The Kobo Awards: How To Be a Winner When You're a Loser

by - June 22, 2018

[aka You Can Take a Country Girl to the City but You Can't Put Her in a Pair of Pantyhose]

When the notification came that my debut novel had been shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize I found myself overwhelmed with excitement-disbelief-exhilaration—and every other word from the thesaurus that describes the feeling a dog gets when it hangs its head out a car window.

When I realized this meant my presence was requested at a snazzy ceremony at a Toronto museum I found myself overwhelmed with terror-dread-trembling-drop my phone in the toilet-horror—and every other word from the thesaurus that describes the feeling a puppy has when it makes "a deposit" on its owner's white carpet.

Two things were very clear to me:

  1. This was a huge deal.
  2. I wasn't going to miss it for the world.

I felt a deep-rooted passion for The Church in the Wildwood from the moment I sat down and wrote the first scene. I believed in it, and decided from the beginning that I would see it through to the end, whatever that meant. After being rejected (or completely ignored) by all the Canadian literary agents I could find, and then being rejected (or completely ignored) by all the Canadian publishing houses I reached out to, I took their 'screw you', turned it back on them, and started my own publishing company.

Going it alone has not been easy or cheap, but it makes it that much more incredible to know that I earned my place on the Kobo Awards Shortlist—not because of the marketing genius of a knowledgeable and wealthy publishing house, but because I poured out my blood, sweat, and tears. This nomination means I did good work. Me, myself, and I. And to every person and place who rejected me, I can say:

"I believed in myself and it was enough."


I was allowed only one plus-one and so, because he is my hugest support and cheerleader, I made my husband take time off work and join me on the trek to the city.

We arrived downtown a little early, so we parked and went for a walk before sitting across the street from the venue to watch the fancy people going in. When we finally made our way to the entrance for the obligatory photo-by-the-sign (see above), I looked down to discover runs in my nylons.

First of all, I almost never wear nylons, so why I thought they were a necessity for such an event as this, I can't tell you. Secondly...GAH! Thanks to the friendly security man running the front desk at the museum, we were directed to the basement washrooms where I could discreetly slip out of them and hide the evidence of my stupidity in a garbage can.

It was then, following the signs to the upper level, that we were welcomed into a reception hall decorated with fresh flowers, catered treats, and an open bar. I was greeted with a lovely gift bag (new Kobo reader!), offered champagne, and I tracked the room nervously for the other authors in my category (Yes, of course I Googled them all so I'd know what they looked like!) while my name and book cover appeared on a screen at the front of the room every five minutes.

Though wildly out of my comfort zone, standing in that room with other debut writers, with agents and publishers (yup, some of the very same who rejected me!), and members of the press, it was such a thrill to be part of it all.

There were celebratory toasts and awkward conversations with people who were wonderfully kind. When the time came to announce the awards, it actually felt like a ceremony you would watch on television. "And the nominees for best Literary Fiction are..." Hearing my name during that time was a whole lot of WOW! wasn't surprised when Omar El Akkad was called as the winner for my category. His book has done tremendously well and has received many prestigious accolades. Plus he was super nice to me, so cheers to him.

Obviously I would have been thrilled to win, but I'm so proud to have gotten as far as I did. The shortlist was whittled down from hundreds of Canadian debuts and I'm excited to be counted among the other five incredible authors in my category. (I'll post links to their books at the bottom of this post.)

Following the ceremony, we walked down Bloor Street to Fionn MacCool's for some steak and mushroom pie that would have knocked my socks off if I hadn't dumped them in the ladies bathroom back at the museum. (I'd been too nervous to eat any of the fancy catered food at the event.)

When I posted to social media that I hadn't won, I received a resounding kickback of "yes, you did!" And all things considered, I do feel like a winner.

On the way home, we stopped at IKEA so I could visit all the things I'd placed in my online shopping cart (after I decided I deserved a newly decorated office if I went home with the $10K). I ran my fingers along the surface of the desk I want so badly and I heard its evil whisper, "Keep dreaming, Loser."

And I was like, "Whatever, IKEA! You use an Allen key to build a bookshelf? I used just my brain to create a whole world!"

p.s. Amazon gives me a little kickback if you follow one of these links and make a purchase

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  1. AnonymousJune 22, 2018

    Do I need to say it? I am SOOOOO proud of you- pantyhose or not!


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