I was recently short-listed for the 2016 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize that recognized six of the many first novels by Canadian writers in the literary fiction category. Or rather Meadowlark was shortlisted; I was along for the ride. I should say that I am grateful that Kobo provided for such an experience for me and I am grateful, extremely grateful. But more than that I am grateful for Samantha.
I flew in to Toronto for an overnight, a rush trip; flew into the Toronto Island Airport and took a cab to a hotel close to the celebration venue, Terroni on Adelaide Street West, a fabulous building with a significant history. I tried to shed my introvert status and embrace the occasion, not an easy transformation for me.
Samantha joined me to be my official date, to hold me up and make certain I looked reasonably presentable: no spinach between my teeth, my hair brushed, my clothes free of lint and pet hair, my slacks on the right way, no tags showing, that sort of thing. To be named one of the six writers was an incredible honour when one considers the number of emerging writers in the field. I felt blessed, extremely blessed and slightly out of body as though I was pretending to be a writer or watching a writer who looked like me.
Aside of all that was the pride I felt at having my daughter with me, that she shared the journey with me. Though the significant cash reward would have fit nicely into my bank account, a bank account with considerable vacancy, I already felt a winner. My children are proud of me; they inspire me every day with their hearts and courage. I write for them.
Samantha quietly went about noticing the things I was too flustered to notice. She took photos. She was gracious and friendly and helped calm my awkwardness.
I looked around the room at the faces, listened to the clinking of glasses and the animated conversations and I wanted to pinch myself every time Meadowlark rotated around on the many television screens located throughout the room. Do I really belong here, I wondered.
We all have a story to tell and I believe those of us who write, write for those who have no voice and the choice to write comes with a responsibility. Writing is such a solitary undertaking and to imagine that someone has read my writing makes the story that is me far less lonely.
I spend hours and hours at my desk, the door shut to keep out my four-legged friends who think they have something to offer to my process, the blinds drawn to keep out the distractions and piano music playing in my headset to keep my mind on track. I can’t solve the problems of the world, but I can solve the puzzles in my head when I turn them into fiction. I can shine the light on situations that aren’t easy to discuss and I can make the world that I collide with make sense.
Thank you, Samantha, for being there for me, and I am grateful for all readers who find themselves on the pages of well-written books. We are in this together.