The first time Darcie and I met for a little chat, it was late August. I was in Athens, she was in Kelowna, and our manuscripts were still electronic files with our publishers. In the subsequent months they were turned into real books. There were launches, there were some reviews, there were nerves and gratitude, but mostly life continued on the same as it was before. Darcie and I kept meaning to chat again and we finally coordinated our schedules. It was a Wednesday night, me in Montreal, she at home in Kelowna, and we had a fun little talk about our thoughts and feelings. Let me tell you things I’ve learned about Darcie: she’s humble, she works hard, and she frets. She was telling me about a possible review in the Globe & Mail, and how she was anxious about it, afraid it wouldn’t show up, despite being told otherwise. If we hung out in real life, I would probably tease her about this a bit more, how writerly her neuroses are.
The Wednesday night chat was good, but the timing was off by exactly one day. On Thursday the Commonwealth Prize nominations came out, and there buried among Giller prize nominees was Darcie Friesen Hossack for Best First Book. That Globe & Mail review eventually came out too, and it’s so effusive and full of praise that it’s almost comical. Darcie, neuroses aside, had nothing to be worried about.
Because of the nomination, I felt like our chat was unfinished, so we met up a few days later to discuss recent events. We’ll publish the Wednesday night chat at some point too, but I wanted to post this first while the excitement is still fresh. Talking to someone about good news is always fun and enthusiasm is the best kind of contagion. And, there’s just something fascinating about learning about the machinations behind Big Awards – most of us have no idea how they work and come together, so there’s a little of that in here too.
Excuse the abundance of exclamation points, but dude, it’s exciting. After the slog of writing and publication, it feels good to talk about celebration for a bit.
Teri: So, OMG!!!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!
Darcie: Thank you!!!!!
Teri: How are you feeling?!
Darcie: The reality of the nomination is so surreal that when I didn’t find a hoped-for review in the Globe & Mail this morning, I felt like no one’s ever going to hear about my little book! I know, I know. Poor me.
Teri: I i think it’s fairly safe to say that you don’t have to worry about that anymore. I mean, look at the other books that you’re nominated with.
Darcie: I know. I just keep blinking in disbelief! I feel a little hysterical, like if I stop holding my breath, I’ll find out it’s not true.
Teri: So you had absolutely no idea the nomination was coming?
Darcie: Absolutely none, except that I knew Thistledown was submitting my book for it. They needed my permission, but that was months ago and I thought – when I allowed myself to think about it – that it must’ve come and gone.
Teri: I believe you didn’t know about it considering that we were chatting mere hours before the nomination and you didn’t let on. So, you first heard about it from Vicky‘s email? (Vicky, from our mailing list, read the article online first and forwarded it to all of us.)
Darcie: Seriously. I didn’t have a clue about it until Vicky’s email came through on my Blackberry. I clicked on the link (having seen that there was a string of replies from all of you), zoomed up and down, back and forth, on the 2×2 inch screen until I saw it. I think it’s safe to say I don’t have a latent aneurism, else it’d have exploded right then!
Teri: When you called your husband, Dean, to tell him what did he think had happened?
Darcie: Well, I was laughing and crying, and I had to quickly tell him, first, that the mother of a friend, who’s in critical condition following a surgery, made it through the night, so he wouldn’t freak out. I sob-said, “Two things. She made it through the night. And I’ve been nominated for the Commonwealth Prize.” I heard him take a deep breath after the first thing (so he’d been holding it), and then he started to laugh and say, “I told you so”, which is what he says to me after anything good that happens with the book now. During so many years of doubt (mine), he never did. Don’t know why. I gave him plenty of reason. My writing was crap for years!
Teri: Have you spoken to others about it?
Darcie: Thistledown was very pleased. My agent used a lot of exclamation points in her message. But Vicky had beat her to the news!
Teri: Your sister! She must be thrilled!
Darcie: And I quote, “Break out the cream gravy!”
Teri: Have you heard from the Commonwealth prize folks? Do you go to an awards ceremony?
Darcie: Nothing yet. I’m thinking maybe there won’t be any official contact until the regional winners are announced, March 3rd. The awards will be presented in Australia this year, and Dean says he read that all the regional winners are supposed to attend. I don’t actually know, though, how the whole travel thing works. I’ll wait and see if I have any reason to get a passport. I’ve never had one!
Teri: Girl, get one now! It will be like an offering to the universe: have passport, will travel.
Darcie: I know. This urban hermit is a little afraid of the big wide world. But this would get me out the door.
Teri: This must also be more motivation to finish your novel.
Darcie: Certainly. Yikes. And now it really does have to live up to the stories.
Teri: Can you tell me a bit about the novel?
Darcie: It’s called “What Looks In” (same as my blog), and involves a family with a Mennonite mother and Seventh Day Adventist father. The mom dies in the first chapter, but her presence is still felt through the rest of the book, as the dad takes the kids to live at an SDA commune. When that isn’t the Eden he expects, he leaves the kids with their Mennonite family in Saskatchewan, farmers. The two different faces of Protestantism clash very naturally, so there’s built in tension.
Teri: How far along is it (asked in a tone of voice that’s not meant to stress you out)?
Darcie: About 3 months back, I realized I needed a point of view change, from the first person voice of the 13 year old daughter, to a third person who’s looking from farther back. I think of that voice as the mother’s. So I started to rewrite, and have about 100 pages I’m happy with. The family’s just arrived on the commune.
Darcie: I hope so. And there’s food!
Teri: I should HOPE there’s food! Bringing it back to your good news, did you have a celebratory dinner in honour of Mennonites Don’t Dance? Some chicken feet maybe?
Darcie: Oh, that’d be fitting. We went out instead to a normal restaurant, and I celebrated by not adding up the bill in my mind as we ordered. It was wonderful. The waitress asked whether we were there celebrating something, and I told her. She was really excited, which made it really fun.
Teri: I bet.
Darcie: I used “really” twice in one sentence. Sigh.
Teri: Spoken like a true writer!
Darcie: Time for more school, maybe.
Teri: I’m pretty sure you’ll be teaching us soon, Darcie. Congratulations again!