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Does the literary world need a women-only prize?

The Rosalind Prize for Fiction – named for Shakespeare's 'As You Like It' heroine – follows awards like Australia's women-only Stella Prize and the U.K.'s Orange Prize.

By Husna Haq / November 2, 2012

The Stella Prize was named after writer Stella Maria Miles Franklin.

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Does the book world need a literary prize exclusively for female writers?

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That is the provocative question at the heart of a bold new trend slowly circling the literary world.

The U.K., Australia, and Canada apparently think so. Citing gaping gender disparities between recognition of men and women writers, each has launched literary awards just for female writers.

The latest, Canada’s Rosalind Prize for Fiction, was conceived during the Vancouver Writers Fest as a group of women, including the founder of the U.K.’s TK, were discussing the “extreme gender inequality in the awarding of literary prizes both internationally, and in Canada,” according to Canada’s Globe and Mail.

One audience member, Janice Zawerbny, editorial director at Thomas Allen Publishers, was so moved by what she heard, she decided to do something about it.

“I was shocked and dismayed,” she told the Globe and Mail. “I just felt compelled to take action.”

Thus was the Rosalind Prize for Fiction born, a literary prize exclusively for female writers of fiction in Canada.

The prize is named after the sharp and witty female protagonist in Shakespeare’s play, “As You Like It.”  It’s also the name of British biophysicist Rosalind Franklin, whose largely overlooked contributions helped lay the groundwork for the discovery of DNA.

Zawerbny hopes to present the inaugural Rosalind Prize in 2014.

That’s one year after Australia will award its first Stella Prize, that country’s first major literary award for women. Named after novelist Stella Maria Miles Franklin (“My Brilliant Career”), the $50,000 prize is open for both fiction and non-fiction.

“The Stella Prize will raise the profile and the sales of books by women,” Stella Prize Chair Aviva Tuffield said of the award, according to the blog IndieWire. “We want to encourage future generations of women writers, by increasing the recognition for Australian women's writing and supporting strong female role models. We also want to celebrate women's contribution to Australian literature.”

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