On Saturday, July 28, I went to Orillia for the exciting announcement about this year’s winners of the Canadian Authors’ Association prizes. I and Jonathan Vance and Richard Gwyn had been nominated (from among, they told us, countless authors of Canadian non-fiction books) for the Lela Common Prize in Canadian History.
I was, of course, very pleased to have my book nominated for an award, and in such good company. But the “history” designation worried me. So when the local TV station asked me what I planned to do if I won, I said, “Demand a recount!” My objection was that while Richard and Jonathan are real historians (who wear gloves in archives, and get ancient dust up their noses as they research Sir John A, or Canadians in Britain during the First World War) my book was a cheerful personal memoir of working with 20 famous Canadian authors, many of whom are still with us.
I argued, in fact, that while I am certainly a “mature” individual, I am not yet “history,” and I want no part of it. Yet.
As the day wore on, however, and Jonathan and I read from our books, and smiled continuously and were relentlessly charming, my objections to receiving the award weakened. At the evening dinner I was the keynote speaker, and the stars seemed to be aligned for a triumph for Stories About Storytellers. It was not to be. The absent Richard Gwyn received the award, and Jonathan and I consoled ourselves by saying, truthfully, that this was the result that we had expected.
And as the announcement was made, sitting with my game face on, I had just enough of a sniff of the smell of success to realise that while it is very pleasing to be nominated for a book prize, it must be much more pleasing to win one.
Is anybody listening?