Booksellers cemented their love affair with The Birth House author Ami McKay at Sunday night’s Libris Awards ceremony. Not only did McKay win Author of the Year and Fiction Book of the Year, she also won an autographed Gideon Bible from emcee Bill Richardson, who stole it from his hotel room in order to award it to the best acceptance speech of the evening.
Accepting her first award – for fiction book of the year – McKay was flushed and giddy, and she charmed everyone in the room by recounting a nice little story about her hometown bookstore. Even before she began writing The Birth House (Knopf Canada), Mckay explained, she would go to the Box of Delights Bookshop in Wolfville, N.S., and she would stare at the shelf where novels by fellow Maritimers Ann-Marie MacDonald and Alistair MacLeod sat flush against one another. “The owner, Mitzi DeWolf, would see me there staring, day after day,” explained McKay, “until finally she asked me, ‘What are you doing?’ I told her I was looking at the place where my first novel was going to be, and for some reason she believed me.” Every time McKay went into the shop thereafter, DeWolf would inquire how the novel was going and would offer words of encouragement. “That encouragement, from a bookseller, really helped me a lot,” said McKay.
In any other year, fellow nominee and boffo-selling author Vincent Lam would have been a shoo-in for Fiction Book of the Year (for Doubleday Canada’s Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures) or Author of the Year, but the love just kept coming for McKay. When she stepped up to accept the Author of the Year prize, she seemed overwhelmed. “Two years ago, I would not have imagined this for myself,” she said.
Another big winner of the evening was House of Anansi Press, which won not only publisher of the year, but also editor of the year, for Lynn Henry. When president Sarah MacLachlan stepped up to accept publisher of the year, she revealed the answer to a trivia question she had posed in June’s Q&Q, in a House of Anansi 40th anniversary ad: “Which famous Canadian publisher predicted in 1967 that Anansi would last only 18 months?” The answer, MacLachlan revealed, was Jack McClelland. Holding aloft the award, she beamed and said, “Well, here’s your 18 months!”
Other winners last night were David Suzuki, whose self-titled autobiography from Douglas & McIntyre won Non-fiction Book of the Year; Douglas & McIntyre itself for its Suzuki marketing campaign; Barbara Reid, who went home with awards for both Children’s Author of the Year and Children’s Illustrator of the Year; Coach House Books for Small Press Publisher of the Year; North 49 Books, which broke Raincoast Books/Book Express’s three-year stranglehold on the Distributor of the Year category; Victoria’s Bolen Books for Bookseller of the Year; Dartmouth, N.S.’s Tattletales Books for Specialty Bookseller of the Year; UBC Bookstore for Campus Bookseller of the Year (although no one showed up to claim the award, leaving a long, awkward pause in the proceedings); Genevieve Loughlin, of Hornblower Books, for Sales Rep of the Year; and finally, yes, one last win for The Birth House, with Random House of Canada designer Kelly Hill winning Book Design of the Year.
One part of the evening that raised some eyebrows came when Scott Temple, vice-president and managing director of Reed Exhibitions, which runs the trade show’s owner, stepped to the podium to hand an award to … Reed director of marketing Dahlia de Rushe, for her work in co-ordinating the event. De Rushe then stepped up and gave a long acceptance speech.
To view our Libris photo gallery, complete with every presenter and award winner, click here.