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When I was shortlisted for an award for my debut novel

Posted On : November 24 2018

Writer : Chanchal Sanyal

Chanchal Sanyal writes exclusively for Bookaholicanonymous on how it feels to be shortlisted for an award for your debut novel!   

Chanchal Sanyal, has written the book 'The Glass House'. A resident of Delhi since his childhood, he has seen the city grow, evolve, mutate and spawn a Noida and a Gurgaon.  They are the foundation of his novel. It was for this book that he was shortlisted for an award recently.

About Chanchal Sanyal: He is an entrepreneur in the live events and activation space of the advertising industry, currently based in Gurgaon. He has been at various times—sometimes concurrently—college lecturer, itinerant traveller, mainline advertising professional, business owner and now a writer. While this is his first novel, he has as he says—‘been writing fiction for twenty years—after all, I have been in the advertising business for over two decades.’ 

When I was shortlisted for an award for my debut novel


It is an award for a first novel-so, all entrants, long listed and shortlisted authors, even the winner - will all be first-time novelists. To be shortlisted feels, in a word, good. In two words, very good. Obviously, I was very chuffed when the publisher called me and informed me that the novel has been shortlisted-one amongst three in the running for this very prestigious award. I felt that here was recognition, here is validation. Honestly, I was over the moon and quickly began reading up everything on the internet that I could find on awards and how they impact books and the reading public. 


As the warm glow of the ‘shortlisted’ euphoria ebbed away, cold probing fingers of doubt started to make their way into my consciousness. Everything that I read seemed to indicate that literary awards do not seem to encourage readership. A nomination, even a win - except it seems, for the Man Booker or being on Oprahs Book Club - does not automatically make copies fly off the shelves. An international article went so far as to suggest that awards might actually have a negative impact on sales and an article by my own literary agent stoutly maintained that there is no real magic bullet to publishing success - and certainly awards do not make for large masses of readers. Before reading further and getting more dispirited, I slammed on the brakes and with my snooty literary nose high in the air, thought to myself ‘am not writing the potboiler, lowest common denominator bestseller am I? I am writing in the arcane realm of ‘literary fiction’ - so obviously I should not concern myself with such lowly worries as “sales”!’ Consoling myself thus, I checked the Amazon ranking of my book only once every other hour on that day! (Now of course, am back to checking every hour :-)


However, the proverbial bee was in the proverbial bonnet - so I honed my search further to awards and acclaimed ‘literary' writers. Wonder of wonders, Haruki Murakami does not go to award functions. Closer home and certainly more identifiable, neither does Anees Salim. And they both have awards by the sacksful. So, perhaps even I should not go? They don’t go - and they win! Would that formula work for me too? Not going and winning? So, should I cancel the Mumbai flight tickets and the Taj Vivanta reservation? Ultimately of course, even that decision was not mine - I could not travel for a personal reason and could not make it to the award function. Otherwise, I would definitely have gone - because it would have been a first time for me, a first time in the ‘literary circuit’, a first time for me to mingle with, perhaps even personally meet the movers and shakers of the literary world.


Which brings me to my final point - if ‘feelings on being shortlisted’ which is your question - can have points. And this is a point I’d like to make in all seriousness - far away from my usual irreverence. I am honestly very impressed. With the impartiality and the fairness of the jury. With the obvious concern of the shortlist with only the text and its quality. As everything above indicates, I am an absolute ingénue in this area - have no connection with the ‘literati’ - and my professional experience has been at a far remove from the literary world. I have no papers published on writing, in fact, nothing published at all previous to this novel, not even an article on the internet. For the jury and the award committee to shortlist a rank outsider, a complete dark horse, speaks volumes about them. Obviously, they are not influenced by anything other than the book - the experience, the ‘fame’ of the author or the lack thereof - means nothing to them. Now this is a very refreshing thing to see. We are unfortunately a hard-bitten and cynical lot, used to everything being ‘fixed’. Our cricket matches are fixed, our politics is fixed, our religious beliefs, our economics and our business deals are fixed - even our opinions and our very lives seem to be ‘fixed’. When you come across something that is not ‘fixed’ - it is as surprising as refreshing. So, my first ‘feeling’ on getting the news of my being shortlisted was actually one of utter surprise and then I must confess, of gratitude to independent thinkers and decision makers. Cheers to the jury and their ilk. May their tribe increase!   


Thanks Chanchal Sanyal…we at Bookaholicanonymous hope whatever you write wins hearts and awards always!

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