Around this time of year, some major awards here in Australia announce their shortlist. So we have the Miles Franklin, the NSW Premier's Literary Awards and the Australian Children's Book Council Awards. If you have a book in the running, it can be a nerve-wracking time. In 2005, my book Farm Kid was shortlisted for the NSW award, which was a huge surprise for me. When it won, I made the most of it and celebrated and went to the awards dinner in Sydney. It was like a huge, excellent, late Christmas gift, something to totally enjoy.
This year Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!) has been shortlisted for the CBCA Younger Reader awards. I can't tell you how many fingers and toes I had crossed! I could hardly walk. Although the Newbery Medal in the US doesn't have a shortlist beforehand, the effect on book sales and everything else that goes along with being a children's author is the same. It's mind-boggling, actually (I've talked to others who have been shortlisted and won or had Honour books), and exciting. And sitting around on Tuesday morning waiting for the shortlists to go up on the CBCA site was unbearable. So I went to the movies.
When I was a teenager, one of my favourite movies was Anne of a Thousand Days, so I really wanted to see The Other Boleyn Girl. It was great - lots of strong minor characters to fill out the story with subplots, two very different actors in the main roles, and a different perspective also on Anne. Yes, I did manage to forget about the shortlist announcements until the movie was over. Then I arrived home to a lovely message from my publisher on my answering machine, and the sight of my book on the website. It took a while to sink in, but the champagne helped!
There is now a long gap until the winners are announced - 15 August - which allows for lots of discussion and time for kids to read the books and decide for themselves. This year there will be another Junior Judges happening, where schools can get involved and be part of it. In early May, the CBCA conference takes place here in Melbourne, and I'm going to be leading a session on Sunday on poetry for children (which was organised months ago).
Yes, I am trying very hard here to sound serious and "worthy" - my friends would all laugh and give me a good poke in the ribs, because they know that inside there are a dozen elephants still doing a mad, happy dance! So now I will go off and do some writing, because I have a deadline, and later on I'll let the elephants out and we'll watch the footy and drink nice wine and celebrate some more!