Here's the thing. A year ago, Town was on several CBCA Clayton's shortlists, and named as top pick in at least one case. I was also told by one of the judges how much she adored that book. So on the big day of the 2008 announcement, I felt quietly confident. It was, as far as I was concerned, the best thing I'd ever written, hands down.
At 11am on that fateful day, just before I went into a creative writing workshop with thirty excitable Year 6 kids, I logged on and saw the list of Notable Books. There was Town. First hurdle cleared. The big one would be announced in an hour.
At 12 noon, I gave the kids a quick writing exercise and logged in again. After a few false starts, the shortlist finally showed up. Meme McDonald, Sonya Hartnett, John Heffernan, and so on, name after name that wasn't mine. I sighed, accepted it and turned off the computer and went back to work. Yes, I was gutted, but to be fair, that was mostly of my own doing. I'd let myself believe what I wanted to believe - that Town was destined to be on that shortlist. Arrogant? Cocky? Overconfident? Perhaps all of the above, even based on the evidence I felt I'd gathered. So this year I didn't even note the announcement date on my calendar. If Hunting Elephants was going to get onto the YA shortlist, it was going to be a surprise. A lovely, lovely surprise. (And it would have been too, since I honestly don't think it's my very best book ever.)
So, what was my error this year? Simply that I set myself a bare minimum achievement for Hunting Elephants -- inclusion on the 20-ish strong list of Notable Books. That much I thought would be good, anything more would be gravy.
I don't go much for karma, dogma or any such supernatural entities. But I think that maybe Karma did have something to teach me today: that hiding under the feeble modesty of not 'expecting' to be shortlisted is not enough - you genuinely shouldn't expect anything. At all. Then you can't be disappointed.
So mark these words: next year, when Anonymity Jones is eligible for these awards in which we place so much stock, I'm going to expect nothing. Nothing. Then anything I might (but probably won't) get will be a true delight.
Sincerest congratulations to all those whose books did appear on the lists, and my heartfelt commiserations to anyone who harboured hopes that their book might, but didn't, particularly Bill Condon, Julia Lawrinson and Libby Gleeson, who can each feel slightly out of sorts that their very fine books were overlooked.