disappear. It's no coincidence that in recent years, the finalists of all major nonfiction awards in Canada have been dominated by memoirs.

(We have always had a hard time adding that there is nothing against the memoirs — we publish our share — But it is not a substitute for well-studied fact-based nonfiction. If we try to understand ourselves and our time, research journalism, history, biography, politics, current affairs, science and health. I need a book.) In

SHuSH Edition116we gave the floor Windsor-based Biblioasis publisher and owner Dan Wells said: It says. Responsible authority position. And we have never been in a bad position to do so. Our market is dominated by foreign multinationals, who consider Canada too small to invest in well-studied Canadian nonfiction.

Multinationals are like Penguin Random House Canada and HarperCollins Canada. Dan is a bookstore and publisher, so he watches the catalog carefully.

"As a bookstore," he says. "Of the 5,000 Penguin Random House titles I've selected in Canada in six months, there may be one Canadian history or study. Nonfiction.

" If necessary, The major American history and politics titles brought to Canada by multinational companies alone were able to fill 8-10 shelves every 6 months of publishing season, but during the year. I had a hard time keeping the Canadian history shelves fresh.

"At some point I started tracking, but there are three presses doing virtually nonfiction across Canada? Only four were found. "

SHuSH 121states that the law governing the Canadian Council supports a narrow definition of literary arts. I searched. On the contrary, a wealth of evidence was found that the founders of the legislative and council were interested in all the literature of fiction and nonfiction, imagination and research.

Further digging, it was only recently that council officials, on their own initiative, created a definition of nonfiction that excluded fact-based third-party books. They defined literary nonfiction as "a work that presents a text of personal reflection in which the author's point of view and opinion are clear." The title of interest is stylistic and uses narrative techniques.

This definition is so narrow that no one who wrote it claims to know the artistic value of top-notch studied nonfiction. Some of these are consistent in all literature: clear and elegant prose that uses the full resources of the language, well-structured stories, precise details, vibrant scenes, proper metaphors, and more. Depth of research, factual organization, quality of analysis, soundness of discussion, originality of insight, intellectual purpose, and ability to give joy without compromising the truth.

If the Canadian Council fulfills its mission to support the full range of nonfiction, it must perform factual third party work on its own terms, rather than judging by fiction standards. there is. Or a memoir of literature.

After proving that the Canadian Council is abusing its mission and pointing out the shortcomings of the definition of nonfiction, SHuSH sits down and bureaucrats are on their own. I waited for the method to be fixed.

I'm still waiting. So far, the council's only response has been to remove the literary definition of nonfiction from its website.

Meanwhile, Canadian publishers continue to produce primarily memoirs and first-person nonfiction. The Canadian Literary Awards are still dominated by the same. And it's getting harder and harder to get top-notch, researched, non-fiction work.

So we decided to solve the problem ourselves. If the council does not support the nonfiction studied, Sutherland House will step into the breach.

We have set the best annual awards for this non-fiction project, open to both beginners and experienced writers. The winner will receive a publishing contract with Sutherland House, including a $ 10,000 (Can.) Upfront payment.

This award highlights non-fiction narrative works that require substantial research or subject matter expertise. Awarded for work in progress, either in a well-developed proposal or in the first draft manuscript. This will allow editors to work with the winners to provide editorial guidance towards the completion of the project. At a minimum, applicants must have a written summary of the book, sample chapters, and a complete chapter-by-chapter summary.

Most of the applicants and winners are expected to be Canadian, but they are offering awards to writers around the world. (This is primarily a protest against the narrowness imposed by Canadian grant agencies that the Sutherland House itself is not limited to Canadian writers and does not support Canadian publishers when working with international writers. The publisher, its publisher, editors, designers, and typesetters are Canadian.)

The writer does not need to submit an agent, but an agent Can submit the work of the authors they represent.

The 2022 Sutherland House Nonfiction Awards will be judged by the Sutherland House Editors.

The deadline for submission is September 30, 2022. Winners will be announced by December 1, 2022.

Entry must be submitted to The full rules are explained in detail on

We recognize that this is a small contribution to a big problem, but we will increase the prize money and go to research. I will continue to fight for further support. Nonfiction for the next few years.

Special to the National Post

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