Awards, and Why My Insecure Mind Wants Them

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Chuck Wendig has a good take on the annual awards season in which we are now knee-deep:

Awards are not infallible.

The best book will not always win an award.

The best book sometimes won’t ever even be nominated.

Sometimes, it will be nominated, and it will win, and you’ll cheer — at the same time someone else boos that very same decision. The book you love isn’t a book everyone loves. And vice versa.

Awards are subjective, strange, and imperfect.

They’re not the whole elephant; they’re just a blood sample.

And at the same time: awards are awesome. The people who win them? Awesome for them. And deserved. Those who are nominated but lose? Awesome for them, too. And also deserved. Those who are never nominated? Hey, fuck it — awesome for you, because you’re out there writing books and reaching an audience and doing what you fucking love to do. You didn’t win an award? Most people didn’t. A hundred other amazing authors and books and pieces of art failed to win awards. Most failed to even score nominations. You’re in good company.

Awards generate interest, conversation, controversy — they’re bubbles in the boiling pot of water. Not always relevant to your world, not always ideal, but it keeps the whole thing cooking.

So, we should celebrate awards and those who win them.

And, at the same time, we should be able to celebrate not winning them. Because awards? Not the end all be all. They’re one part — an admittedly small part — of the total equation. My advice? Relax. Write the stories you want to write. Try to reach an audience, not an award. Awards are too weird, too unpredictable. You win one? Victory lap. You don’t? Then you still get your victory lap.

Just remember that an award doesn’t validate you.

You were valid when you got here. You already have the cake — an award is just icing.

I will confess here and now that part of me is still that kid in junior high school (that’s what it was called in my town in the mid-1970’s) who craved awards. I’ve entered the Parsec Awards competition three or four times, fantasized about what I would say when they handed me the little statue, imagined myself texting photos of it back home, and humbly accepting the congratulations from my peers. However, I’ve never made the finals.

Anyone out there feel sorry for me? Yeah, me neither. Some of my favorite podcasts, interview shows, full-cast dramas and solo-read novels alike, have not won. Murder At Avedon Hill? Nope. Guild of the Cowry Catchers? Made the finals a couple of times but never won. Cybrosis? Uh-uh (though P.C. Haring did take home a well-deserved Parsec for a short story he contributed to Tales From The Archives.) Jennisodes (which has since ceased production)? Functional Nerds? Morevi Remastered? The 7th Son trilogy? None of them. Were they excellent podcasts? Absolutely. WAY better than mine. And they give me a level of excellence to aim for.

Chuck has done us all a favor by reminding us that awards, while freaking awesome when you’re fortunate enough to win one, mean relatively little in the long run. What’s important is to be in the game, producing words and stories that connect with readers and listeners, that touch them on some level and leave them wanting more. If I can make a reader laugh or cry or feel frightened or angry or just FEEL, then I’ve accomplished something important, something that will last much longer than the glow from winning an award.

I’ve got to tell you, though, I had one hell of an acceptance speech prepared…

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