The last time I attended the Manitoba Book Awards, in 2013 at the West End Cultural Centre, I’d been nominated for three awards, including Best Book for Young People. It was a fantastic experience. And I learned that the cliches associated with awards ceremonies were true. It was just an honour to get nominated, for example. I left the awards in 2013 feeling disappointed, but honoured to have been nominated with such amazing writers. So, on my way to the Marlborough Hotel on Saturday, I set no expectations for the night and decided on enjoying the evening no matter what happened.
I think, though, no matter how you prepare yourself at the beginning of the night, when your award category comes up, your heart races and your palms sweat. It was no different at the 2015 edition of the Manitoba Book Awards. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a thrilling way to spend an evening. So I sat through my categories with a fun kind of anxiety (I’ve had both kinds of anxiety. Trust me. This is the fun kind). The first category was for Best Graphic Novels/Children’s Books. In this category, I was nominated with my friend GMB Chomichuk and Adrian Hawaleshka. I was happy when GMB won, and was also happy that my pre-awards prediction was right and his was wrong (he picked me to win…we’re both so humble). Next up was the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction. Now, this was very much a “happy to be here” category, because my book, The Evolution of Alice, was in the there with some heavyweights: David Bergen, Margaret Sweatman, Joan Thomas, Alison Preston, and Karen Dudley. In the end, Margaret Sweatman’s book, Mr. Jones, won and I honestly can’t wait to read it. It sounds amazing.
During the intermission, everybody went to find cool air. It was hot in there. Literally. And figuratively, I suppose.
After the intermission, the first award up was the brand new Beatrice Mosionier’s Aboriginal Writer of the Year Award. I was nominated along with Kate Vermette, my bud and colleague, and Deborah Delaronde, who I’d never had the opportunity of meeting before. My friends Niigaan Sinclair and Warren Cariou presented the award along with Beatrice, also a friend and the sweetest woman alive. Debora ended up winning the award and good for her! Listen, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that during the awards I wasn’t, in my head, doing a little countdown that went something like, “0 for 1, 0 for 2, 0 for 3,” but all the nominees were so deserving of the awards they won and as colleagues in a relatively small profession, you’re happy for your fellows to win. You really are.
So, the final award I was nominated for came up soon after, and it was the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. There I was, palms sweat, heart racing, for the final time that evening, and it was so great to hear my name called. As a writer I should probably be able to describe it better, but I can’t. It’s just really, really nice. Adjectives are always the way to go when you’re stuck (although I am learning to use them less and less in my writing). In this category I was nominated with MC Joudrey and Brenda Sciberras. I also haven’t met these two and I am looking forward to crossing paths with them in the future. What an honour. Well, here’s my quote that my publisher is going to use. It sums up my feelings on it:
“I’m very honoured to receive this award. It was unexpected. I want to congratulate fellow nominees MC Joudrey and Brenda Sciberras. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in grade three; I remember running home to my mom after writing my first poem and telling her, “Mom, I want to be a writer!” I’ve worked hard to be where I am, and to be recognized for that work is an incredible feeling. I want to thank my family and friends for their support over the years, the mentors I’ve had, and my publisher, HighWater Press, for continuing to support my vision. The work continues…”
Of course, being “promising” means you need to fulfill that promise. Mr. Ball, who presented the award, has already done that. He published two books last year and won an award last night. I have to tell you, I’m feeling the pressure. But it’s a good pressure. All in all, it was an amazing night and I bumped into some people that I admire. David Bergen, Meira Cook, Ariel Gordon, Niigaan Sinclair, Beatrice Mosionier, Warren Cariou, Shayla Elizabeth, Rosanna Deerchild (Best. Host. Ever.), Chadwick Ginther, Margaret Sweatman, Joan Thomas, Penny Thomas (no relation), Charlene Diehl, Anita Daher, GMB, and if I don’t stop now I’m going to forget one person and I’ll feel like a jerk. So, there were many others I bumped into that are awesome and I admire.
Again, I am so honoured to win the award I did, and to be nominated for the other categories. And I’m also happy for all the other nominees and award winners. We’re one community, and we all support and are happy for each other when we’re successful. Go team!
Thanks, too, for your support. I will keep working hard and fulfill the promise!