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The air was “palpable”, says CEO of ACT Writers Meg Wilson, as she reflects on the momentous night that was the Act’s Notable Awards.
After two years of lockdown, digital book launches, and unprecedented amounts of solidarity (even for writer’s standards), the ACT Notable Awards was a united moment of celebration for those trailblazing an impressive literary future in the ACT and surrounding region.
The spirit of camaraderie and shared admiration permeated the event, with writers finally given the opportunity to reconnect and reflect on the brilliant bodies of work that were created amid something of a whirlwind.
As Meg explains, the 39 winners across a myriad of categories are a testimony to the incredible talent that ripples throughout the region.
“The fact that people kept writing during this unprecedented time in our history—and were able to actually create anything—should be celebrated”.
“Not to mention all these authors were creating works of such high quality. It was just really fantastic to all be together, share and toast to the effort and talent that we have.”
With radical, bold, and vastly diverse pieces, the job of the judges was not one to be envied.
‘Literary excellence’, ‘powerful narrative structure’, and ‘considered and impactful use of language’ was their guide as they delved into works spread across fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children’s books, as well as special book award categories.
Perhaps in an act of rebellion against the pandemic’s restrictions, the writers weren’t limited by theme. As Meg explains, these unrestricted parameters created tough decisions in almost every category.
“It needed to either be published between the first of January and the thirty-first of December in 2020, or the first of January and the thirty-first of December in 2021.”
“Other than that, the topic, the length, the even the style were all open, which is fantastic because we get to see the variety of talent that we have. But it does make things that little bit trickier for our judges because in some cases it is a little bit like comparing apples and oranges.”
And while taking out an award is an impressive feat, the judges noted that every single author had work worthy of admiration.
“Our fiction judges made a beautiful point of wanting to share that. Even books that weren’t shortlisted were still finely imagined, reiterating their hope that every author keeps writing, and the need for great stories to be told,” explains Meg.
It was a night imbued with magical moments of nonplussed wins, but a moment that stood out for Meg was the 2020 special book award winner Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick, for their work On a Barbarous Coast.
“Craig has been such an active member with us from the start of the organisation. And he’s just such a wonderful, wonderful gentleman. He came up to me and was like, ‘thank you so much’. And he felt so honoured to have won, and it was just that sort of thing, where you go, ‘this is why we do it’.” reflects Meg.
While each and every author could be plucked out of this impressive list and onto your bookshelf, Meg unbiasedly and hesitantly guides us in the direction of the Canberra authors whose words stayed with her long after she had finished reading.
“Off the top of my head, one of my favourite Canberra authors and books is Lisa Fuller, and her book Ghost Bird’. It is just it is one of those novels that you can’t put down. But we genuinely have so many incredible authors. Another one would be Shelley Burr’s Wake. I finished that in a day. I think I’ve given it to about four different people for presents this year; it’s become my go-to ‘you must read this book’.
The ACT Notable Awards are preparing to return at the same time next year, continuing to shine a spotlight on those who have the power of writing, taking us into another world and helping us transcend beyond our mental boundaries.
“I think it is just really important that we have these awards to celebrate the authors and to acknowledge that writing any book is such a feat. And I know a lot of the authors on the night—winners and or not—just enjoyed that acknowledgment.”
“Saying that we appreciate and understand that writing is a professional art form, that it does take a huge amount of time. And it does deserve to be celebrated”.