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Remembering Carol Shields

Family, friends, colleagues, writers, and fans are celebrating the life of beloved author Carol Shields, who died 10 years ago today from breast cancer at the age of 68.

To mark the occasion, the Carol Shields Literary Trust, which is run by the Shields family, placed an advertisement in the June 15th edition of The Globe and Mail, soliciting favourite quotes from her work, which are published on its website (carol-shields.com). According to Carol’s late husband, Donald, the trust received more than 30 submissions.

The best part is that the some of them not only came across Carol’s writing, but came across her at some point in their lives, says Donald. They told us about their history, so we decided to put a section on the website that quotes from their letters.

Knopf Random Canada publisher Anne Collins, who worked closely with Shields, says the company is honouring the day on social media, by posting photos on Facebook and Pinterest. Collins marked the event personally by rereading Shields’ 2002 novel, Unless. Every time I pick up one of her novels and read even a sentence it brings her voice into my head so clearly, Collins says. It also frankly causes me to miss her like crazy, and resent all over again the disease that took her from us.

A permanent tribute is also in the works in Winnipeg, where Shields lived for many years. Project Bookmark Canada, which erects textual markers from stories and poems in the physical locations where literary scenes are set, has been working closely with the family and the city to place a plaque at the corner of Osborne Street and River Avenue. An official announcement is expected soon.

According to Donald, who now lives in Victoria, the intersection has personal significance, as it’s close to where the couple lived for 20 years. It’s also the original site of the McNally Robinson bookstore, where Carol did many local readings and launches, and the Gas Station Theatre, which the Shields helped found.

Winnipeg is also home to the Carol Shields Auditorium and the Carol Shields Memorial Labyrinth, a community-initiated project inspired by her 1998 novel, in which the titular character is Larry’s Party, a labyrinth and maze designer. Donald hopes to organize a commemorative walk through the labyrinth.

Carol Shields remains one of Canada’s most decorated authors. Her 1993 novel, The Stone Diaries, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and a Governor General’s Literary Award, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Larry’s Party won France’s Prix de Lire and the U.K.’s Orange Prize. A year before her death, Shields published a biography of Jane Austen, which won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction, and Unless, which was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Orange Prize, and the Booker.