A couple of years ago I got in some trouble from Mo Johnson, when I suggested that it's of more value to a newish writer to be on the shortlist or notable list than someone who is properly established. And as much as that sounded like sour grapes for Hunting Elephants failing to get a notable listing, I certainly didn't mean it that way. I stand by what I said - that to someone with a gazillion books and half a gazillion shortlistings, one more gong isn't going to do much to advance their career. But when you're just getting established (as I was when Captain Mack was shortlisted for the CBCA in 2000) it does put you on the map.
Which brings me to one of the great disappointments out of today's shortlist announcement, quite apart from the fact that Anonymity Jones wasn't on it. And that is that a number of very fine books weren't even on the Notables list, not least of all the wonderful Saltwater Vampires, by Kirsty Eager, and the incredible Big River, Little Fish, by Belinda Jeffrey. The latter was particularly disappointing, since I predicted that Belinda's first book, Brown Skin Blue was going to win Book of the Year in 2010. Boy, was I wrong!
Those guys, and many others, are feeling pretty glum tonight. Others are feeling rather buoyant. And that's how it goes. Some feel cheated, some feel lucky, others feel like they got precisely what they deserved or even expected. But at the end of the day, it's down to judges. Human judges who are just trying to pick the best books they can. They don't have an agenda - they just want to reward the best books. The books that they deem to be the best books.
Earlier this year I was one of the judges for the Patricia Wrightson Prize in the NSW Premier's Awards. A number of the books shortlisted today were well down our list, and the list of the Ethel Turner Prize. And several of the books we chose didn't appear in any of today's announcements. So it's hard, and your choices as a judge will always be criticised. But to those who missed out today, I'd say this: none of us are entitled. None of us have a birthright to this wonderful thing we get to do for a living, not even those on the lists. So chin up, onward and upward, all that cliché and guff. We don't write for awards; we write because we have to, because we love to, because we love to tell stories, and we love it when kids' eyes light up with the glow of the stories we tell.