Monday, April 4, 2011

A Major Award

ROSEMARY: If April really is the cruelest month as T.S. Eliot has written, at least part of it has to do with the fact that the Edgars and the Agathas are awarded in April. Say what you will about awards - and John LeCarre has rather famously just said "Thanks, but no thanks" to being considered for the prestigious Man Booker International Prize - most writers would be thrilled to be nominated for an award. LeCarre has stated he does "not compete for literary prizes." The Booker website more diplomatically explains "Mr. LeCarre asked that his books ... not be submitted for the annual prize to give less established authors the opportunity to win." When I'm John LeCarre I hope I am that generous - right now, I'd love to win an award, but it will be difficult since I am not nominated for anything this year. Whether we like it or not, awards are a measure of success.

Even a "major award" like the leglamp in A Christmas Story. Not many reading this blog are tortured souls slaving away in garrets for our art. We want to write stories that will touch, entertain, educate or perhaps even enlighten readers. The spotlight that winning or even being nominated ("it's an honor...") brings to a work enables us to reach more people. So to any nominating committees out there - there's only one John LeCarre - go ahead and nominate us!

RHYS: I have had more than my share of nominations, and awards too, and it never gets old. First the phone call that says "This is the committee for the Agatha Awards..." Then that lovely stage when you hope you might have won and people congratulate you on being nominated, then the banquet when you can't make yourself swallow food, and finally the moment when the envelope is opened and you hear your name, stand up, stumble to the stage, pausing only to wonder if you really heard your name or you'll reach the podium only to find it was someone else. And then the speech when you hope you won't sound like an idiot and you've mentioned all the right people. It's one of the real highs of a writer's life. I treasure each award I've won. They sit on a bookcase halfway down my stairs so I have to pass them as I go to my office and they are a real morale booster on bad days. Of course I'd still like to add an Edgar to my collection....

HALLIE: I've had the thrill of nomination -- my Writing and Selling Your Mystery got Edgar and Anthony noms. And "Never Tell a Lie" was nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark and won the David
(Yay, Deadly Ink -- coming up in NJ this August with our own Hank Phillippi Ryan as Guest of Honor). I won the American Crime Writers League award for excellence in mystery reviewing - a huge thrill for which I was completely unprepared! But still I feel like a piker next to my fellow Jungle Reds. I look forward to it 'never getting old'!

ROSEMARY: I was nominated for the Agatha for Pushing Up Daisies and I was on tour so they had a hard time reaching me. I had picked up a few messages from someone on the Agatha Committee but they didn't say what they were calling about - I was convinced it was because I hadn't checked Chicken or Vegetarian - until I actually heard the words. It was thrilling. For the Anthony I was nominated along with Stieg Larssen so I put on my party dress and was much more relaxed since I didn't think I had a prayer of winning! Still a bridesmaid...

HANK: Oh, awards! It brings tears to my eyes to think about it.. I completely remember when I got the call about the Agatha Nom for Prime Time. I had NO IDEA there was a phone call, so when I heard the "This is the awards committee from Malice Domestic"--I actually literally burst into tears. And when I won...well, I still get goose bumps. Endlessly grateful.

Hilariously, my Anthony nominations--which come by email--were caught in my spam filter! And I was up against the iconic and amazing Dennis Lehane for the short story Anthony--and burst out laughing when I won! (Can you imagine? His story--which was also about a dog, coincidentally, is now being made into a major motion picture. SO it goes.) (And I touch my Macavity for luck every day before I start writing.)

And this year? Drive Time is up for the Agatha for Best Novel! SO fantastic! And I am up against, well, names SO BIG I hesitate to mention them. (Penny, Pickard, Andrews and Webber.) Can you hear me howling with laughter? And I get you, RO. I am going to be VERY relaxed and happy. I already am.

Seriously: you always feel as if you shouldn't think of a speech in advance, you know, because it'll jinx the results. But a wise person once told me--you MUST figure out what to say. It's the only respectful thing to do.

ROBERTA: Those are great names Hank, but no greater than yours! Six Strokes Under was nominated for a best first Agatha before I even knew there were awards. What a thrill! My husband and my agent both came down for the banquet. Unfortunately, I was up against some very strong contenders, Nancy Martin and (ahem) Julia Spencer Fleming to name two. I knew perfectly well that Julia had hit the dang book out of the park but there's always a squiggle of hope--yes, my book was pretty good too.

I've had two Anthony nominations for Six strokes under and Putt to Death--I knew these were long shots but still great great fun. And one short story nom for a Macavity and I must say that I totally covet one of those prizes that looks like a cat. Wait, the teapot would be lovely too. and I wouldn't turn away the funny looking Poe man. Just saying...I'm not done yet:)

What I - and I suspect a lot of people - remember about that Agatha awards banquet is the way my husband literally leaped in the air when my name was announced. He got it before I did - I was sitting there telling myself to smile and applaud. Advice I've had LOTS of practice with since. At this point I've lost many more awards than I've won.

My funniest awards story also has to do with Ross. It had been a horribly snowy winter here in Maine, so much so that poor Ross had badly strained his back shoveling out our driveway. He was supposed to be lying on the floor at home, resting. I was next door, helping my neighbor clear her porch roof and gutters. Suddenly we see the bizarre sight of my husband, staggering stiffly down our country road with a parka tossed over his pajamas, supported by our oldest daughter. He was shouting unintelligibly - something about crying and being bombed, it sounded like. "Oh, my God," the neighbor gasped. "Someone's dead." Finally he got close enough to hear. "'Out of the Deep I Cry' has been nominated for an Edgar!"

