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Sarah Selecky, This Cake is for the Party (Thomas Allen)
Sarah Selecky, This Cake is for the Party (Thomas Allen)

Giller Prize Q&A

Sarah Selecky and the decade she put into her book Add to ...

Sarah Selecky is nominated for This Cake is for the Party (Thomas Allen) - her debut collection of 10 stories about contemporary relationships. Her other work includes short stories published in The Walrus, Prairie Fire and The Journey Prize Anthology. The writer, now based in Toronto, has an MFA in creative writing from UBC.

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What was your first thought, the moment you heard you were shortlisted for the Giller?

There were so many people - family and friends - who wanted it to happen, who were wishing this for me. As silly as it sounds, I really didn't want to let anybody down. So my first thought was oh, thank goodness.

In 100 words or less, why should your book win?

I am proud of my book. I love my stories enough to have spent almost a decade writing and rewriting their beginnings, middles and ends until I got them right. I sent them out, took them back and loved them when they were rejected. I loved them enough to put 10 of them together as a book, even though everyone told me nobody reads short stories - they won't sell. They're doing very well despite the odds. Of course I'm proud of them. But as much as I want them to win, I distrust the before-winning part of any race.

If you do win, what will you do with the prize money?

My brother-in-law, Tal, told me this great joke about a farmer who won a million dollars. When the newspaper asked him how he'd spend the prize money, he answered, "Probably going to keep farming until it's gone, too." I'm a writer. I'm going to write with it.

Which of the nominees would you most like to have dinner with and why?

I met Kathleen Winter at the Vancouver International Writers' Festival last week and she is sincere, lovely, funny and smart. Plus she crochets.

So I'd like to have dinner with Kathleen, and I'd bring my knitting with me, and we could talk about wool, and writing, and laugh about what it feels like to be a quiet writer who has to be on television all of a sudden.

If you were not on the short list, who would you vote for and why?

Alexander MacLeod wrote seven excellent short stories. That means he wrote seven beginnings, developed seven stories with characters unique and specific to each, and then he created seven perfect, fitting and unpredictable endings for each one of those worlds. The novelists have all written amazing stories, but Alexander had to do it seven times to make a book.

What are you working on now?

Getting a full night of sleep before Nov. 9.

What's the weirdest book you read in the last year?

I needed to look up the definition of weird before I answered this.

Weird: 1) of, relating to, or suggestive of the preternatural or supernatural; 2) of a strikingly odd or unusual character; strange; 3) archaic, of or relating to fate or the Fates.

Okay: Lynda Barry's What It Is. Every single page is a work of art. All of the writing is hand painted with a brush. Even the page with all the copyright info is collaged and painted. It's a book about writing, but it's more than that. It's a book about how to be a human being. She has poured her irrational, careful, knowing, beautiful mind out on each page in order to give anyone who reads it permission to do the same thing. It's actually a very important book. Maybe weird books are often the most important ones.

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