How to survive Literary Awards
She was quite shocked when I said it was twenty years since it had happened (for Peeling the Onion, which was also the 1997 Honour Book).
So, just to get it straight: I’m thrilled.
The book is also on the shortlist for the West Australian Young Readers Award, and has won the ASO Librarian’s Choice for Secondary Schools, and I’ve been delighted about both of those. But the Children’s Book Council is probably still the most significant award in the Australian children’s literature world, and it’s deeply satisfying to have a book on it – especially one that is very different, and felt as if it was being written with my heart’s blood. The shortlist validates the years that went into it.
But – did I mention that there were twenty years of my books not being on the list?
My most successful book not even being a Notable? – I can empathise with the disappointment of so many of my fellow authors when the list was announced. I’m aware many had a sleepless night beforehand, and probably after. (Luckily for me, I had the date wrong, so I slept fine.) My heart went out to everyone who hid their own disappointment and congratulated me.
Maybe it’s all too stressful – maybe we shouldn’t care. Well, good luck with that. Of course we care!
The truth is, as children’s writers, we have to care about the CBC awards, even when we’re disappointed.
Celebrating children’s literature gets all children’s books noticed and valued. It gets teachers inspired, media attention and people talking – and as a children’s author, you’re an expert; your opinion matters. If people respect what you say they’re more likely to read your book too.
But the most important thing is that it gets kids excited about books and reading. This is what the CBCA is all about; it’s what those thousands of voluntary hours go into – the pure love of children’s books. Surely that’s what we’re about too. It’s why we chant picture book lines over and over till the rhythm is right; it’s why we wake up at night with the shock of a new plot twist. It’s why we spend our waking hours with imaginary people in our head and weep with their joys and sorrow.
So my advice if you’re not on the list:
- Be gracious in public but honour your grief and disappointment in private.
- Remember that it doesn’t mean your book is worthless or won’t be successful – lists are subjective and finite.
- Remember that this is not the only book you’ll ever write.
- Celebrate that you are part of a community that cares about children’s books; enjoy the fun of Book Week and the activities around it.
- Join the CBC, because supporting children’s books means supporting you – authors even receive a concession membership.
- Keep on loving your writing and the worlds you create.
And if you’re on it: All of the above, with champagne.
Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Dragonfly Song, a novel in free verse and prose of an outcast girl who becomes a bull-leaper in Bronze Age Crete. Read full bio