When I point my camera at Writers Trust fiction prize winner Patrick deWitt just after he got word that he'd walked off with $25,000 for The Sisters Brothers, I beg him to smile.
But the author says he doesn't know how to smile when his picture's being taken. Sure enough, he sports a huge grin as soon as the flash goes off - too late -proving that he's not a dour guy who can't experience joy.
Actually, his deadpan pose suits his prizewinning book about hired assassins making their way to California in the mid-1850s to make another hit. The Sisters Brothers is brutal, straight-ahead and clear-eyed.
The Writers Trust Awards is the first of three major prizes deWitt's been shortlisted for this year. It's an unusual pick because, though it's been released by a Canadian publishers, which makes it eligible for our homegrown awards, the story is set in Oregon, where deWitt himself now lives.
No worries - deWitt thanked Toronto and expressed his appreciation for his Vancouver upbringing, thereby bringing it all back home.
Though this awards ceremony at Isabel Bader Theatre is much less elaborate than the Giller gala - wine, beer, and smart hors d'oeuvres here - the vibe is just as warm. Writers are especially appreciative of the Trust since it not only gives out book prizes, but also assists writers who are in financial need.
Among the other winners last night were Alma Lee, who won the Distinguished Contribution award for having been the Trust's first executive director and then going on to found the Vancouver Authors Festival; David Adams Richards, winner of the Matt Cohen Award in celebration of a writer's life; Wayne Johnston who won the Engel/Findlay award given to a writer in mid-career and Iain Lawrence, who won the Vicky Metcalfe award for children's literature.
Miranda Hill's story Petitions to St. Chronic, took the Journey Prize for best story, which made made Doubleday's Lynn Henry happy. Doubleday is set to publish Hill's upcoming book.