RHYS: Julia--you and I were up against each other for the Edgar. Was that fair, I ask?
So seldom that a woman is even nominated, I can't help but believe that we split the vote between us! But it was fun sitting at the same table, wasn't it? And getting a huge flower arrangement from the publisher. Let's hope there will be a next time.

ROSEMARY: So, all due respect to Mr. LeCarre - it's great to hear it when "you like really like us.." What do you think...does it make a difference to you as readers?


  1. What great stories! I remember so clearly getting nominated for an Agatha, too... So exciting.

    I think the rewards do matter (certainly to the writer and publisher) but I would be interested to hear what readers think.

  2. As a reader, I have to say when I see "award winnng writer" or words to that effect, I'm drawn to check it out. Found many wonderful writers this way -- a lot on this blog site!

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  4. I'm a reader and a writer. Ever since I was a child and a couple of Newbery Medal authors were at our library signing books, I have always assumed that an award-winning author must have something special to offer.

    As a writer, I'm still trying to even get published beyond the short-story level, so I'll leave dreams of awards to you all. I've read books by each of you (working my way through the entire opus of the Jungle Red writers takes a while) and I can say all your award nominations were well earned!
    Thanks for sharing them.


  5. I have to say that for most of my life I could have told you more about children's book awards than anything else. Then my alter ego Sarah Atwell was nominated for an Agatha for her, er, my first book. Wow! I hadn't expected that. We didn't win, but since I was up against a couple of friends, I was just as happy that the talented G.M. Malliet did.

    I am honored that my short story was nominated this year, and in such good company. Level Best's new editors have done an outstanding job picking up the traces for the anthology, getting the book out on time, and garnering multiple award nominations. (Readers, have you submitted a story for this year, huh? The deadline is this month.)

  6. Having had a little bit of experience with awards, and knowing that it would be impossible for judges to read every single book written in any given time period, I'm not especially swayed by book awards. However, if I were nominated for one, or, miracle of miracles (since I have not yet written anything) won one, well, I'm sure it would matter immensely. :-)

    It would really stink to be nominated along with friends' equally worthy books, though.

  7. As it happens, Neil Placky will be guest blogging tomorrow about all those Newbery and Caldecott Award winning books that we loved so much - and probably helped turn some of us into writers.
    Hopefully, the annoying Blogger issue of stringing all the text togethr will be resolved by then, too!

  8. OY...I spelled Neil's last name incorrectly - it's Plakcy - a slip of the rhymes with Taxi and he's a terrific guy and a very good writer..stop back tomorrow for JR's take on award-winning kids books.

  9. You ladies are hilarious! Rosemary, "Hadn't checked Chicken or vegetarian." LOL!

    I think I would like the Macavity. He's my favorite Jellicle cat.

  10. So sorry I missed getting in my bit yesterday! I must have had a mental breakdown of some sort, as I only saw the Newberry piece . . .

    But here we get second chances!

    And it really is nice to be nominated. I know we're "supposed" to say that, but it's true.

    I've lost the Agatha twice; Best First to my friend Nevada Barr (what a great year that was for the Best First noms: yours truly, Nevada, Jan Burke, Sharan Newman, and Abigail Padgett!), then I lost Best Novel (Dreaming of the Bones) to my late friend Kate Ross. That was a bittersweet year.

    I also lost the Edgar for Best Novel (Dreaming of the Bones) to James Lee Burke. Not bad company there.

    But I've done well with the Cats, and am eternally grateful to Mystery Readers International and all those lovely readers who vote on the Macavity. I've won Best First for A Share in Death, Best Novel for Dreaming of the Bones, and Best Novel for Where Memories Lie. That year I was up against the lovely Louise Penny and was gobsmacked when I won. I must have mumbled something utterly garbled . . . but Louise got her own back the next year when we were both nominated and she won.

    And the nice thing is that I think I was just as pleased for her as I would have been for myself. It seems to me that there is a great camaraderie in the mystery community. We are pleased for ourselves, but also for our friends, and we all get such a thrill out of reading--and honoring--good writing.

    Too bad Mr. LeCarre wasn't short-listed for a mystery award.

  11. There IS a great camaraderie in the mystery community - sounds a little hokey but it's true!

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  13. I'm sorry, I'm a victim of not reading my own cut and paste! My above comment was for elsewhere. Obviously.

    What I meant to write here is that I've been reading commentary about le Carre's decision. Some are calling him noble, and others criticize literary writers who "wallow" in their prizes. Interesting reactions.

  14. Digression: A fun blog at Jen Forbus today..a Quiz! Did it happen to Hank? Or Charlotte McNally?

    Guess right...and you can win a book!

    We now return to our regular programming..

  15. As Karen said, I'm not particulary swayed by awards either, but as a yet-to-be-published writer I would certainly be thrilled to be nominated for one myself!

    Thanks for these great stories!

  16. Cool Deb, you had one heck of a fabulous debut year! And wonderful about all those cats--where do you all keep the trophies? someplace you can admire them every day?

  17. I think awards mean more to authors and -- how do I say this -- non-regular readers who don't read enough to necessarily know what they like. As an avid reader of crime fiction, I actually don't read much from the list of nominees. I will use them perhaps as a "who is that author?" when the award committee has gotten obscure. And you guys, I already read you guys. :)