Books·The Giller Files

Goodbye, Giller: Michelle Winters relives the awards gala and contemplates what's next

The party's over and Michael Redhill won. Michelle Winters reflects on her entire Giller Prize experience one last time.
Michelle Winters arrives at the Scotiabank Giller Prize award ceremony in Toronto on Nov. 20, 2017. (The Canadian Press/Chris Young)

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. On Monday, it was revealed that Michael Redhill took home the $100,000 prize for his novel Bellevue Square. In her final post for CBC Books, Winters reflects on her entire Giller Prize experience.

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Well, there we have it. The lights have stopped flickering, the dishes have stopped clattering and the dog feels safe to come out from under the buffet. The Giller Prize haa passed and it's time to take inventory in the wake of what was a truly miraculous phenomenon.

Long live the book

All five of us nominees have been changed in countless ways from this honour (Michael Redhill's taking the longest to count), but I'm pleased to say that starting from a place of absolute obscurity in relation to my new writing friends, I had a lot to gain, and gained a lot.   

One of the greatest gifts bestowed upon me was the extended life of my book. Before this nomination, the little light of my novel's existence was about to blink out peacefully, for good. Now it gets to shine just a little bit longer. People might give it as a Christmas gift. Two people might give it to each other, and laugh. Who can say in this topsy-turvy world?

Memories made

But I think the most amazing thing I've gained from this experience, is just that: the experience. The having-lived-it part. People buy $250,000 tickets on the space shuttle to emulate this very kind of otherwise unattainable feeling. Not everyone will get the chance to live through a sudden, unanticipated success. I've been trying to describe it as best I can in these posts, it still defies description. Life should be filled with strange, unexpected things. As a writer, exploring this kind of improbable reality is delicious stuff.

A new beginning

As the Giller Prize's magical light retreats into the heavens, I think the strangest and most welcome sensation I've had is the return of my own agency. When you're in the throes of the whole campaign, the Giller does what it wants with you. Once it's over, you get to take control back. You get to be the creator again. I'm happy to say that the cosmic excitement of writing new characters and pushing a plot to the limits of your imagination remains a thrill unlike any other. It's good to see you again, blank page.   

Michelle Winters is the author of I Am a Truck


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