Until last Thursday evening, I’d never won anything. Winning £2.50 on the Lottery doesn’t count. Nor does the prize of a mouldy fruit basket in our school raffle. And let’s not forget my one red rosette for showjumping, won thirty years ago, and now lost in a box full of seconds and thirds and fourths.
So as I boarded my train to Newcastle last Thursday for the North East Book Awards, I didn’t seriously think I’d win. It was a massive honour just to be going.
The shortlist consisted of four brilliant books: My Friend The Enemy by Dan Smith, Chasing The Dark by Sam Hepburn, The Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss and Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. Two of these books had already won big literary prizes- and for very good reason. So I was pretty certain of the outcome before I’d even arrived.
The event itself was fabulous. We gathered at the Newcastle Centre For Life to meet 250+ students, librarians, teachers, parents. Pairs of students introduced each author by making a strong case for why that book should win. Ellen and Mrugaya, whose pitch for Frost Hollow Hall made me blush, introduced me. And what a treat to hear the other authors talk about their books. I could’ve listened for hours.
But this was an awards ceremony, and that moment had arrived. The gold envelope was opened. I heard a sentence I’ll never forget: ‘ The winner is… FROST HOLLOW HALL!’
It was like being hit over the head with a frying pan- cartoon style. I truly did not believe it. I think I said a little swear word. I also had to fight the tears. Here was a book prize voted for by students, who’d read my book and thought it was all right. Pretty all right. It was the most amazing feeling.
Congrats were also due to Dan Smith whose brilliant My Friend The Enemy won ‘ Highly Commended’, and to Fletcher , Sam and Katherine for their shortlisting. Not forgetting the amazing Eileen Armstrong, school librarian extraordinaire, who is the force behind this prize
The rest of that lovely evening passed in a daze. I’m still not completely daze-free yet. Maybe I shouldn’t be so sniffy about that £2.50 on the Lottery or the mouldy fruit basket. After all, a winning streak has to start somewhere, right?
To find out more about the event and the shortlist