For Lauren B. Davis, the “best birthday present ever” wasn’t flowers, jewellery, or breakfast in bed.
Nope. It was learning that her novel, Our Daily Bread, had been longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s most prestigious literary award.
“A friend posted ‘Congratulations’ on Facebook, and I thought it was an early birthday wish,” laughs Davis, whose birthday was the next day. “Then I opened my email – and discovered he was actually talking about the Giller.”
Davis, who now lives and works in Princeton, New Jersey, joins fellow Humber School for Writers instructor Annabel Lyon on the Giller longlist.
Lyon’s book, The Sweet Girl, is the second of her novels to catch the attention of the Giller judges. Her 2009 debut, The Golden Mean, was nominated for the Giller Prize as well as the Governor General’s Award, and won the Rogers Writers’ Trust fiction prize.
Both authors agree that learning from experienced teachers and mentors is a crucial part of a writer’s development.
“I worked with Timothy Findley through Humber’s Mentor program, and he ended up editing both my short story collections,” explains Davis. “Tiff was my ideal reader – smart, funny, knew his stuff. He was the kind of reader you wanted to keep up late. Having been through that process, it was then exciting to be a mentor myself.”
Lyon points out that learning the craft of writing is just like learning any other profession.
“If you want to be a lawyer, you study law; if you want to be an engineer, you study engineering,” she says. “If you want to write fiction, go and get an education in your field: read a lot, write a lot, and find teachers.”
The Giller shortlist will be announced on October 1.