I was a book critic for many years, so I know November is a heady time in the book world. Because December is the month where the vast majority of books are sold (Merry Christmas!) if you can get a book noticed in November, through a spot on a shortlist, or better yet, a prize, you’ll sell more copies during that all important post publication window period. Writing federations and granting agencies often cooperate by holding awards when they’re likely to do the most good.
I’ve been through this cycle many times as a journalist, and even a jury member. This is the first time I’ve actually been on the receiving end of this ritual. Not with a book, but last week a non-fiction story I’d abandoned about a year ago was nominated for a prize at the Quebec Writers Federation gala. It was a story about my son’s little known learning disability, visual motor dyspraxia. For whatever reason I couldn’t seem to find the right place for it. I received several thoughtful and sweet rejection e-mails, but no one willing to publish it. So, I shelved it. And as often happens, got drawn into some new subject.
Then late last summer the editor of Carte Blanche, QWF’s literary journal, prodded me to submit something. I sent “Bluefooted” (which, if you’re curious will also explain my website’s header.) And to my delight, not only was the story short listed for the journal’s best story of the year, but a couple of nights ago I won.
I even got a trophy, which I would not now have, had it been accepted in any of the magazines or newspapers I’d pitched it to.
In my acceptance speech, I thanked the editor who prodded me, and vowed that I would use this huge trophy to prod everyone at the gala to remember those abandoned stories and projects and get them back out there.
And now I’m doing the same with you. Here’s the trophy (designed by urban sculpter Glen LeMesurier). Imagine me wielding that pointy trowel looking part, somewhere in the vicinity of a place you best be moving back to your favourite writing chair. I know it’s hard, and I know the rewards seem increasingly scarce. But when they come, for however long, it all seems worth it.