|Judy Marsales reads my "Eclogging" while I look on |
(picture courtesy of Schooley nominee Sylvia McNicoll—or, likely, her photographer husband!)
I was delighted to be able to be part of The Hamilton Literary Awards which happened last night.
I want to say a few things about it. But first, one of a couple of great jokes that Jack David (of ECW Press) told me. He was there to support one of his authors who was nominated. Mrs. Shapiro phones the newspaper. She wants to submit an obit for her husband Abe. “What’s the cheapest rate?” “$25 ma’am—if you keep it short.” “OK,” Mrs. Shapiro says. “I want it should say: Shapiro died.” “Very good ma’am, but you actually get five words.” Mrs. Shapiro thought for a bit, then said. “Ok then, I want it should say: Shapiro died. Buick for sale.”
It was a lovely event organized by the Hamilton Arts Council, not only Stephen Near and Stephanie Vegh, but the volunteer members of the literary committee—local writers, booksellers, arts people, and publishers. And there was a shout-out to the LitLive Reading Series, also. I was struck how extraordinary the event was. Hamilton is both a big city (over 500,000 people) but also a small town. It was a bit of a love-in for the city. I’m ok with that, though.
Almost all of the local independent bookstores and their owners in the city (four of them) were there. Two sponsored and presented awards, and like all of the award presenters, read excerpts from the winning books. One of the presenters was a local real estate broker and perennial arts supporter who sponsored the poetry category which I won for Moon Baboon Canoe (Mansfield Press)—Judy Marsales—and who was brave enough to read my tongue-twister of a poem (“Eclogging”) with enthusiasm. Fantastic to have business people be arts supporters and recognize the importance of these non-marquee arts categories.
And how great to have the independent bookstores as part of this (Krista Foss and John Terpstra who won the awards for fiction and non-fiction, respectively) both mentioned the importance of these stores for writers. Booksellers who are knowledgeable, supportive, and enthusiastic about book sand their specificity as individual, independent works rather than just sellable widgets. And the Hamilton Spectator, our local newspaper, was a sponsor of one award (The Kerry J. Schooley Award for a book that evoked Hamilton—which Chris Laing won) and gave excellent media coverage. A story and the winners’ mugs were on the front page of the entertainment section.
The judges wrote citations not only for the winners but for each nominee. These citations were remarkably thoughtful and extremely well said.
Here’s a list of the nominees. Lots of great books and writers here, too.
I do want to thank everyone who was involved. A really warm, celebratory night, one that, though there were winners, I think did still manage to celebrate everyone in involved in literature in the city.