A Foray In the World of Canadian Literature

I know that this isn’t the type of posting I traditionally make but seeing as my absenteeism seems to have struck a question with my followers, I wanted to share a bit of insight on my goings-on over the last year and a bit, so here goes…

Since July 2014, I have had the pleasure of working on a special program at work. For those of you who are unawares, I worked for the Canada Council for the Arts in their Writing and Publishing section as a program assistant with various grant and award programs. And before you ask, no, I don’t make the decisions on who gets funding and who doesn’t nor will your affiliation with me be of any help. Can you say conflict of interest!

Some of you might already be familiar with the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Others of you may have heard of the Governor General’s Literary Awards (GGLA’s) but I suspect in not as much detail. The GGLA’s have been in existence since 1936 (historical list of winners) and it’s been my baby since July and stands – in most Canadian literary circles – as one of the most prestigious Canadian literary awards.

To say that I’ve been subjected to many works would be an understatement. Over 1,600 Canadian works have been submitted in 2014! Make that over 1,500 for 2015! Each book have been diligently evaluated by officers to meet the GGLA eligibility criteria prior to being put forth to a cast of three peer assessors who have been tasked with the decision on who will make the shortlist and which author/illustrator/translator would come up on top as their respective category’s winner.

Over these cycles, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting each winner in both French and English categories ranging from Children’s Literature-Text, Children’s Literature-Illustrated Books, Drama, Poetry, Translation, Non-fiction and Fiction. For one week, it was one of celebration – a week to discover new genres, new reads, new talent – for those of the general public it was a week that led to the discovery of an array of works that would broaden their literary horizons as a reader. For me, it was all of the above and MORE!

I’m not one to go out of my way to get to a book-signing event, nor have I ever been to a public reading but this is a little aperçu of what my first public reading/signing event was like…

First, as a program assistant, I was not only a spectator but I also oversaw a lot of the planning and logistical work with regards to each event that took place.

The winners first arrived on Monday and had an assortment of obligations whether it be with media for interviews, public events, a visit to Parliament Hill which included their very impressive and historic library, not to mention an evening at Rideau Hall – the Governor General’s residence – where they were celebrated for their winning works.

You want to figure out how to discover new genres and disciplines to read? Don’t go to your local bookstore and peruse the shelves. Nope! Go to a public reading! Trust me when I say that if you think you’re not one for a particular literary discipline, you might discover that you’re sadly mistaken. A public event such as a reading is not only a way to network with authors, but a phenomenal way to discover something new that you might have otherwise overlooked.

This is exactly what happened to me and boy do I feel foolish!

Not only did I purchase books that I had an interest in, but I also found a collection in my hands, myself lined up for the the register, purchasing genres and disciplines I would have never otherwise walked out with at a Chapters, Coles, Barnes & Nobles, whatever other XYZ-named store before. This is because those readings–the way the author spoke of their work, the excerpts they chose, the characters’ voices that were brought to life–the entirety was so captivating that their five minutes in front of the crowd simply just wasn’t enough! Heck, I have read one of the winning books already and I wound up with the urge to go back and read it again, feeling as if I would better connect with its characters if I did!

So with that said, hopefully I’ve given you the urge to go out and discover something new, to try a new route in discovering your next read, to open yourself to the various cultures in literature and experiences within it.

In the meantime, I’m just going to curl up on the couch, my cup of coffee in hand and dive in to some of my GGLA winning books I have yet to tackle!

Happy reading!

 

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