Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. So close.

20th December 2014
Nona & Me, On writing, Personal

You won’t see the beautiful cover of Nona & Me on The 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards list. But you might have, if it had been the Premier’s 22…or 25…or something like that.

The judges said they were ‘very taken’ with the book, their official comment being: Clare Atkins’s first novel is a fresh exploration of communication and complication between indigenous and non-indigenous young people. The judges would have loved to include it on a larger shortlist.’

I have to admit it is bitter sweet to get an email like this. One one hand, I feel incredibly proud. Judges, people with a real, in-depth knowledge of literature and YA, read Nona & Me and they liked it. A lot. On the other hand, it is also disappointing. A case of so close and yet so far.

This is my first taste of being entered for an award and it has stirred up a lot of strange feelings and questions about how we compare (often very different) books and rate them. It feels a bit like being back in high school and getting an essay back with a big red number scrawled at the top. A mark out of twenty that is also, essentially, a rank in the class.

And this is where I have to come clean about high school. I was one of those students who kept a list of all her marks in the back of her diary. I then calculated my grade percentage for each subject as I progressed through the the year. Yes, really. I know. Uh huh. I am serious. A bit over the top? A lot? In my defence, I went to a very academic school. I wasn’t the only girl doing this. And at least I didn’t insist on finding out everyone else’s marks too. I only cared how I did. I wanted to do my best.

Which I suppose brings us back to writing awards. And what I need to remember as Nona & Me is entered in more awards: it doesn’t matter how good everyone else’s books are, what matters is that I did my best, wrote from the heart, told a story I thought was worth telling.  And I did.


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