Nights in the Asylum has just been shortlisted for the Nita B. Kibble Literary Award for women writers, with the judge's decision to be announced in Sydney on May 6th 2008. As with the shortlisting for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize! it is such a thrill to be among the finalists, no matter what happens in the end.
In a world awash with new books, first novels have a pitiably short shelf life. It is, perhaps, the most dispiriting aspect of the writing life -- that sudden absence of your book from the shelves, a book that has taken years to write, a book for which many sacrifices involving time, money and relationships have been made. It is bound to make you wonder if it was worth the effort.
Literary prizes, it seems to me, are never about the prize money, although few writers would actually turn it down. They are invaluable for drawing attention to the listed books, for keeping them in bookshops, in prominent displays, so that readers have a chance to find them. If the prize is a prestigious one, even reaching the shortlist can change a writer's life. Winning is, of course, the icing on the cake. Books are sold, careers established.
It is exciting to know that Nights in the Asylum has been chosen as a contender and, no matter which book wins, I am grateful to Picador and Vintage, both wonderful publishers, for showing such faith in it from the start.