Winning Without Winning

I lost today … and still won.

I learned this morning that I did not make the list of finalists for the inaugural Whistler Independent Book Awards.  I had been thrilled to find my name on the list of 10 fiction nominees — the “longlist” — for what some are calling the first major awards for self-published authors in Canada.  Of course, when I learned of my nomination on July 4th, I briefly envisioned myself on the podium at the Whistler Writers Festival this fall, thanking the academy before delivering a witty and poignant acceptance speech that would quickly catch fire on social media, thus launching my career as a literary genius.

Then reality caught up with me, and I began to research “the competition”.  It was a humbling experience.  After looking at the impressive list of authors who were on the longlist with me, I did not see the other nine people as competition, but rather as a group of competent writers whose names I am happy to be associated with.

I believe I wrote a solid debut novel, and — with the help of two editors, a painter, a photographer, twelve beta readers and two cover designers — created a quality product that belongs on a bookshelf alongside traditionally published works.  But I’m just getting started as an author, and though I appreciate every bit of positive feedback for Goodnight Sunshine, I see each milestone on this journey as a building block — and a sign that I’m on the right track.

There was a part of me that struggled with the idea that my debut novel could win an award.  I wondered at first if I was lacking confidence, or if I was fostering a sense of faux humility.  But I knew deep down that it was neither of those; it was a recognition of where I am on my path as an author.  I am growing increasingly confident that I did not belly-flop on my first dive into the deep pool of fiction writing … but I also know that I didn’t make a perfect entry.

There is something oddly reassuring about not quite winning an award.  I had thought it would be a long-shot for Goodnight Sunshine to be on the Whistler longlist, and I am more than happy to make it that far.  Though I have not read their nominated works, I am impressed by what I have read about the three finalists who eclipsed me for this award … and I would like to congratulate each of them for their shortlist selection:

  • Byrna Barclay – The House of the White Elephant
  • Kath Curran – Before It Was Easy
  • Shawn Gale – The Stories That Make Us

I look forward to reading each of these books, and I would also like to give a shout-out to fellow longlist nominee, Donna Barker, for her darkly humorous novel, Mother Theresa’s Advice for Jilted Lovers — a thoroughly enjoyable book that I finished reading this morning!

I am more motivated than ever to keep writing. External validations aside, I recognize that when it comes to writing, the true definition of “winning” is playing the game in the first place. Whenever I push through my own self-doubt and embrace the vulnerability that is essential to writing, I know that I have already won.

6 thoughts on “Winning Without Winning

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