Why I’m SO Thrilled that Sean Michaels Won the Giller Prize


Approximately 24 hours ago, Sean Michaels was announced the winner of the 2014 Giller Prize for his debut novel, Us Conductors. A prize that is notably Canada’s biggest literary prize and this year, the winner was awarded $100,000 (doubling the typical prize amount since 2005). As I watched from the Giller Light Party in Toronto, Sean Michaels stepped on the stage (well technically the screen from where I was watching) to accept his award and said,

I feel like a whale who has found a whole city in his mouth.

Today in much of the media that Sean’s been receiving, he’s been asked to explain his bizarre, yet what I would call, the best statement in Giller history. On CBC’s Q, Sean Michaels stated,

To really feel singled out, I felt ballooned into this big creature, this big unyielding creature lumbering in front of cameras, in front of all these people, like a whale… And there’s this treasure in front of you. It was just suddenly there and it’s not just the money, it’s all the investment, belief and trust of all these people who chose to make this happen and so it really feels like there’s a city, both my friends and loved ones and everyone cheering. To be honest, it was a bit of a dream image.

He went on to thank his wife, his agent, his publisher, his editor, his writing group and many more in a heartfelt and lovely speech that admittedly caused me to shed a few tears. I think the reason I was so touched by his speech is because it’s not every day you see a debut author win such an accomplished and prestigious award and in this case, it was so very well deserved.

Us Conductors is a beautiful, haunting, brilliant novel inspired by the true life and loves of the Russian scientist, inventor and spy Lev Termen–creator of the theremin. During my Giller Readalong, I stated that,

Not only was this novel smart and well researched, it was like unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It had EVERYTHING. History, music, romance, suspense, war and more. It’s one of those books that you can put into anyone’s hands and they’ll be guaranteed to call you up after they’ve finished reading to thank you for gifting them such a great read.

I’ve been an avid watcher of the Giller Prize for the last seven years and each year, it’s an event that takes Canadian literature to another level. It’s been outstanding to see the amount of recognition that Sean Michaels is deservedly receiving today and the days to come (I’m sure of it). It goes to show you that allow there have been many changes in the publishing industry, the quality of literature remains intact and relevant. I couldn’t be happier for Sean Michaels on his Giller Prize win and I urge you to continue to support great Canadian writing by reading this outstanding piece of literature.

You can watch Sean Michaels full speech below:


2 thoughts on “Why I’m SO Thrilled that Sean Michaels Won the Giller Prize

  1. tanya (52 books or bust) says:

    Yeah!! For Micheals. I’ve been intrigued by this book, but I didn’t think it had much chance of winning. What a coup! I had already chosen it as my go-to Christmas gift for a number of people. Now let’s hope it doesn’t sell out!

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