Koerner Hall was a beautiful location for the Scotiabank Giller Prize Between the Pages event in Toronto today. The theatre was packed to capacity and I was privileged to share front row seats with my May Liao, who I have met in the CanadianContent Goodreads group. After enjoying a tasty lunch and talking about our love of books, we enjoyed the event, hosted by Albert Schultz, with 6 shortlisted authors providing readings and giving insight into the writing process.
Mona Awad read from her novel, 13 Ways to Look at a Fat Girl, first. She narrated a section of her book that many of us can relate to – the main character, in a dressing room, trying to cram herself into a coveted dress that was too small with a salesperson asking “how are WE doing in there?” This is an experience that we can likely all identify with and highlighted the body image theme of her novel. Knowing that she wanted to write about this them helped her explore her character and how body image affected all aspects of her life. The structure of 13 ways in 13 chapters gave her the structure to “zoom into” the themes at different points of the character’s life.
During the writing process she says it is “ok to just be angry” during the first draft followed by rewriting (and more rewriting) to get the right balance. Sometimes Awad sits with stories for a long time before writing. She feels that her “book could never be perfect” yet she has said what she is “capable of saying”. The audience laughed when she noted that she is now estranged from it, knowing it is out of her hands.
She spoke of how, initially skeptical of doing a MFA, she wanted to do it and needed funding. It gave her the confidence she needed to finish writing her book when a writer helped her to “trust myself, trust my voice”.
After the event, the author joined her colleagues signing books and I am happy to have a signed copy of 13 Ways to Look at a Fat Girl. I look forward to what Awad publishes next! Look for future posts on each of the short-listed authors as well as more pictures at the event in pictures to come.