Great news. Four of the five finalists for the Scotiabank Giller Prize are writers from indie publishers, some very, very small, others mid-sized. What a great change, as the short list for this major national award often consists of local judges rubber-stamping predictable picks, usually from the big houses, already approved and buzzed up by the cognoscenti and the media.
A short-list nomination, a win, these can make such a difference to the writers who publish with small presses, whose work, though wonderful, may not even be on the readers' radar.
Two story collections are nominated, Light Lifting, by Alexander MacLeod (Yes, he is the son of senior MacLeod), and This Cake is for the Party, by Sarah Selecky. The other two indie picks are novels, in fact debut novels. The original and beautifully written Annabel by Kathleen Winter and The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud. Both Winter and Skibsrud live here in Montreal and both are originally from Atlantic Canada: Winter from Newfoundland and Skibsrud from Novia Scotia.
Another welcome change is a jury drawn from outside of Canada as well as inside. This year we have two judges from outside of Canada--Claire Messud (yes she was born in TO, but lives, I believe, in NYC) and writer Ali Smith (from Scotland). Our homeboy is broadcaster Michael Enright. This is excellent because it wards off the kind of internecine back-patting and favour granting that can occur in our small writing world up here in the North.
If I don't luck out with a Guess the Giller Gala invite, I'll be tuning in to watch the spetacle on Nov. 9th. So should you.
More importantly, read the books!