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Lynn Coady’s Giller win puts Anansi in winner’s circle

After being nominated 13 times over the past two decades, House of Anansi Press has won the Scotiabank Giller Prize for the first time. Edmonton author Lynn Coady, whose 2011 novel The Antagonist was also shortlisted for the prestigious award, takes home this year’s Giller for her darkly comic short-story collection Hellgoing.

Coady, who described the win as “incredibly validating,” is chuffed to be the author who broke the so-called Anansi curse. “It’s one of Canada’s last great independent publishers and they do such great work, so I’m thrilled they’re going to be sharing in this award,” she said.

Anansi president and publisher Sarah MacLachlan praised Coady, saying “she combines all the great things you look for in a writer, so I’m really thrilled that she’s been honoured.” She added that the win was also “a little bittersweet,” since Anansi author Lisa Moore had also been nominated for her novel Caught. (Moore has now been shortlisted for the Giller three times.)

Coady was awarded with a $50,000 cheque at a gala in Toronto on Tuesday evening. The Nova Scotia”“born author and journalist’s sixth book captures the emotional and moral complexities of a series of relationships, from a couple exploring S&M to a memoirist at a writers’ retreat.

In a starred Q&Q review, Alex Good wrote, “A sharp, insightful writer with a tight, jarring style that makes use of fast narrative cuts, Coady deliberately leaves the human scribble tangled. This isn’t out of a desire to play coy, but rather an admission that problems involving relationships don’t have easy resolutions that can be clearly expressed.”

Hellgoing is the only story collection to appear on the 2013 Giller shortlist and the first to win since Vincent Lam took home the prize in 2006 for Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures. Coady noted that with the Nobel Prize being awarded to Alice Munro, the form has received renewed acclaim of late. However, her decision to publish a collection was in large part pragmatic. “After the Giller nomination in 2011, I felt, ‘You’ve got to get a book out there, you’ve got to capitalize on that momentum,'” she said. “I actually had writers’ block, and I felt really stuck and like there was no next novel in me.”

Published under Anansi’s short-fiction imprint, Astoria, Hellgoing is comprised of new and old work, with previously published stories dating as far back as 2001. While the book does not yet have a U.S. publisher, Coady joked that the situation might change soon.

Following the Giller win, Anansi ordered a 50,000-copy reprint of Hellgoing. “We’ve [already] gone back to print three times, so that’s good. It’s selling very well,” said MacLachlan.

For her part, Coady does not have immediate plans to write another novel. The author is currently enrolled in a television writing program at the Canadian Film Centre, with an aim to apply her skills to that form.

“Television is such an incredibly rich and novelistic landscape right now,” she said. “I think in some ways our culture has a knee-jerk, dismissive attitude towards writing for TV as a genre, but it’s an incredibly rigorous genre, and it’s a lot of work to create solid, formulaic television. We say that word “˜formulaic’ with derision, but we shouldn’t, because it’s a very difficult craft to master.”