My night at the Giller Awards

It’s been a busy Fall for book events. Since the last week of August I’ve visited Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, London, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria and Winnipeg from my home in Toronto (with a quick vacation to Ireland jammed in between somewhere). Each event was wonderful and fun. Speaking with readers and booksellers across the country about the books I love? Easy! But none of those events compared to the sheer glitz and glamour of attending the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize held in Toronto at the Ritz Carlton.

I was a Giller-virgin before last night having never attended. Host Rick Mercer (who brought a fun, upbeat and hilarious spirit to the ceremony) joked about the “downtown Toronto elite” and walking into the ballroom at the Ritz last night you do get a sense of something special. Book nerds notice the giants of the industry–like my old boss from M&S Doug Gibson, Naomi Klein, Frances Itani and others. Then there are the faces you recognize instantly like Toronto’s Mayor-elect John Tory, Kim Coates, Jessica Pare and Rick Mercer himself.

I was pleased to be seated with David Bezmozgis whose novel, The Betrayers, I had devoured in a enjoyable, feverish, 12-hour session in which nothing else got done. (Side note: read it!) When you’re uncomfortable in a monkey suit and nervous for your authors, sitting at a table with people you genuinely like is a huge relief!

Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy) was an incredible tablemate. In fact, after I got an excited text from Suman (@HCCFrenzy), he recorded a video message for her on my iPhone which has basically put me in her good books for life.

One table over was Heather O’Neill. Everyone who follows me on Twitter or has spent two minutes with me talking books this year knows just how much I love her writing and how I’ve been raving about Lullabies for Little Criminals for years and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night for months. In fact, I cribbed this quote from the book to wish my wife a happy birthday back in June:

I’m sure most people will want to know which famous people I’ve met (besides Kim Coates, I said hello to Jessica Pare from Mad Men who presented Heather’s book) but when I think back on the night, I’ll remember that photo of our table and the conversations and people you didn’t see on camera. An entire ballroom of people who love books–Canadian books!–who are passionate advocates for Canadian authors and the publishing industry. I’ll remember the conversations, the drinks afterward with an author I respect and admire and who makes me laugh (all Heather O’Neill).

And I’ll remember that photo. Pictured in it is one editor from the Globe & Mail, a VP with decades of experience in the publishing industry, two publishers who have helped shepherd some of Canada’s biggest books into existence, a PR Director who has worked with everyone from JK Rowling to Margaret Trudeau, the CEO of Canada’s largest book chain and one amazing, talented author. Not a bad way to spend a Monday night for a booknerd like me.


Follow me on Twitter @corybeatty

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