Award wins and nominations are, to be perfectly frank, delightful. We at Jungle Reds like them a lot: between us we have won the Barry, the Booky, the Bruce Alexander, the Dilys, the Freddy, the Gumshoe,the Herodotus, the Lovey, the Daphne and the Nero Wolfe. We've been nominated twice for the Dilys and Bruce Alexander Awards, three times for the Barry and Edgar Awards, six times for the Mary Higgins Clark award, eight times for the Macavity, fifteen times for the Anthony and a staggering twenty-one nominations for the Agatha Award.
At home, on our bookcases, we can display two Barry Awards, three Sue Feder Historical Mystery Awards, five Macavity cats, five Anthony awards and eight Agatha teapots. For those of you scribbling figures on the back of an envelope, that's 13.14 awards and nominations per Red. Here's the thing, though: we don't write to receive nominations and awards. We write to please our readers. The teapot, the cat - or that oh-so-coveted Poe statuette - are useful. They draw attention to our work, make our publishers happy and raise our profiles in the community. But the best thing about them is that they're a tangible form of reader satisfaction. Behind every nomination is eight or eighty or eight hundred readers who closed the cover and sighed, "That was a great book."
And that's one reason why crime fiction authors aren't (tooo terribly) jealous when our colleagues nab awards. Because we read - and love - each others' books. In 2014, Hank and I were both up for a Best Novel Agatha, for THE WRONG GIRL and THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS. When Hank won, as soon as she had finished getting her pictures taken, she rushed over to me and said, very seriously, "Is this okay?" It was, and I was happy for her, and we hugged and I had a great time that evening at the bar bragging on my sister Red.
If award nominations have any lasting impact, it's this: they remind us to always push ourselves to become better writers, to strive to deepen our understanding of the craft, and to promise ourselves to make every single book a little bit better than the last one. Reds, what are your thoughts on the role of awards in your career? And do you have any good award ceremony stories to share?
RHYS BOWEN: Julia, the one time I was ever nominated for the Edgar best novel, you were a fellow nominee! How seldom is a woman ever nominated and that year there were three of us. Laura Lippman was the third. I secretly felt we cancelled each other out! But I would have cheered loudly if you had won.
My most recent award ceremony memory is winning the Agatha last year and then cheering for Hank when she won hers and having our pictures taken together with teapots! You are so right that we are each others' biggest champions! We are in a great profession and wonderful community. I feel blessed.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I was completely gobsmacked to be nominated for an Edgar for Best First Novel and I'm happy to say that we nominees (Kim Fay, Daniel Friedman, Michael Sears, and Matthew Quick) became fast friends there and have remained close! And I remember winning the Barry — not only did I never think I would win, but I didn't fix up my hair or put on fresh lipstick, and had a couple of glasses of wine beforehand. (Because I REALLY didn't think I would win.) I have no idea what I said, but my editor tells me it was sweet and people liked it. Thank goodness. Maybe that's the trick to winning? Not wearing lipstick and being completely unprepared? One of the unexpected benefits of being nominated for things is getting to sit at the awards ceremony with Lee Child, because we share an editor. Even after a few years, I'm always shocked Lee Child knows who I am. And once he even told me, "My wife loves your books." That's good — right?
HALLIE EPHRON: Julia, when you lay it out like that, we've got quite an impressive array of nominations and awards among us. Congratulations, Susan and Rhys! I had a lovely day on Tuesday when the nomination was announced -- with my phone and email pinging nonstop with congratulatory messages. I got zero writing done.
This will be my fourth time up for the Mary Higgins Clark and while it is certainly an honor to be nominated, and I admire my fellow nominees several of who I consider friends, is it okay to say: I want that glass doorstop!
LUCY BURDETTE: I'm so pleased and thrilled for our nominated Reds! I've been nominated for Agathas (up against Julia for best first, which she deservedly won), the Anthony, and the Macavity (boy do I want one of those cats one day...). I've also served on quite a few Edgar committees--best novel, best YA, best TV, best juvenile. From that perspective, a writer begins to see how much competition there is out in the world. Since we truly have no way to influence awards, my theory is we don't write for them--we write for you!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: OH, Rhys and Julia, what wonderful memories! Thank you. I love my five teapots and my Mary Higgins Clark crystal bookend and my Anthonys and Daphne and Macavitys. But think about it--we sit, alone alone alone, in our studies, making new worlds. something out of nothing but our imaginations. How does that even work? And then--at some point, someone will read it! Real people, most often people we've never met. And then-they decide if they "like" it. What does that even mean?? And what does"good" mean? Or successful? It's all such a magical impossible thing. So when someone says--we love it! It's the best! Well, how do you not burst into tears?
And then I work harder than ever.
Now Julia. HOW did you do all that calculation??? Amazing.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Really, Julia, how did you do that?? I must say I'm collectively impressed with us. Wow! I've been nominated for the Agatha, the Edgar, and I think four times for the Macavity, which I've won twice. I know we always say, "It's great to be nominated," but it's really true. Having served on several Edgar committees over the years, I know how seriously the judges take their task, and how hard it is to choose between that top handful of books. And the awards given by readers are really special, because it means we've done our jobs and given readers a book that touched them in some way.
So thrilled for our nominated REDS this year! Will be holding my breath on awards nights!
JULIA: Coming up with those numbers involved a lot of checking out everyone's web sites and then cross checking against award records. Thankfully, most of the crime fiction writing awards have searchable databases!
Dear Readers, I think our thoughts about the role of awards is well captured in this poem by Gelett Burgess:
Not the quarry, but the chase,
Not the laurel, but the race,
Not the hazard, but the play,
Make me, Lord, enjoy alway.