Time for Meg, Anna and I to once again ruminate on a single topic across our three different blogs. If you’ve been hiding under a rock these past three weeks – or just simply haven’t had time to check out our blogs – each week we’ve been each blogging on our individual blogs on the same topic, and then discussing the similarities and differences in our approaches.
Today’s topic is, quite fittingly, being shortlisted or otherwise recognised in awards lists. I say it’s quite fitting because, as it happens, the three of us were all on the same shortlist last year – the Younger Readers shortlist of the CBCA Children’s Book of the Year Awards, 2011.
I’ve been pretty fortunate when it comes to shortlistings and awards, these past few years. Pearl Verses the World won the children’s category of the Indie Book Award, 2009, was an Honour Book in the 2010 CBCA Awards, Best Book of the Year for Upper Primary in the Speech Pathologist Awards, Winner of the Young Readers Category of the Family Therapist’s Award and was shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, the WA Premier’s Literary Awards. Toppling, as well as the CBCA Shortlisting won the Children’s Book Category of both the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and the WA Premier’s Literary Awards, as well as being an Honour Book in the KOALA Books, and shortlisted for others.
So, it’s been a pretty exciting couple of years. Prior to Pearl‘s release none of my other books had ever won anything, let alone been shortlisted. So when I got the call for my first ever shortlisting I was pretty chuffed. That’s an understatement. I was sworn to secrecy at the time, and I was at work, so I did a mad happy dance around the office but then couldn’t spill the beans on what was so exciting. And each subsequent bit of recognition has had a similar response. I dance, I drink champagne, I ring and email family and friends, and I smile a lot.
But why? What’s so good about being shortlisted? Is it just an ego trip for the author?
You bet ya. It’s all about me, me meeeeeeee! Look at me I shout, look at MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
Nah, just kidding. The reality is that individually those shortlistings have not made me rich or famous. But each shortlisting is a sign that a group of judges have chosen my book from amongst the hundreds of books published each year and said there is something special about it. It is recommended for readers. A shortlist is usually the top five or six books in the category, so to be on that list means the judges think your book is one of the top six of its kind. For me, that is a huge confidence boost. As a writer, I work mostly in isolation and I spend a lot of time wondering what I write w is any good. Being shortlisted, or winning an award, says to me that I’m doing okay, and it keeps me going doing what I’m doing.
Then there’s the publicity. Being recognised (I’ll use this term because it kind of covers both shortlisting and winning) can attract publicity to a book which, in turn, can boost sales. This is especially true for the CBCA Awards, because these are the main children’s book awards in Australia. If a book is on the shortlist, most schools and public libraries will buy one or more copies. This is a huge boost to sales figures. And bookshops which have not previously stocked the book are more likely to do it. I’d like to say this true for all awards, but the publicity for other awards does vary. for example, the WA Premier’s Book Awards last year rated only a small article in its home state newspaper. Without the publicity there is not always a flow on effect for book sales.
There’s also, sometimes, a cash prize, generally only for the winning book, though some awards (such as the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards) do award cash to the short listed authors. Cash prizes can vary from a few hundred to thousands – and, either way, this cash is very welcome. Being able to make a full time income from writing, especially for children, is pretty rare. So a cash prize can mean the ability to take time away from a day job to write more, or it can simply mean food on the table. For myself, the first significant cash prize I won helped with the deposit on our family home, and the second paid for a break from teaching. No flash cars or holidays, but rather a really welcome financial relief.
In my writing area (which is a corner in the lounge room) I have a wall for my various certificates. My beloved has taken the time to hang them neatly and to rearrange them when others have come in. Sometimes this wall is what keeps me writing. When a rejection comes in, or sales figures aren’t what I’d hoped, or just when I read yesterday’s writing and wonder whether it’s good enough, I sit back in my chair and the first thing I see is that wall and it reminds me that I can do it. There are people out there who do like my books. Especially validating are the awards that have come from young readers, which mean that kids (the very readers I hope to reach) like what I’m writing.
So, what’s it like to be recognised with a shortlisting or award? Fantabulous! Do I write to win prizes? No. I write because I love writing, crafting stories, and sharing them with the world. Being recognised for it is just a bonus.