Scotiabank Giller Prize

The Scotiabank Giller Prize finalists recall when they decided to become writers

Esi Edugyan, Patrick deWitt, Thea Lim, Sheila Heti and Eric Dupont talk about the beginning of their writing careers.
The Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlisted authors talk to Shelagh Rogers on stage at Calgary's Wordfest. (David Kotsibie/Wordfest)

The 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize will be awarded to one of five authors at a gala in Toronto on Nov. 19, 2018. The books shortlisted for the $100,000 prize are:

In a Scotiabank Giller Prize panel discussion hosted by The Next Chapter's Shelagh Rogers at Calgary's Wordfest, the five shortlisted authors were asked: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

Patrick deWitt, author of French Exit

Patrick deWitt's latest novel is French Exit. (Danny Palmerlee, House of Anansi Press)

"I started reading when I was 11 or 12. I had a fear of growing up from a young age and was concerned about what I would do with my life. At a certain point, it occurred to me that some people wrote for a living. By that time I was working on poems and short stories and things like that. By the time I was 17 or so, I knew I wanted to write a novel. I actually dropped out of high school to become a writer. Nobody told me you weren't supposed to do that. I had odd jobs and read and wrote for many years."

Eric Dupont, author of Songs for the Cold of Heart

Songs for the Cold of Heart is a novel by Eric Dupont, translated by Peter McCambridge. (Sarah Scott, QC Fiction)

"I travelled a lot and used to write long letters to people when I was in Europe. Their responses used to amaze me. They kept asking for more, for longer letters about my stories in Austria. That's when I realized there must be something about the way I tell stories which people like because their letters were never that interesting, I found. None of them are writers, but they do buy my books."

Esi Edugyan, author of Washington Black

Washington Black is a novel by Esi Edugyan. (Patrick Crean Editions, Tamara Poppitt)

"I think I was about 13 or so when I started writing god-awful poetry and stories. I thought it was marvellous and would stay up all night writing by candlelight and feeling like it was this great effort, only to read it the next morning and realize how terrible it was. But I didn't think writing was something you could do as a profession until very late. I had to decide what to study at university and a teacher directed me to a program at UVic."

Sheila Heti, author of Motherhood

Sheila Heti is the author of several books, including the novel Motherhood. (Malcolm Brown/Knopf Canada)

"There's this book that was written by a woman named Bernice Thurman Hunter called That Scatterbrain Booky which I loved when I was a kid. It's about this 12-year-old girl growing up in Depression-era Toronto and she becomes a writer. She eventually visits an older writer and is incredibly disappointed by how horrible the woman is and has this rude awakening. But that's when it occurred to me that was something a person could actually do."

Thea Lim, author An Ocean of Minutes

Thea Lim is a Toronto-based writer and teacher. (Elisha Lim/ Viking Canada)

"I think every day I wonder, 'Is this something a person could actually do — should actually do?' But when I first asked myself that question I was probably in my late teens. I moved around a lot with my family when I was growing up and I was constantly writing to people about my life and telling stories and realized maybe I could try to get a career out of that."