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An open letter to the Canada Reads 2011 authors

Canada Reads Final Five

(With the announcement of this week's Canada Reads finalists, I thought I'd use this week's space to write a letter to the five authors. Unfortunately, I can only address it to four, as Carol Shields is sadly no longer with us. One of the most inspiring aspects about writing is achieving a piece of immortality. Through her words, Carol lives on. Her inclusion in this year's list is a testament to that.)

Dear Ami, Angie, Jeff and Terry,

If they haven't already done so, enthusiastic people from across the country will soon be buying and reading your books. You'll be the talk of book clubs from Newfoundland to British Columbia. You'll gain new readers and fans every step of the way. You'll be the envy of colleagues, the celebrity among your friends, the pride and joy of your families.

Things may seem a little surreal at times. I remember being in my car, listening to the 2009 debates on my way to get groceries. I couldn't get over hearing Jian Ghomeshi say my name. I couldn't believe a discussion about my book was happening on national radio. Sadly, there was no red carpet waiting for me when I pulled into the No Frills parking lot.

I promise you the next few months are going to be a complete whirlwind. Sometimes, you might not be sure if you're coming or going, but this is natural. It'll be exhausting at times, but you'll have the time of your life. After all, Canada Reads will likely be the single biggest boost for your publishing career. So enjoy the spotlight.

Looking back on my own Canada Reads experience, I would've appreciated a few words from someone who had been through it. So, in light of that, I put together some points to consider as you head out into the chaos of the next couple of months.

1. Never let them forget it

For some of you, this is your first book. For others, you're being recognized for previous books. Some of you are established and some of you are just starting out. Regardless of where you are in your writing career, one thing will be true for all of you: for the rest of your life, you will be a Canada Reads author. This designation carries weight and will take you far. So never forget it. Trust me on this. (I'll show you my Canada Reads tattoo sometime.)

2. Hit the ground running

You will likely enjoy future success with other books, but chances are you won't be on Canada Reads again. (Well, it never hurts to dream a little.) So make the most of the next few months. Meet as many readers as you can. Read at as many events as possible. Sign books until your hand cramps. You may not have a second shot at this level of nationwide attention again. Maximize it.

3. Read the other Canada Reads 2011 titles

I'm sure this is already on your agenda. Reading the other books will give you a better appreciation of your fellow authors. You'll also get a sense of how you stack up against the competition.

4. Know your limits

In addition to the radio program, each of you will have ongoing web pages devoted to your books on the Canada Reads website, including forums where readers can openly share their thoughts about your book. I thought I had a responsibility to read all the things said or written about Fruit in the Canada Reads time frame. But I was wrong. At times, the public forums got the better of me. Negative comments are unavoidable, so question your mood before you go online. Will reading potentially unfavourable comments make a bad day worse? Just remember you don't have to do anything you don't want to do.

5. Surrender to the song

During the week of debates, you will hear the Canada Reads theme song play over and over in your head. It will haunt your sleep, follow you to work and trail you like speeding trucker. You will not be able to escape. Just give in. It fades over time. Sort of.

6. Party for two

Include Carol in your good times.

Congratulations to all of you.



Brian Francis

Brian Francis is Canada Reads' resident blogger. His debut novel, Fruit, was the runner-up in the Canada Reads 2009 debates. His second novel, The Natural Order, will be published next year.

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