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2010 BC Book Prizes

Hey, that's me!

Hey, that's me!

On Saturday night, my boss Richard and I were lucky enough to attend the 2010 BC Book Prizes Awards Dinner and Gala at Government House here in Victoria.

The festivities began at 5 o’clock, early enough to still be sunny and afford a spectacular look at the panoramic view and the property, including the famous gardens, which are maintained by an enthusiastic (and large!) fleet of volunteer gardeners.

I’d never been to Government House before, and was immediately as taken with its loveliness inside as out.

Ballroom at Government House

Ballroom at Government House

After some mingling (and the first of a good few glasses of tasty BC wine), we were seated at our tables for the beginning of the awards ceremony at 5:45. It began with His Honor Steven Point, along with our emcee for the night Shelagh Rogers of CBC Radio (she has such a fantastic voice) and Shirley Lew of the West Coast Book Prizes Society, being played in by bagpipe music. Opening speeches followed (it was such a treat to be surrounded by bookish people discussing books, writing, the future of publishing, and the evolution of the printed word), and then the prizes began.

First was the Ethel Wilson fiction category. My money was on Annabel Lyon for this prize, but it went to a title I’d previously not heard of (clearly my loss, and I shall seek it out at once) – Keeping Faith in the Polar Girls’ Prison by Cathleen With. Her speech was genuine and endearing and she seemed stunned to have won, mentioning she felt like she was crashing the party.

small-beneath-sky-lorna-crozierI had been excited to note that Lorna Crozier – resident Victoria poet and my favourite professor when I was in the Creative Writing program at UVic – was up for the Hubert Evans award for nonfiction, for her memoir Small Beneath the Sky. That’s even the award that AbeBooks sponsors each year. She won! She’s a marvellous poet, writer, mentor and teacher, and I was so pleased that she took it.

There were a couple of books up for more than one prize. Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names: A Complete Reference to Coastal British Columbia by Andrew Scott was shortlisted for both the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize and the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award. It won for the Regional Prize. A finalist in three categories, Brian Brett’s Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life sounds like a fascinating study of rural life from differing perspectives. It was up for the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award, the regional prize, and the non-fiction prize, and took the Bookseller’s Choice Award. I’m interested to read this one.is-a-door-fred-wah

The Dorothy Livesay Poetry prize went to is a door by Fred Wah. It was published by Talonbooks. We had both Fred Wah, and Karl Siegel from Talonbooks at our table and both were great conversation and company.

The Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize went to Carrie Mac for her book The Gryphon Project about a girl’s fight to unravel a mystery and save her brother.

The other children’s literature prize, the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize (recognizing both author and illustrator) went to Frieda Wishinsky and Dean Griffiths for their book Maggie Can’t Wait, about a little girl’s excitement to meet her new adoptive sister, and the reactions of her classmates.

Poet Fred Wah talking to AbeBooks' Richard Davies

Poet Fred Wah talking to AbeBooks' Richard Davies

The final prize of the night was the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence, recognizing the achievements and contributions of an individual exemplifying what it means to be a part of the literary community, promoting and participating in its betterment. This year’s award went to Stan Persky, who is the author of 20 books.

Beef tenderloin, local forest mushroom tourte, seasonal vegetables

Beef tenderloin, local forest mushroom tourte, seasonal vegetables

After the awards, we had a quick bathroom, leg-stretch and wine-refill break, and then dinner was served. And the chefs deserve recognition here – the dinner was fabulous, from the starter to the dessert. The entree was beef tenderloin, and it was absolutely delicious. I believe the accompanying turnip to be the best turnip I have ever enjoyed.

The conversation became louder and more animated as the night wore on. To my right was an Aide-de-camp to the Lieutenant Governor, who was more than happy to answer my questions about various aspects of his uniform, and chat about books, careers and motorcycles. We finally left shortly after 9:30. It was a spectacular night, and we were privileged to be part of it. Congratulations to all the nominees, and of course the winners!

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