Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Were-Nana wins (The view from cloud 9 rocks...)

(This is me and my wonderful SO all dolled up and ready for the award ceremony)

Well, who'd a thunk it. I was so thrilled when The Were-Nana was shortlisted for the NZ Post Book Awards back in March. I was proud of my story, and delighted to have been paired with such a wonderful illustrator but aware that some people might find some of the themes in the book a little challenging. After all, it is a little different.

Yesterday I scrubbed myself off, slapped on the war paint and got into my very little black frock (in what seemed like sub zero temperatures). And off we trundled to the publisher's pre-do afternoon tea at 3.30. I was too jittery to circulate too much and clung on to friends like a drowning woman. Looking back now I'm not sure why I was so nervous. Probably partly because only my characters are good at small talk. Partly because I had little idea of what to expect. And partly because this sort of thing has never happened to me before. After five we set off up the hill to the gorgeous venue at the Auckland Museum for a few glasses of bubbles and the official ceremony scheduled to begin at 6.30. I had rehearsed a few things I should say if we won but I thought it unlikely so I just left those few things floating freely in the back of my brain where they might easily get lost. So when I did need them unfortunately some of them had wandered off.

First off were speeches by Chris Finlayson, Minister for the Arts who left me feeling like our creative arts are in good hands, John Allen CEO of NZ Post (although sadly moving on from this to be CEO of Foreign Affairs I think) who inspired with his passion and depth of understanding of NZ children's literature and Alastair Carruthers, chair of Creative NZ and Hamish Wright of Booksellers NZ who were equally passionate, erudite and eloquent. The judges, Bill Nagelkerke, Jenni Keestra and Rosemary Tisdall gave us a view into what they'd been up to for their summer holidays, also better known as the very serious business of selecting finalists and winners. Then the awarding began. The picture book category was announced and while I had to go up the front to receive my finalists certificate I wasn't required to speak. The winner was Roadworks. Its an excellent book and I was so happy for Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock. With a smidgeon of disappointment hovering at least now I could relax. The other categories came and went and winners announced (Jack Lasenby with 'Old Drumble' for junior fiction, Kate de Goldi with 'The 10pm Question' for senior Fiction and Gregory O'Brian with 'Back and Beyond: NZ painting for the Young and Curious' for non-fiction). The young actors providing a small sketch for each book were impressive and gave the audience a window of insight into each finalist. Then it was childrens' choice, best first book, and best book overall. While people had told me they'd voted for Were-Nana for children's choice I thought for sure one of the other books would be picked.

The children are who we write for. While you have to convince editors, maybe agents, and marketing and accounting people of the merits of your writing to get it published, the children are the ones we really want to impress. They are our most important audience and they are the ones we want to thrill, inspire, excite and entertain. And they liked us. They really liked us. Sarah and I won the Children's Choice Award for our book The Were-Nana. And because all the things I should have said disappeared when I needed them most I would now like to thank the Judges, NZ Post, NZ Booksellers, and Creative NZ. Thank you to Scholastic who weren't afraid of a were-nana, and my lucky stars for pairing me up with the most talented and utterly right illustrator for my story. And of course thank you to my family who put up with the ups and downs of having a writer for a mother, wife, sister and daughter, and especially my husband James who has always supported my crazy ambitions. I did remember to thank the children for voting but I don't think I can say it too many times. To all the people who voted for my book, yay, I am honoured and thrilled. Thank you...


Katy said...

WOW!!! Melinda, that is fabulous!!! What amazing news - I am so thrilled and delighted for you.

Sending a whole cloud nine full of congratulations to you from the other side of the world :-) well done xxx

maureen said...

Fifi was texting me throughout the ceremony....When she texted through Were Nana for children's choice I whooped and hollared for you....lucky I was by myself in the car going on the nightly dance pick up run....
In reply to my question about how your speech went...Fifi replied with just one word

Well Done

Lois Huston said...

Yah, hooray, hip hip, hoorah!
That Melinda's going far!

(imagine me in cheerleading outfit with pompoms)

Go Melinda!

Love, Lois

Anonymous said...

Hi Melinda,
Congratulations, I didn't get a chance to say hi on Wednesday but I had a brief chat to your SO. Well done with Were Nana. I got the children's choice in YA with Scorched Bone - it was also a surprise and it put a real sparkle in the night for me. I loved the Were Nana and I'm looking forward to reading it to my little girl.
All the best - I'm sure I'll be seeing you at children's book things again.
Vince Ford.

Melinda Szymanik said...

I have been overwhelmed by the kind wishes of wonderful people. I truly feel that I am part of something exciting, vibrant and magical in belonging to the community of writer's for children. And i reckon its a community thats getting better and stronger every day. Yowza

Maureen - I am so looking forward to meeting you at the conference. And Vince I hope I get a chance to say hi sometime soon.