Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Costa Awards Ceremony

Last night I went to the Costa Book Awards ceremony at Quaglino's. I'm so glad I went, I had such a lovely time. Congratulations to Helen Macdonald who won Costa Book of the Year for H is for Hawk and to Zoe Gilbert for winning the Costa short story prize.

Here are my Best Bits (subtitled: How not to be Cool at an Award Ceremony).

When I arrived at Quaglino's they had pictures of all the shortlisted books on either side of the entrance, which meant I had to get my lovely editor to take a photograph of me. If there was audio with this picture you'd be able to hear her very gently saying, 'You don't need to point to your book, Carys.'

Quaglino's is beautiful. It's very James Bond. See the picture of the bathroom below. I know - it's massively uncool to take a picture of the lovely bathroom (it gets worse...).

Here's the edge of the stage where they announced the category winners (previously revealed) and the winner of the Costa Book of the Year (decided on the night). Robert Harris gave a short speech before the announcement of the winner, prompting cheers when he remarked that BBC book coverage is a 'disgrace'. He pointed out that there were two dedicated book programmes when we had three channels, but now, with over 300 channels, there isn't even one.

The highlight of the evening for me was meeting Ali Smith, who very kindly listened as I told her about the gushing letter I wrote when I was an Open University student - I'd watched her talking about Sunset Song on one of the Open University dvds and I loved her enthusiasm (and Sunset Song) so much that I went to my local library (which has since closed - you ought to be ashamed, Sefton Council) and borrowed her short story collections. I adored them so much that I decided to write to her, but the letter sounded silly when I read it back, so I never sent it.

No-one writes a close, third person as beautifully as Ali Smith. The Accidental and How to be Both are extraordinary books. When I read Smith's short stories, years ago, I never dreamed for a second that one day I might actually write something worth publishing and end up meeting her.

The whole evening was like something out of a film. Wherever I looked there were young men and women holding champagne bottles and trays of canapes, filling glasses that weren't even half-emptied and encouraging people to try one of these, oh, and one of these, too. I had to exercise some restraint as I was already unsteady on my feet thanks to the enormous heels I was wearing, though I may or may not have purloined some of the Costa marshmallows (posh marshmallows, who knew?!) for the kids. 

Oh all right, I admit it - I did, and here they are.

Afterwards, I bought a pizza and went back to my Travelodge, goodie bag in tow (containing a copy of Five Children on the Western Front and a Costa gift card) and I sat on the bed (with slightly numb feet - how do women wear heels regularly?) feeling happy: happy to have been to the ceremony, happy to have been shortlisted, happy to have a lovely editor, agent, publicist and publisher - exceedingly happy and lucky*.  

*A friend of mine recently said that my blog is always cheerful (it wasn't a compliment). It's hard to get the balance of this internet stuff right - how to be happy without appearing smug? Of course, other, less exciting things are also happening in my life: today I'll be having beans on toast for tea, followed by an early night as tomorrow I'll be doing a 6:30 am paper round for son 1 who still can't lift following last week's surgery. I have 20 essays to mark, I have PhD rewrites to do and, next week, I'll be having a small investigatory operation *crosses fingers*. And those things make last night even more special.


  1. Thank you for this lovely, interesting post and pictures of such a special night. I felt as if I were there - it all looked wonderful.

    I wish I could fit half as much into my life as you do, although I'm thankful my daughter gave up her paper round. I have since discovered a huge, undelivered stack of them hidden in the shed.

    I hope your son is back to full fitness soon and wish you all the best with your op.

  2. Fantastic to hear about this, Carys, thank you for sharing. No smugness at all. Just a normal gal's account of an exciting night - I mean that in a good way - it's relatable and useful to remember we're all the same, really. Made of the same stuff.

    I met Ali Smith a few years ago (at Bridport) and yeah, I gushed too. I also had my photo taken with her, and I'm laughing now because we kind of have the same expression - we can't believe our luck, mixed with some kind of manic-ness. Mania. (You can see it here, if you fancy -

    Good luck with the op, and the paper round, and the essays... And huge congrats on your shortlisting, so inspiring.

  3. Thank you Joanna.

    And thank you Teresa - I love your picture with Ali Smith! We really do have the same expression!

  4. Lovely to read, Carys, and good luck with the paper round. Will you wear a backwards baseball hat? Hope the op goes ok and that your son's better soon. Love the marshmallows you got for your kids. And so very glad you got to meet Ali Smith. You go, girl!

  5. Thank you Helen! I didn't wear a baseball hat :)

  6. You be as cheerful as you like! If I want to be depressed and feel a sense of hopelessness I'll read the news… It's so heartening to read about your good fortune. Enjoy it while it's happening. And you don't come across as smug at all. x