Feeling dumbfounded, lucky, and grateful that All True won the Amazon.ca / Walrus First Novel Award last night here in Toronto. Shelagh Rogers was a relaxed and engaging host who revealed everyone's dark secrets. It was good to hear from judges Nick Mount and Helen Humphreys, who emphasized how great all the finalists' books are this year (we all wished judge Richard Wagamese had been able to make it too). Alphabetical order had me reading first, so I got the jitters out of the way and was able to enjoy everyone else's excerpts (two minutes is a tough gig as far as readings go!). All great readers, and interesting that so many of the finalists are musicians. Emma Hooper read a fluid and darting section about memory from Etta and Otto and Russell and James. Sean Michaels gave us a short (too short!) and beautiful love-letter clip from the Moscow section of his Us Conductors. Guillaume Morrisette, who "enjoy[s] self-loathing," had everybody laughing at his characters' half-hearted plans to run a car into Concordia, or maybe go out tonight, in New Tab. And Chelsea Rooney finished with a slam-dunk piece on anger and violence from Pedal.
Emma and I had planned to burst into song (something from The Lion King) at the end, and I'm still sorry Toronto missed out on that. I'm also sorry that in my daze, I didn't thank everyone properly--my agent, Denise Bukowski (who made me get my hair done), my sharp editors, Anne Collins and Amanda Lewis at Knopf / Random House, the judges, the Walrus Foundation, the Amazon folks, and my family and friends at home. I was not expecting to win. At least I managed to mostly contain my tears!
It's sunny and breezy in Toronto, and I'm enjoying my perch at the Four Seasons a little too much. Macarons, silence, a monstrous bubble bath. The life. What would Dan have made of it? Not his thing, I imagine, although I've dragged him along anyway, in the form of my sequel notes and draft--and, as you can see, Lyman Draper's enormous 19th-century compendium of material about our man (that's why I needed the bigger suitcase). Draper's notes don't go too far beyond the timing of the end of All True, so I'm also enjoying conjuring up what comes next. And I have the feeling Draper, a small, unassuming, dogged collector, who almost lost everything when his boxes of notes fell off a coach, is going to turn up one of my stories one of these days.
I know I'm lucky not just to be living it up in the hotel, but to have such a deep tunnel of material to add to, thanks to storytellers and writers over the years. And Toronto is a little closer to Dan's territory than I usually am, which feels lucky, too.
I'm at the Kelowna airport, having just stripped off my shoes and jacket in front of dozens of strangers at security. Ritual humiliation complete, I'm about to board the plane for Toronto and the Amazon First Novel Award festivities. Looking forward to seeing the other finalists and exchanging books. I'm planning to have all my copies signed, too--I love the scribble and cryptic messages . . .
I'm the author of My Name is a Knife, All True Not a Lie In It, and The Old Familiar.