Tonight the RT Convention in Las Vegas comes to a glittering climax with the presentation of the Reviewer’s Choice Awards. If I had been able to make it to Vegas then I would have collected what may be the first award I have won since the Ashford School Book Quiz back in 1989, as it is I’ll be drinking prosecco here in York (while the Convention attendees have lunch thanks to the time difference) and raising a toast to romance readers everywhere.
If I could make a speech though what would I say? There’s always the list of names to thank (and the panic that someone really important might be missed out). But if I was there tonight this might have been what I said:
I was an awkward child. Introverted, emotional, hot tempered with really big hair, thick glasses and teeth to rival Bugs Bunny. For several years I was raised by my mother and at times my school made us feel like the only single parent family in town. Money was tight and things weren’t easy. But I had books. In books I didn’t have to be me, I could be Anne Shirley or Joey Bettany or Pauline Fossil. I could travel to 1950s America with Sally J Freedman, the Ice Age with Ayla, outer space with Monica Hughes and the prairie with Laura Ingalls. Books taught me that the best people came from hard beginnings, that sex should be consensual and mutually pleasurable (thank you Jean M Auel and Jilly Cooper) and that there’s not much that friendship, cake and courage can’t fix.
We didn’t have much money and books were a Christmas and Birthday treat. Luckily my town had a big library and every week I could take six new books – or three new and three favourites – home. And the week after I could take them back and get more books. I’m not sure how I would have made it through my childhood without that constant and free access to books. Now libraries throughout the UK are under threat, closing, handed over to community control and starved of funds. There are many despicable decisions made in the name of austerity but taking access to books away from a populace is one of the worst. The flawed assumption that in the age of the internet books and libraries are obsolete. Libraries aren’t just gateways to knowledge and new worlds, they are community hubs, refuges and sanctuaries. So thank you Grantham, Ashford, New Romney, Glasgow, Scarborough, Stoke Newington and Glastonbury Connecticut libraries. You have all been my home at one point or another and this award is for you.
(Of course I would also have thanked my husband and daughter, my first writing partner, Merilyn, first crit group Jane, Maggie and Julia, hugely supportive York writers Donna and Pam, my NWS readers Fi and Heidi, Flo, Charlotte, Kathryn and Pippa from M&B, the HQ romance writers esp my NY partner in crime Christy and all romance readers).