The Canadian Shields

Stories and Essays


Newly discovered work by one of Canada’s favourite writers

The Canadian Shields brings together fifty short writings by Carol Shields (1935–2003), including more than two dozen previously unpublished short stories and essays and two dozen essays previously published but never before collected. Invaluable to scholars and admirers of Shields’s work, the writings discovered in the National Library Archives by Nora Foster Stovel and presented to the public here for the first time reflect Shields’s interest in the relationships between reality and fiction, mothers and daughters, and gender and genre. They also reveal her love of Canada, especially Winnipeg, her home for twenty years. Originally written for women’s magazines, travel journals, convocation addresses, and even graduate school term papers, Shields’s imaginative essays explore ideas about home, Canadian literature, contemporary women’s writing, and the future of fiction. Whether autobiographical, cultural, or feminist in focus, these works vividly illuminate the multiple chapters of Shields’s writing life.

Margaret Atwood and Lorna Crozier frame Shields’s texts with tributes to her work and impact. An introduction by Stovel situates Shields as a Canadian author and subversive feminist writer, demonstrating how American-born-and-raised Carol Anne Warner became “the Canadian Shields”—a quintessential and beloved Canadian writer and the only author to win both the Pulitzer Prize and the Governor General’s Gold Medal for Fiction.


“A significant trove, this collection of stories, letters, articles, and speeches throws light on the mysterious creative process as it moves from personal experience to public performance. The Canadian Shields gave me a new angle for approaching a long-time favourite writer."

Elizabeth Waterston, University of Guelph

“This collection is of major value to any Shields reader. Stovel’s long and intimate acquaintance with every facet of Shields’s writing makes her pre-eminent in this field.”

Neil Besner, Professor Emeritus, University of Winnipeg

About the Authors

Carol Shields (1935–2003) was an American-born Canadian award-winning novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, and poet.

Nora Foster Stovel is Professor Emerita at the University of Alberta. She has published on Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence, Margaret Drabble, Carol Shields, and Margaret Laurence, including Divining Margaret Laurence: A Study of Her Complete Writings, The Collected Poetry of Carol Shields, and Relating Carol Shields’s Essays and Fiction: Crossing Borders.

Table of Contents


Foreword by Margaret Atwood—“‘A Soap Bubble Hovering Over the Void’: A Tribute to Carol Shields"


Introduction: “The Canadian Shields, or How an American Writer Became an Award-winning Canadian Author”



Protein Dust

A Message from Beyond

The Golden Boy, or Some Things Only Happen Once



Christmas Interruptus

Coming to Canada

Did anything happen to you in the fifties?

Writers Are Readers First

Books that Meant

The Reader-Writer Arc

The Writer’s Second Self

The Writing Life

Making Words / Finding Stories

My Back Pages

Women’s Voices in Literature

Women and The Short Story

The Feminine Line

The New Canadian Fiction

Crossing Over

Writers’ Gender Swapping

The Unity of Our Country

Address to University of Winnipeg Graduands

Concordia University Convocation Address 1998

University Leadership and Social Change

Idealism and Pragmatism in Two Novels of Sara Jeannette Duncan

The Two Susanna Moodies

The Healing Journey


I’ve Always Meant to Tell You: A Letter to My Mother

At Home in Winnipeg

Living at Home

Sunday Dinner, Sunday Supper

My Favorite Place—At Home in Deepest France


Legacy of Stone


What’s in a Picture

Rare Petals

A Purse of One’s Own

Heidi’s Conundrum

Parties Real and Otherwise

The Best Teacher I Ever Had

The Visual Arts

A Delicate Balancing Act


Introduction to Duet

Carol Shields’s Booker Prize Report

Foreword to The Stone Diaries

Afterword to Life in the Clearings

Introduction to Mansfield Park

Afterword to Dropped Threads I

Afterword to Dropped Threads II


Afterword by Lorna Crozier—"Carol's Haunting Voice"


Works Cited