CBC announced the five Canada Reads finalists today along with the celebrity panel. Miraculously, The Best Laid Plans is a Canada Reads 2011 finalist. I briefly couldn’t breathe when I heard the news about ten days ago from Doug Pepper, the President of McClelland & Stewart. It’s been one of the toughest secrets I’ve ever had to keep. The publishers are informed in advance so they can make sure there is adequate supply of their book in stores when the announcement is finally made. Needless to say, I was shocked and overwhelmed. In fact, I was a basket case for a few days. Canada Reads is a big deal in this country and it’s a huge boost for the authors who make it to the final five. When I arrived at CBC this morning for the announcement, I only knew that TBLP was a finalist. I didn’t know the other books or who would be defending my novel in the Canada Reads debates in February. I was thrilled to learn that the high-flying and very talented Chief Business Correspondent for CNN (yes, CNN!), Ali Velshi will be going to bat for TBLP. While I haven’t seen Ali for more than 25 years, he volunteered on a political campaign I was helping to organize back in 1984 when he was just 14 and I was 24. (I seem to recall we were often engaged in very important political organizing work together, like stuffing envelopes and licking stamps.) It was wonderful to reconnect with him today and watch how skillfully he handles himself. He really understands TBLP. And, he’s articulate, funny, thoughtful and competitive – a perfect combination for a Canada Reads panelist.
I was also delighted to meet the other authors and panelists. What amazing writers and defenders there are in this year’s competition. Ami Mckay and I were already connected through Twitter so it was certainly nice to meet her in person. I also had nice chats with Angie Abdou, Jeff Lemire, and Carol Shields’s daughter, writer Anne Giardini. As well as being a very talented bunch, they’re also very nice, notwithstanding the competitive nature of Canada Reads. I also met ex-NHL enforcer, Georges Laraque, home reno maven Debbie Travis, and Corner Gas star Lorne Cardinal, who are defending Angie’s, Ami’s, and Carol Shield’s books. Jeff Lemire’s defender is on tour in India but musician Sara Quin sent a video message that was played at today’s anouncement. (Here is the whole line-up.)
After the announcement, the authors and defenders all sat together and signed books for the crowd that had gathered. What a thrill. I’m still processing all of this. But clearly this is an important moment in the writing side of my life. Thousands more Canadians will soon be reading the five Canada Reads books so there will be a much larger audience being exposed to The Best Laid Plans, and I hope by extension, to The High Road as well. A rookie writer could hardly ask for more. I often say in the many talks and readings I’ve done in the last two years or so that I feel like I’ve exhausted my lifetime allocation of good fortune. And that was before Canada Reads! Quite simply, I feel very, very lucky, and very, very grateful…
Onwards to battle! (Keep your elbows up, Ali…)
Update: Here’s the video of Jian Ghomeshi introducing the panelists and the books each of them will defend. Should be a fun literary rumble!