Carol Shields, C.C., O.M., F.R.S.C.

(1935-2003)

Pulitzer Prize winner Carol Shields was an internationally acclaimed author, poet and playwright renowned for her compassion and ability to “create intimate worlds of great beauty” (Order of Canada) and characters that reveal the depths of our own lives.

Carol Ann Warner grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. She came to Canada in her early 20s when she married Don Shields, a Canadian engineer. Her talent was first recognized when she won the CBC Young Writers Competition for poetry in 1965. She went on to publish three collections of poetry, Others (1972), Intersect (1974) and Coming to Canada (1992). While raising five young children, she completed a master’s thesis, published as Susanna Moodie: Voice and Vision (1975).

Shields’s first novel, Small Ceremonies (1976), won the Canadian Authors Association Award. She published eight more novels, three short story collections, plays for radio and stage, and a biography of Jane Austen. She also had a career as a mentor, teaching creative writing at Humber College in Toronto, Queen’s University in Kingston, the University of Ottawa and the University of Manitoba.
In 1980, Shields moved to Winnipeg with her husband and two children. She became a champion of the arts community, as Manitoba representative for the Canada Council, and taught at the U. of M. for 16 years, where she was made professor emerita.

In 1988, she was awarded the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Canadian Mystery for Swann: A Mystery (1987). That same year, she was writer-in-residence at the University of Winnipeg.

Her novel The Republic of Love (1992) made Winnipeg “an engaging character,” wrote a New York Times book reviewer. “Ms. Shields makes me want to fly there, to drink cappuccino in a Winnipeg café.”

Shields also wrote The Stone Diaries (1993) in Winnipeg. The “stone” refers to Manitoba’s Tyndall stone. The novel was nominated for the Man Booker Prize. It won the Pulitzer Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction, McNally-Robinson Award for Manitoba Book of the Year, Canadian Booksellers Association Prize, and National Book Critics Circle Award. “The Stone Diaries is intensely imagined, humanely generous, beautifully sustained and impeccably detailed,” wrote Publishers Weekly.

Shields went on to win the Orange Prize for Fiction for her novel Larry’s Party (1997), about a Winnipeg florist turned landscape designer who specializes in mazes. The Carol Shields Memorial Labyrinth in south Winnipeg honours that novel especially.

Shields’s final novel, Unless (2002), was nominated for the Giller Prize, Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction, Man Booker Prize, Orange Prize for Fiction, and won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.

As University of Winnipeg Chancellor (1996-2000), Shields took part in countless classes, committees, readings and symposia. She was a tireless advocate for the university.

Shields was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1998, elevated to Companion of the Order in 2002, a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a member of the Order of Manitoba. Shields died in 2003, in Victoria, BC.

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