Well, at long last I have downloaded my cousin's pictures and I'm able to put together an account of the Pratchett Prize evening at Waterstones Piccadilly.
The bookstore itself is mind boggling. It is apparently the largest bookstore in Europe and I'm not surprised. Five floors of a great Art Deco-ish building housing as many books as you could ever want and a lovely restaurant and bar on the 5th floor. The 5th View was the venue for the party.
We - my wife, the kids, my aunt and uncle - met up with my cousin and one of her sons and hung around the bookstore before the reception. Normally I would have been eagerly drifting along the shelves looking for something new to read, but I was a tad distracted. Finally we headed upstairs and enjoyed a cup of tea before folks started drifting in for the Pratchett Prize.
As stated in an earlier post, we sat with Michael Logan and his lovely wife Natalie. It was tense, but there was also, I think, a collective sigh of relief from all of us, shortlisted authors and friends and families (perhaps especially friends and families who have put up with us since the shortlist was announced) at the announcement being so close at last. This one was taken prior to the announcement.
Marianne Velmans, Publishing Director for Doubleday UK started the announcement with a brief blurb about each of the shortlisted entries and spoke about how difficult the decision had been. When Michael and I had spoken before the announcement we both assumed that the decision must have been made better than a week before, so it was a surprise when Marianne told us that they were still deciding leading up to the party.
Each of us was asked, in alphabetical order, to come up and get our swag. I'll show the swag in a bit.
On the left is Marianne and that's Sir Terry Pratchett handing me my stuff after shaking my hand.
After each shortlisted author, or their representative if they were unable to attend, was introduced, Sir Terry spoke a bit about the variety of stories and the difficulty of the decision.
At last the announcement was made with the Logans - Michael and David - splitting the prize.
I must admit that it was a great disappointment, but one I hope I handled with good grace. I licked my wounds quietly for a few minutes and returned to the table with my family. I spoke with everyone - except my uncle. He had apparently disappeared. It was later I found out he was speaking to Sir Terry about nuclear physics.
A short time later Marianne came over to the table to speak with me. We had a wonderful conversation about the prize, about my book and the other shortlisted entries. We also spoke about publishing on both sides of the ocean. She told me a bit about the selection process. By this time Suzanne Bridson, Marianne's Editorial Assistant and Transworld's Senior Press Officer, Lynsey Dalladay had stopped by, too. Between the three of them I found out that the selection process was nothing like I imagined.
I thought that there would have been a handful of people, twenty at the most, reading the submissions for the contest. Not so. There were approximately 500 initial readers to sort through the 500 plus entries. After each novel was read, it was assigned a score out of ten. Those that scored 5 or more advanced to the next round. And so on, until the six shortlisted novels were selected. From my conversations, it looked like everyone in the room connected with Transworld had read each of our novels. It was a pretty stringent selection process and any of the novels that made it through had to have been liked by a good number of readers to make it that far.
While speaking with Marianne and company, Terry Pratchett made his way over.
What a gentleman. He started off by telling me that he enjoyed my novel. Then he said, "Might I offer you a few words of advice?"
When a guy who has sold over 65 million books asks if he can give you some advice about your novel I believe the answer is always yes.
"Please," I said, "I'd be a fool to say no."
And then he gave me some pointers - and good ones, too. We spoke for about ten minutes - mostly him, but I elicited a smile or two of my own from the Discworld creator. Although I didn't win the big prize, those ten minutes were worth the price of the trip.
After congratulating Michael once more, it was time to grab my swag and get some food into a pair of very hungry kids.
What's that? Oh, the swag...
Here it is. A nice official certificate, a bottle of champagne and a Transworld fabric bag.
I joked with my wife that the bag was so that I could carry home each and every little fragment of my shattered dream.
She said that wasn't very funny.