Back in July, I was surprised to find my novel Surface Tension on the longlist for the Children’s/Young Adult Fiction category of the Davitt Awards, which are presented annually for crimewriting by Australian women.
The reason I was surprised is simply that across the many, many drafts I did of that book, I never once realised that what I was writing would fit into that genre. I was really just exploring an image, and shaping the sort of narrative that seemed to flow naturally from that process. When the longlist came out, I said, Huh? Really? Cool. And then I called my mother, because she is possibly Australia’s most avid reader of crime fiction, and I knew she’d get a kick out of it.
It was a long longlist, full of great books, and I never imagined I’d get any further. Then in August, the shortlist was announced, and it was somewhat shorter. Three books. And mine was one of them.
I had to call my mother again.
Two bears, actually. On the CBCA Book of the Year Shortlist.
I was out when the announcements were made, and I’m not a smartphone kind of girl. So I found out via text message and slightly garbled phone calls (Frané Lessac, I’m looking at you!). First, someone told me that both Surface Tension and No Bears had made it onto the Notables list. I was thrilled by this.
Later, other texts started coming in. No Bears had made the Shortlist too. Wonderful. Amazing.
In two categories. Early Childhood and Picture Book. What?
So this is the third in a three-part series I’ve been working on with Anna Branford and Sally Murphy.
I’m not entirely sure what approach the others are going to take to this topic. There are, of course, all sorts of ways of defining ‘recognition’. There’s the formal recognition of awards and the informal recognition of people such as peers and readers and random strangers at the shops.
Very early on in the scheme of things, I remember being full of excitement because someone had found my website on purpose, by searching for my name, rather than accidentally, via some variation on “goldfish + ponds” or “hydrocodone”.
Once, I was doing laps at the local pool, complete with swimming cap and goggles, when I was stopped, mid-turn, by a lifeguard who wanted to know if I was “that writer-woman in the paper”.
More recently, after writing a letter of complaint to a local business, I was asked during a follow-up phone call whether I was “the” Meg McKinlay, putting me in the unlikely position of having to say, “Define the.”
These things are all recognition of a sort.
Yesterday, I learned that Duck for a Day (illust. Leila Rudge) had been selected as a Notable in the Younger Readers Category of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards. An hour later, I learned it was on the shortlist. Shortly after, my inbox looked like this:
Thank you, lovely, supportive writing friends. Thank you, Children’s Book Council. I never imagined my duck might quack loudly enough to be noticed. I’m thrilled.
And I’m mindful, too, of the many books that didn’t make it on to the various lists (Duck is my fourth book, my first listing). With every award, there’s a chorus of excitement and head shaking. What about this one? And that one? Why that one?
I’m a recovering pedant. I try not to let my work as a copyeditor/proofreader spill over into my daily life. I know how annoying it is to have someone gleefully pointing out errors, not least because there are so many of them all around us that once you get started, there’s scarcely room for anything else. And to a certain extent, as long as the communicative intent is clear enough, what are a few stray apostrophes or typos between friends?
But yesterday I broke my rule. Yesterday, I found myself compelled to send an email that began “I’m sorry to be a pedant, but this seems like the sort of thing you would want to know.”
My fondness for ducks is no secret. Neither is my tendency to find spurious reasons to write books about them. I’ve talked here before about how Duck the First is out in the world, Duck the Second is on is way, and Duck the Third is pecking at the thin walls of my writerly sanity, begging to be next.
Now I can officially announce that Duck the Second really is on its way. That it has a contract and an illustrator and pencil sketches and a projected publication date and all of the things that mean it is really, truly, going to be a book.
Twelve days after the shortlist announcement, the winners are in! The prize for the Children’s Books category in the Premiers Book Awards went to Liz Lofthouse/Robert Ingpen for Ziba Came on a Boat, while Ken Spillman’s Love is a UFO took the honours in the Young Adult category.
The awards were made at a ‘light breakfast event’ at the State Library this morning. It was, shall we say, extremely convenient. The Southern Suburbs railway line is swift and impressive; at such an early hour, even parking becomes possible. I enjoyed my croissant, and thank Wendy Binks for helping me souvenir my “Shortlisted Author” name tag; I plan on wearing it at every opportunity.
Last night saw the presentation of the West Australian Young Readers Book Awards at the Playhouse in Subiaco. Gongs for the Older Readers category went to Melina Marchetta for On the Jellicoe Road (read the first line and you’ll be hooked. I love this one – strange and unexpected and profoundly moving, not to mention beautifully written) and Stephenie Meyer for Twilight, while Andy Griffiths’ Just Shocking and Andrew Lansdown’s Red Dragon took the honours for the Younger Readers.
It was a fun night, with some excellent dramatic presentations by local students and a lively buzz about books and reading. It is great to see young people with so much talent, enthusiasm and self-confidence, not to mention a capacity for the random generation of explosive sound effects and hard-hitting political questions.
I found out this morning that Annabel, Again has been shortlisted for the ‘children’s books’ category of the WA Premiers Book Awards.
Which is excellent news, of course, but has nothing to do with the title of this post. ‘The Way Opens’ is the title of a poetry book I had as a child, one of my earliest introductions to rhythm and cadence and image and all the things that make language sing. The phrase has stayed with me, in much the same way particular lines of poetry tend to. When I’ve been struggling with something and finally feel myself emerge into clear water, this is the line I hear. And this morning, it happened on the novel I’m writing. All of a sudden I can see the way forward, maybe not right to the end, not yet, but far enough ahead that I can keep the wind in my sails for a bit longer, hopefully long enough to get to the next point of departure.