I wish we gave literary prizes freely, the way they used to give prizes at the Pet Show at Codornices Park in Berkeley when I was a kid. Every kid in the neighborhood brought their pet, and every pet got a prize, an ad hoc, unique prize: for Soulfulness — for Loud Meowing — for Unusual Spot Placement — for Being the Only Skink…. There was no Best of Breed (in those days there were many mongrels and few breeds), and certainly no Best of Show.
I‘d have some trust and interest in literary prizes like that. For Soulfulness — for Sitting Up and Begging Nicely — for Passion Well Expressed – for Excellent Use of Semi-Colons — for Being the Only Novel About Elderly Female Entomologists in Love….
You think literature would suffer, if prizes were given so freely? You think sharing praise diminishes its worth? You think good books are written in order to win huge advances and one-a-year prizes? Maybe so. I think not.
Tonight I was giving myself awards in my head. For Cleaning Up After Everyone. For Being Attentive to Cats. For Finishing My Manuscripts Fastest.
And For Being the Only Skink just lurks in the back of my head, you know? The Only Skink. I sort of love it. And I feel it. I feel very off on my own sometimes, uncertain if what I do will connect, but determined to do it my way because it is my way - as LeGuin says later, "I think good novels are written by writers who want to write this novel, their novel, which is like no other. And which is therefore unpredictable, unsafe, and unlikely to win a prize."
I do this, I do it my way; I need to. It's not usual and it's not safe.
I give myself the award of Being the Only Skink, the only me, the very best Shira that I can be. The me-est me.
I want to give everyone prizes, really.
What prize would you give yourself?