I recently had the incredible opportunity to attend the Canadian Children’s Book Centre annual Gala in Toronto as a finalist for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for 2014.
When I stepped off the private elevator into the prestigious Carlu in Toronto for the gala, the introvert in me came strongly to the fore and I longed to be back in my writer’s uniform of pajamas sitting with my laptop and a cup of tea. This was a far cry from our CSS outings. The art moderne décor was stunning, the room buzzed, waiters milled about with glasses of wine and trendy appetizers, and the name tags on the close to 700 guests were a who’s who in children’s book publishing and an index of my book shelf at home. I shrank against the marble columns clutching a glass of wine, struggling to keep my skirt from riding up and dashed off a quick, frantic, expletive-laced text to a friend who I knew would understand. I realized a fraction of a second after pressing send that I had selected the wrong recipient and my message was irretrievably on its way to the inbox of my employer’s husband. With my future employment now in jeopardy, I realized I should attempt to make a go at this writer’s thing and peeled myself away from the wall and sailed out into the crowd.
What a tender moment when I noticed the centre attraction in an elaborate spread of food – a poutine bar. Complete with duck confit. I wasn’t so far out of my comfort zone after all. I toasted my group, tossed back my wine and dutifully consumed the crispy fried potatoes, succulent duck confit gravy and fresh cheese curds in their honour. It was the least I could do.
The awards were presented in an auditorium that had been favoured by Glen Gould. Shelagh Rogers was the host. Russian circus performers entertained. Awards were announced. I met new and interesting and wonderfully creative people and reacquainted myself with others. I didn’t win, but I hadn’t expected to (there was a brief moment of panic when the thought occurred to me that there existed a remote chance I might, and without a speech at the ready would be humiliated, mumbling pathetic disorganized thanks after the eloquent ones we’d been treated to – but it passed. Rather quickly, I might add.)
My skirt still rode up all night and there was the question of my wandering text message coming back to haunt me. But all in all, it was an incredible evening celebrating children’s books and their creators. And I got to meet Shelagh Rogers. She liked my shoes.
What a humbling, honouring experience to have Once Upon a Northern Night, my quiet story about a simple, small moment, recognized as one of the top Canadian children’s books published this year. Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations and Groundwood Books’ expertise brought my words to life in a way that allows them be enjoyed and shared and experienced by so many. I am grateful.
So much so that I didn’t even take a Sharpie to the menu.