25th Trillium Award

Introducing the Finalists for the 2012 Governor General's Literary Awards, with Joanne Larocque-Poirier

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Open Book is thrilled about yesterday's announcement of the Governor General's Literary Awards Finalists! There's so much good reading to do...but before you dive in for copies of these books, find out what Joanne Larocque-Poirier, Head of Endowments and Prizes at the Canada Council for the Arts, has to say about this year's lists.

Open Book:

What excites you about this year's finalists for the Governor General's Literary Awards?

Joanne Larocque-Poirier :

Each year, I look forward to making great discoveries among the GG shortlisted books, and this is certainly the case this year. These are 69 of the year?s best Canadian books, in both official languages, and I read them all. The 2012 finalists, selected by the Canada Council for the Arts? peer assessment committees, have the power to transport us to new and inspiring places, and that?s what reading is all about. When you pick up a book carrying the GG seal, you know it will be a good read — that?s exciting.


What is your role in the administration of these awards, and what do you enjoy the most about your involvement in this program?


As Head of Endowments and Prizes at the Canada Council for the Arts, I?m responsible for all of our awards. I am part of an amazing GG Literary Awards team — one that oversees the peer assessment process and is responsible for a national promotion campaign in partnership with festivals, media and retailers. Throughout the fall book award season, there is an indescribable energy at the Canada Council. I enjoy that it?s an action-packed time of the year, from the moment the peer assessment committees meet to select the shortlisted and winning books to the day the winners are honoured by the Governor General at Rideau Hall at the end of November. As a book lover myself, I have to say that it?s a privilege to have insights into the year?s most deserving books.


How does being shortlisted for the Governor General?s affect the career of a writer?


Being a GG finalist can have a significant impact on the author?s career and book sales. As Canada?s national literary awards, the GGs are recognized as a mark of excellence by readers, writers and publishers. They certainly give books and authors visibility. In some cases, that results in translations that extend the reach. The awards also have a positive impact on book sales. Publishers will often reprint on the strength of a GG nod.

Patrick deWitt's The Sisters Brothers, last year?s Fiction winner (also winner of the Rogers Writer?s Trust and finalist for several other prizes), is a perfect example. In the month of December 2011 alone, The Sisters Brothers sold well over 25,000 copies. By spring 2012, it had gone through six print runs for a total of 90,000 copies sold.

Other examples include Christopher Moore, last year?s winner in the Children?s Literature — Text category, who sold six times more copies of From Then to Now: A Short History of the World in November of 2011 than he had the previous month. The GG Fiction winning book of 2010, Diane Warren?s Cool Water, was released in the United States under the title Juliet. And Kim Thuy?s Ru was the French Fiction winner that same year. Its translation is up for other big awards this fall, including the GGs.


How do these awards benefit readers of Canadian literature?


The awards are a celebration of great books, and not just any books — Canadian books. Books that are a reflection of how we see ourselves, how we experience the world around us. In this manner, the work of the GG finalists and winners helps inspire a sense of national pride and identity. In a larger sense, you can also say that the GG shortlisted and winning books contribute to a diverse and vibrant national culture that benefits all Canadians.


Can you name a favourite Governor General's Literary Award-winning book from a previous year?


The Canada Council celebrated 75 years of the GGs last year, so you can imagine that there?s a lot to choose from. A few of my favourite titles include The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant (Non-fiction, 2005) and Elle by Douglas Glover (Fiction, 2003). The cumulative list of all the GG winners is available on the Canada Council website. I encourage everyone to consult the list for their own fall reading list, and for buying gifts for friends. The list of 2012 finalists is on our website now, and we look forward to announcing this year?s winners on November 13. Get ready to read great books!

Joanne Larocque-Poirier is the head of Endowments and Prizes at the Canada Council for the Arts, where she is responsible for the design, planning, administration and overall direction of the Council's national program of prizes, fellowships and awards for artists and scholars. The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada's national arts funder. It offers a broad range of grants and services to professional Canadian artists and arts organizations in music, theatre, dance, writing and publishing, visual arts, media arts and integrated arts. The Canada Council seeks to raise public awareness and appreciation of the arts through its communications, research and arts promotion activities.

Joanne is recognized for her ability to manage high-profile programs and awards, including the $10 million special-occasion Millennium Arts Fund and the Governor General's Literary Awards — Canada's oldest and most prestigious awards for English- and French-language literature. Joanne frequently acts as an advisor to other agencies and foundations on questions of prize administration, adjudication, policy, risk management, strategic planning, partnerships and promotional campaigns.

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