David Elias – My Manitoba Book Awards experience

David Elias was shortlisted for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction so we asked him about his experience:

  1. How did you hear about the Manitoba Book Awards?

Answer: I received an email from my publisher, ECW Press, informing me that my book, Elizabeth of Bohemia:  A Novel about Elizabeth Stuart, The Winter Queen, had been nominated for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction.

  1. How was the process for submitting your book? If you submitted to previous Book Awards, how did the process differ, for better or worse?

Answer: ECW Press took care of everything.  They submitted the book for a number of other awards, as well.  As it turned out, the novel was also selected as a finalist for the Foreword Reviews Indie Awards, which is American.

  1. Have you attended Book Awards Galas, in the past? If so, what were your impressions of the evenings. With the COVID-19 situation putting a damper on our ceremony this year, is there something you think we should have done instead of simply announcing the winners in an online forum?

Answer: I’ve attended a number of Book Awards in various cities.  In 2005 I attended the Amazon First Novel Award ceremonies in Toronto when my novel, Sunday Afternoon, was one of the finalists.  It was an elaborate affair, with special guests and plenty of food and refreshments.  That year I also attended the Manitoba Book Awards because the same novel was nominated for both the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction and the McNally Robinson Book of the Year.  It was held at the Hotel Fort Garry in one of the ballrooms, with all the accoutrements of a gala event.  I’ve attended the Manitoba Book Awards on other occasions, as well, including the year Brenda Sciberras, to whom I am married, won the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book for her collection of poetry, Magpie Days.

This year’s nomination for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction was great, but to say that Covid-19 put a damper on things is putting it mildly!  Nothing compares to a live in-person event.  Other than a couple of congratulatory emails, it was basically “crickets”.  There was some mention of interviews with the nominees that would be posted online, and I thought the local media might step in and do a bit more to promote the awards, but none of that materialized.

  1. How did you feel when you received the email announcing that you’d made the shortlist?

Answer: I was certainly happy to receive the nomination, but I didn’t anticipate it.  I’ve written other books that I thought might be nominated that got passed over, so I’ve learned not to get my hopes up.

  1. What more can we do to help you receive the accolades you deserve?

Answer: I think what you are doing now – interviewing me you about my experience, featuring me in your newsletter, and your plans to have me as the Featured Author at an upcoming virtual Book Chat are all terrific.  I really couldn’t ask for more.

  1. What else would you like to say about the experience?

Answer: When you’re nominated for an award, it’s certainly an affirmation, which can really be a boost.  But what about all those accomplished writers who never get to have that experience?  When I was writing Elizabeth of Bohemia, I reached a point where found myself in something of an existential crisis, and had to stop and think about what I was up to.  It was taking years of research and effort to write the book – with no contract, and no prospects that it would ever be published.  What if nothing came of it?!  After not writing for a while, I realized how much I missed Elizabeth.  And she missed me!  But what I missed most was the work, the process.  I decided let go of my expectation, my striving for “success”, and soon I was back at work.  It changed me as a writer.  I felt calmer after that, quieter.

Thanks, David, for the insight into your experience. I hope what we are doing will help you as a writer.

Also, congratulations on your upcoming virtual launch on October 20 through McNally Robinson Booksellers (https://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/event-18012/David-Elias-Online-Book-Launch#.X4dzu9BKjIU). Hope your new book, The Truth About The Barn does well.