October 2, 2012

On not being nominated for a literary prize

‘Tis the season for the three big Canadian literary prizes: the Giller Prize, Rogers Trust Prize, and the Governor General’s Awards. Being shortlisted or nominated for any of these is a big deal, boosts book sales, and gets you invited to the fall writers’ festivals, such as the IFOA in Toronto. I imagine that it is generally a good experience.

I say “I imagine” because my book wasn’t nominated. The jury for the GGs had 241 books to choose from, and the Giller jury had even more. Certainly, a large number of them are worthy of a nomination – only five get it.

After not seeing my name on the Giller longlist I was disappointed. I felt badly for feeling disappointed, as though the emotion were shameful or selfish. I went for a run and told myself that the longlisted authors were deserving, that not everyone can be nominated, that it was OK that The Rest Is Silence didn’t “win”. A wise friend who has watched me and supported me through the entire process of writing the book gave me some great advice.

“Feel your feelings," she said. "Respect them because they are real. Don't try to ignore them or make them go away. Just sit with them.”

I did that and, by the end of that day, I no longer felt disappointed. The disappointment was replaced by gratitude: that my book was published, that people have read it, and that many people have approached me to tell me that they liked it.

This morning, when the GG list was announced, that familiar disappointment reappeared. Then I remembered the people I had met at a Chapters in Halifax last week. There was the retired nurse who was buying my book because her father had wanted “The Rest Is Silence” written on his tombstone. There was a 14-year-old short story writer who talked to me about her obsession with writing and another young woman who was a voracious reader and asked me to sign the book she had in her hand by someone named Rick Riordan. When I smiled and suggested she should probably get Rick to sign it, she said she assumed I could sign it because I was famous. She then got her mother to buy my book.

I would have liked to have been nominated for one of those prizes. But I’m so grateful that Bethany Gibson (my editor) convinced Goose Lane to take a chance on me; that I get to see my book in bookstores; that high school friends, as well as strangers, are writing to say they’ve read the book, and like it; and that I’m making friends with other Canadian authors.

P.S. Carrie Snyder, nominated today for a GG for The Juliet Stories, has a great blog post about her reaction to the news. (No longer) Obscure CanLit Mama


Riel Nason said...

Yay You, Scott. Honest, sincere post. Yes, you are published by a FAB-U-LOUS house, and in HARDCOVER no less, and your book still has a long long life ahead of it. If the GLE events page is any indication you have so so much excitement still to come meeting readers. Cheers, Riel

Peter said...

Greetings from the UK.

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading your book. It is both beautiful and thought-provoking, and the end both made perfect sense and sets the reader revisiting their assumptions.

Having never been to Nova Scotia I have a vivid picture in my mind of Forest Garden and the landscape around it and indeed of the wonderful characters who inhabit it in your novel.

I'm not a scientist at all but the science just about made sense !

So thank you for writing what is one of the most beautiful, vivid, and memorable novels I have read for ages.


Thanks Peter! Very nice to hear from you and that you liked the book. How did you get the book in the UK?