Writers spread the words at STARFest, Edmonton Poetry Festival

St. Albert Gazette: One of the most powerful Alberta writers of this decade will be a special guest at STARFest Conversations on Sunday.

Theresa Shea, a historical fiction novelist, will discuss her latest book, The Shade Tree, winner of Canada’s Guernica Literary Prize. This blistering indictment of the Jim Crow era deals with topics of systemic racism, slavery, feminism and the destructive strictures of society.

“I always wanted to write a book with characters I would want to go back and read. In fiction, you see what they think within the context of the world they live in. Sometimes, you understand why they do what they do,” said Shea.

The Edmonton-based author has a doctorate in literature, and wrote the novel over a 10-year period using every tool available including YouTube to develop an understanding of character and circumstance.

“I hope it blows up the myth that when slavery was abolished, it was fine. It wasn’t.”

From the start, The Shade Tree follows the lives of three southern women living in Florida and later Washington from 1930 to 1963. Sisters Ellie and Mavis are entitled daughters of a white orchard owner. The third is Sliver, a Black midwife who lives on a more affluent neighbouring farm.

Ellie, the older sister, is “smart, beautiful, bored and devious.” She lies about a sexual relationship with a Black man and he is lynched. Recognizing her power as a white woman, she develops a pattern of sexually exploiting Black men.

“She sees what goes on – white men helping themselves to Black women. But she gets caught, is separated and sent away,” said Shea.

Read the full text article at: https://www.stalbertgazette.com/local-arts-and-culture/writers-spread-the-words-at-starfest-edmonton-poetry-festival-6868005

The Shade Tree: Wins 2022 Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction

Release Date: June 11, 2022

The Shade Tree is announced as the winner of this year’s George Bugnet Award for Fiction during the 40th Anniversary Gala of the Alberta Literary Awards presented by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta.


The Writers’ Guild of Alberta is the largest provincial writers’ organization in Canada. Formed in 1980, it provides a meeting ground and collective voice for the writers of the province. The Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction is sponsored by the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. It is awarded for a novel or collection of short fiction by an Alberta author in the previous year.

In making the award, the jury remarks included the following, “Nuanced, emotional, complex — The Shade Tree is an engaging work of fiction that unfolds systemic racism, slavery, and feminism. Theresa Shea pushes boundaries in this coming-of-age story. A brutal but compelling journey of two sisters, one who savagely exploits her privilege while the other awakens too late to the knowledge that she is also an accomplice to social injustice.”

Excerpt: Dog Days of Planet Earth

Published in Edify:

On a grey February morning in 1985, 52-year-old Trevor Westmore walked out of the penitentiary a free man.

“Wait here,” the guard said.

Membranes of ice covered the puddles in the parking lot. The sky was gun-muzzle grey. Nearby, river ice changed in light from grey to blue to green, deceiving animals and people alike with a false sense of security.

The Shade Tree, short-listed for Georges Bugnet Award

The Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction is sponsored by the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. It is awarded for a novel or collection of short fiction by an Alberta author in the previous year.

Online Readings with the Finalists

The Shade Tree wins 2020 Guernica Prize

The Shade Tree has been selected as this year’s Guernica Prize Winner. The Guerica Prize jury described The Shade Tree as “an emotional, complex work that presents difficult, important questions at a high level of craft.”