Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

HUG A WRITER TODAY

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The Giller competition results were announced yesterday and I am going to pretend I don't know the name of the winner. Doesn't everybody on the shortlist win this one? Whew -limos, flowers, champagne, cioffures and cheques all round.

Somebody cares about Canlit. Tell the Prime Minister.

The G words have morphed. Writers used to slit their throats if they weren't shortlisted for the Governor General's awards. Now there are trendier Gwards and all I hear in the wake of press releases from Ottograd are yawns. Perhaps the Canada Council should also offer makeovers, even though most of the writers I know are beyond hope.

The best most of us can look forward to is hemorrhoids and eyestrain. One poet I know actually put preparation H around his eyes, and he went from looking like a writer to ressembling a lemur with conjunctivitis.

The really sad thing is that for every writer crowned in laurels there are literally dozens who deserve to be. Because we are not, generally speaking, actually paid for our work, the fat end of the pie is public recognition. I think most writers are adult children who were not praised enough. All we want is for someone who looks vaguely parental to tell us our labour was not in vain.

The quest for recognition undermines collegiality among writers who have three main social goups: winners, losers and total losers. If there is anything more boring than a bouncy winner, it is a bitter loser. I'd rather read ten thin volumes of bad poetry than engage in a one minute conversation with a bitter loser.

I've even heard writers express relief that their book was declined by a publisher or had its pub date delayed because at least this year they wouldn't have to hit the "fall wall," feeling like failures when they fail to come up with the gold.

There is the social group thing and then there is the sales thing. Awards mean success at the box office, or bookstore to us. If anything the fall wall is more painful for publishers, who stake their bank loans on longshot books.

Why do we put ourselves through this? One of my favourite rants is, "Forget the awards. They are not how we validate our vocation." I even have a favourite story. It's about children in a footrace at a Special Olympics. When one of the kids falls, the others stop and, holding hands, they all walk to the finish line with their fallen comrade. How many writers would do that?

This is not an altogether popular view. I was accused by one writer of killing her very ambitious friend, who actually had an incurable illness. "She denigrated awards!" my accuser shouted.

You betcha! When they turn gifted people into mean girls and boys, I am not a happy camper.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking this writer ate sour grapes. Not so, I have had, most of my critics will agree, far more than my share of the good times. Without exception, I never allowed myself to believe I actually deserved the blessing. That isn't to say I didn't enjoy the free trip or the opportunity to have a treat and share my good luck with someone less fortunate. I actually felt bad for the losers because I know how much people care.

And if I didn't already feel that way myself, there was always someone to remind me. When I was named Canada's People's Poet in the year 2000, a woman called Meg Walker wrote a libelous letter to Ted Plantos, the organiser, who told me he thought it was funny. Ted may have died laughing, because that is what happened shortly afterward. I hope this Meg Walker person, whoever she is, didn't shorten his life, because he was a good man. She certainly didn't shorten mine, because I think I have a healthy perspective on the lottery. Poor Meg Walker showed bad judgement. She didn't make a career out of lopping off a short poppy like me.

What is the point of this blog? I'm getting to it.

HUG A WRITER TODAY! It might be the only reward she gets.

2 comments

I will!

I will!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Linda Rogers

Linda Rogers is the author of the novels Say My Name (Ekstasis Editions, 2000), Friday Water (Cormorant Books, 2003) and The Empress Letters (Cormorant Books, 2007). She has also published several collections of poetry, including Love in the Rainforest (Exile Editions, 1996), Heaven Cake (Sono Nis Press, 1997), The Saning (Sono Nis Press, 1999) and The Bursting Test (Guernica Editions, 2002).

Go to Linda Rogers’s Author Page