THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD 2009
For a writer, it is always a pleasure, if a slightly overwhelming one, to
abandon the quiet room and the computer screen for an encounter with readers
and other writers at a literary festival. This weekend I was overwhelmed in the
nicest possible way when
Nights in the Asylum
won the People's Choice Award at
2009 South Australian Writers' Festival.
No doubt about it, the winning of any prize is a moment to be savoured. For
writers, who work so much alone, and experience so many crises of self-doubt
from one book to the next, or even one chapter to the next, publication is
always prize enough and anything that comes later is icing and cherry atop an
already truffle-and-champagne-flavoured cake. But what makes this prize
especially sweet is that it was awarded by readers from book groups who, after
a year of reading and discussion, cast individual votes for their favourite
book, which, to my astonishment and delight, turned out to be mine. I am now
the proud possessor of a specially commissioned glass trophy which makes a
remarkably effective bookend, as well as a cheque for one thousand dollars!
No one asks writers to pour years of effort into writing books, so it is not as
if we can assume or expect a readership. To find that there are readers out
there who are prepared to spend time with what we have written is the greatest
possible bonus and encouragement.
There were six very good books on the shortlist, and all of the authors were
present on Saturday to take part in an extended discussion with the audience
before the prize was announced. As I looked out from the stage at the faces of
the readers who had come along to chat to us and cheer on their favourite
books, it struck me that I will always be my own first reader, and that one of
the most important aspects of writing a novel is to pay close attention to that
inner reader. I have learned that, until the first draft is written, outside
opinions can be unnecessarily distracting; even well-meant comment can throw
you off course, or dilute whatever force a writer needs to sustain a particular
tone and voice over eighty-thousand words.
Once the first draft is in place, though, it is vital to seek constructive
criticism and to consider whether or not you have done the best you possibly
can to engage a reader other than yourself. At this point, I have never had a
clear image of who those other readers might be, but after Saturday's event I
am certain that I will conjure up the warm and animated faces of those who took
part in the People's Choice Award, and I will be aiming to produce another book
that will engage them as thoroughly as
Nights In The Asylum
appears to have
My love and gratitude to all of you who for voted for me!
Other musings on the Writing Life ...