Scotiabank Giller Prize·The Giller Files

Enjoying the ride: Michelle Winters on the roller coaster that is being a Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist

Michelle Winters, author of I Am a Truck, takes CBC Books through what it's like being a first-time Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist.
I Am a Truck by Michelle Winters is on the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist. (Invisible Publishing/Sara Heinonen)

Michelle Winters got the surprise of her life when her debut novel, I Am a Truck, made the shortlist for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Winters has been sharing her Giller journey with CBC Books in a five-part series. In part one, she shared the sudden shock of being shortlisted. In part two, she talked about the process behind getting published. In part three, she shared what it's like being on the road as as Giller Prize finalist.

In part four, Winters talks about the whirlwind experience it's all been so far as we head into the gala event on Nov. 20, 2017.

A few years back, my best friend Lori and I rode the death-defying flume at the West Edmonton Mall. We bought a copy of the photo taken at the moment of peak terror when we're screaming our heads off, and it's a good thing we did. When you're on the flume, you can't think about anything other than holding on and screaming, and that photo is the only thing now to remind me of the frenzied minute and a half of that ride. I expect it'll be similar looking back at any photo taken of myself over the past nine weeks during this Giller ride.

A roller-coaster ride

There's a real relinquishing of agency when you find yourself in the throes of spontaneous public approval. The act of writing a book is so deliberate. It's completely driven by your own discipline in sitting down day after day to finish the thing when there are hundreds of easier things to do (I hear your siren call, TV). Being nominated for the Giller Prize, on the other hand, is something that happens to you, over which you have no control. It picks you up like the flume and hurls you wherever it likes. It's a strange feeling, abandoning your own will, but this particular flume praises your writing, feeds you snacks and picks you up from the airport in a car. You might as well trust it. I keep reminding myself to pay attention and retain some of the more dizzying moments, but they go by so fast, so fast.   

Embracing random chance

 They say it's bad luck to talk about luck, but I've never heard any rules about discussing random chance. So I think it's safe to say that I have been the beneficiary of shockingly, staggeringly good random chance. I'll qualify that by saying that I wrote a book I believe in, toiled over and love like my own boyfriend, but no matter the goodness of that book (not that you can measure such a thing) it was the unpredictable will of a powerful force that catapulted it to a level of recognition I may still not understand.

Let's party

Soon, I'll put on my velvet pantsuit and show up at the Ritz. I have only a short time to take it all in before it's over. I'm trying to keep my eyes wide open and squeeze the life out of every moment, because no photograph is ever going to capture the brain-scrambling fun of this nomination. 

Michelle Winters is the author of I Am a Truck. The winner of the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize will be announced on Nov. 20, 2017.


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