Reflection on my first award ceremony: There are no losers

My little neurodiverse brain likes pondering about my experiences. Yesterday was my birthday, and later that evening, I attended the 2020 Prix Aurora Award ceremony, done virtually via the When Words Collide conference with charming emcee Mark Leslie Lefebvre.

Now, the only good thing about 2020 for me has been these virtual events. I’ve been able to participate from the comfort of my own home, regardless of how my disabled self is doing. I can’t tell you how I wish this continues going forward. And yesterday, I was in 20/10 pain from a shoulder injury, but I still tuned in.

And it was fun. I always like joining people in the live chat, too.

When it came to the category in which Nothing Without Us was a nominee, I felt my heart race like I was running from the Law. (Joke’s on the Law—I can’t run.) And when we didn’t win, I went, “Awww…” Then I clapped for the winner.

Immediately I received messages of support about our anthology from my friends and peers, but my brain went, “No. I don’t need consoling. This is not what it’s about.”

What I wanted to do right away was send a message to our authors. So I ran one by Talia, and then posted this on Facebook:

Talia and I want to send an encouraging message tonight. Even though NWU didn’t win the Prix Aurora Award, it didn’t lose anything. The very fact that this anthology exists means we won a huge battle.

We want to thank everyone who voted for us. It’s so vital that disabled, Deaf, neurodiverse, and mentally ill people write their own heroes, their own protagonists in genre fiction. There’s a real hunger out there for stories told in our voices.

Many thanks to Nathan Fréchette of Renaissance press for accepting my accidental pitch when I was thinking out loud, and for recommending Kohenet Talia C. Johnson to be co-editor. (Pinky and The Brain forever!) Special thanks to the sensitivity editors and the copy editors for making this anthology shine. And a billionty thanks to our 22 amazing authors. This book would LITERALLY be nothing without any of you.

Lastly, we would like to thank all of our supporters of this project: Those who backed the project, our wonderful readers, and also to Derek Newman-Stille, who taught this anthology as part of a disability curriculum at Trent University.

YOUR STORIES WERE TAUGHT IN UNIVERSITY, FOLKS!!!

You see, when I had the idea of gathering stories from Spoonie authors, it was never with the intention of winning an award. And when Renaissance approved the idea and Talia was working with me, we never had that goal either. Nothing Without Us was always about authors from our community crafting their own protagonists. Most disabled characters are pathetically written by abled authors with all the tropes. This was a chance to get own-voices main characters so we would be the heroes, not the sidekicks.

While Talia and I were thrilled for the Prix Aurora Award nomination, and it’s nice to be recognized by Canadian publishing peers, we’d already felt we won when Nothing Without Us was taught in Trent University by Derek Newman-Stille in a disability studies class. We co-editors were invited as guest lecturers, and I think that will always be a highlight of my career and a milestone as a disability advocate.

Sure, when my silver Prix Aurora Award pin arrives the post, I shall wear it proudly and think of this project where I believe almost everyone involved behind the scenes was disabled or neurodiverse. This wasn’t Talia and myself against an abled publishing staff. We were all well-acquainted with own-voices experiences.

I sincerely mean it when I say there are no losers, only winners and finalists. An award doesn’t improve the content of your work. Those who didn’t win still have much to be proud of.

There might be circles that think only of winners and losers, but that’s not how I roll.

Because at the end of the day, it’s the readers who should matter to us authors/anthology editors the most. If we marginalized writers make even one reader cry, “IT ME!” or have a non-marginalized reader say, “Whoa, I never realized…” then those reactions are worth more than any award on this planet.

So, my heartfelt congratulations to all the 2020 winners and finalists. Hope you are all having a nice wind-down Sunday. Might I recommend that calories don’t count on this day? 😉

And now… onward and forward with the alphabet arranging! I have WIPs that need my attention.


Black and white photo of Cait Gordon

Cait Gordon is a disability advocate who wants everyone to be wise and prevent the spread of COVID-19!

She’s also the author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers. When Cait’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also teamed up with Kohenet Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us anthology (a 2020 Prix Aurora Award finalist) in an attempt to take over the world.

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