I never thought anything could compare to the high you get when your first child is born. So it rather shocked me when – Alex and Natalie stop reading now – I experienced something akin to that high again last Thursday night at the Arthur Ellis Awards short list event in Toronto. I had actually made the short list! And dang, wasn’t that a kick.
But also alarming. I raced home to dig out my ‘bucket list’ written 23 years ago, written in 1989 when I won my first writing award (Canadian Living Magazine). Damn straight, I’ve been kicking around a long time, decades longer than most of my colleagues realize.
This list of What-I-must-accomplish-before-I-die also included such items as “Learn to dance Flamenco,” and “Fly a plane.” Flamenco got a tick in 1996 (damn hard on your feet) and so did plane (except I ran out of money during the whole pilot training thingy and had to metaphorically bail). That list also included a few other items, one of which was rather hot (I invite people to comment by guessing what THAT was. If you’ve read Rowena Through the Wall, you may come close.)
One by one, I had crossed all these items off my list. Except one.
Back in my home office with the lovely arched window and the rickety desk, I opened the old claret journal (paper journal, of course – no smart-phones back then.) There it was, page marked with a post-it tab: “Bucket list.” And the only remaining uncrossed item: “Be a finalist for a major writing award.”
Not the winner, you note. Nope – my goal back then was to be in good company. And dammit, Thursday night put me in the best.
I’ve won six awards for fiction before. This year I was a finalist for the Derringer. But in no way did that begin to reach the thrill of being shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for short stories, at our Crime Writers of Canada event, with so many of my author friends in attendance and cheering me on.
Bless them. Writers are the best people in the world. They are the smartest people I know, always using their minds. And they have big hearts. They know the true joy that comes from being assessed by a jury of your peers, and found worthy.
For on Thursday night last week, I discovered that “A Jury of Her Peers” is the highest court. The title of that celebrated short story by Susan Glaspell rings in my head and heart. And I am supremely grateful.